Drew Goddard, the writer behind some of your favorite episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Alias, and Lost, made his feature directing debut with The Cabin in the Woods at the SXSW Film Festival last Friday night. Goddard co-wrote the highly anticipated horror film with producer Joss Whedon; it stars Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Anna Hutchison, Bradley Whitford, and Richard Jenkins. In his first SXSW diary entry, Goddard forecasted his expectations for his first time at the Austin mega-festival, some of them a bit tongue-in-cheek. Little did he know how accurate his predictions would be…
Thursday, March 8 — DAY ONE
7:10 p.m. – Plane lands in Austin. The Austin airport smells like barbecue. This delights me to no end.
7:30 p.m. – It is monsooning right now in Austin. Weather reports are predicting the worst rainstorm to hit Austin in six years. The director in me immediately worries about how this will affect my actresses’ hair tomorrow. (Note for aspiring directors: When working, you will spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about how the elements will affect your actors’ hair and makeup on any given day. This is not something they teach you in film school.)
8:45 p.m. – Reunite with Bradley Whitford and Kristen Connelly. Starting to feel like this is a heist and we’re getting the team back together.
9:15 p.m. – Just checked tomorrow’s schedule. Remember when I joked in my previous diary entry about how I expected Robert Rodriguez to greet people upon arrival at SXSW? Well, it turns out THAT’S TOTALLY HAPPENING. He’s hosting a welcome lunch for filmmakers tomorrow at his Troublemaker Studios. I’m convinced my prescience means I’m some sort of Time Lord.
11:15 p.m. – Hard to sleep. Too excited. Rain still coming down.
Friday, March 9 — DAY TWO
7:30 a.m. – Yep, still raining.
9 a.m. – Three hours of phone interviews in the hotel room.
12 p.m. – En route to the Filmmaker Lunch, the driver points out the Longhorns’ football stadium. Even though we’re right next to it, we can barely make it out through the rainstorm.
12:15 p.m. – The Filmmaker Lunch is inside a converted airplane hanger at Robert’s studios. The power in the compound is currently out due to the storm. The hanger is decorated with props from Robert’s movies. Joss and I take a lot of pictures next to the rocket luge.
12:35 p.m. – Power back on. Cheers all around.
12:45 p.m. – Robert is serving barbecue for lunch. I WAS KIDDING ABOUT THAT YESTERDAY. And it’s from Franklin’s, of all places. (Everyone told me Franklin’s was the best barbecue in Austin, and therefore the world, but I would never be able to eat it because you have to line up at like 8 a.m. for lunch and they run out by noon.) Robert explains how he was able to have it brought to us: “I’ve got some pull around here.”
12:51 p.m. – Richard Linklater is here, too. I’m not making this up. This cinches it. I’m a Time Lord. (Here is my exact quote from my first entry: “I expect Richard Linklater and Robert Rodriguez to greet people at the airport. Those guys are like the mayors of Austin, right? If they’re not handing barbecue to passengers as they get off the plane, like the Hawaiians do with leis, I’m going to be very sad.”) Okay, yes, they didn’t meet us at the airport, but we are standing in an airplane hangar. Clairvoyance is not an exact science.
12:53 p.m. – Robert and Richard are everything you would hope they would be. Also, so is Franklin’s barbecue.
1:14 p.m. – This is what happens in my head: “Tell Richard about how much Before Sunset means to you. He’ll appreciate that, one filmmaker to another.” This is what comes out of my mouth: “Richard I love Before Sunset SO MUCH I may start crying just thinking about it how did you shoot all of that in realtime in Paris also remember when Wooderson said ‘It’d be a lot cooler if you did?’”
1:30 p.m. – I’m pretty sure I just saw Omar Rodriguez-Lopez from At the Drive-In at this lunch. I also said I hoped At the Drive-In reunited while I was here in that earlier entry. I no longer think I’m a Time Lord; I’m now beginning to believe that I’m on an operating table dying and this whole lunch is some Jacob’s Ladder fever dream, with pulled pork instead of Vietnam.
3:30 p.m. – Cabin marketing meeting back at the hotel with studio head Tim Palen and the Lionsgate team. I should note that I love the Lionsgate marketing team. Here’s what happens in marketing meetings: They show me what they’re cooking up for Cabin, and I respond, “I love that.” Then we all drink sparkling water.
4:45 p.m. – Getting dressed for premiere. Still raining outside, in case you were wondering.
5:50 p.m. – Cars take us to the theater. Red carpet interviews, in the middle of a rainstorm. Huge crowd outside, braving the elements. It’s now hitting home that I’m going to have to speak in front of all these people shortly. Have I mentioned that I don’t like speaking in front of people?
6:15 p.m. – See Richard Jenkins on the red carpet. Haven’t seen him since we wrapped. Have to fight the urge to run up and hug and kiss him in front of all these cameras. Fortunately, the weather doesn’t seem to be affecting his hair.
7 p.m. – Confirm that, yes, alcohol is served, and everyone is drinking in the theater. God bless you, Austin.
7:15 p.m. – Joss and I have to introduce the film. Crowd feels electric. Makes the whole “talking in front of people” thing a lot easier.
7:20 p.m. – I take my seat. Movie starts. My wife has hidden beer under my seat for me. This is why my wife is The Greatest Woman in the World.
7:20 – 8:50 p.m. – There are moments in your life where you realize you’re experiencing something as you’re living it that will remain with you for your entire life. Watching this movie, with this audience, is a long string of these moments. I will never forget you, Paramount Theatre crowd. You know why. And you mean more to me than you will ever know.
9 p.m. – Q&A after the movie. I’m so overwhelmed by the audience’s response, I completely fumble the first few questions. Sorry about that, guys.
9:07 p.m. – Thank god for the actors. There’s a reason they’re in front of the ca.m.era and I’m behind it.
9:20 p.m. – Finally manage to regain my footing when discussing the cinematic difference between an “Angry Raping Tree” and an “Angry Molesting Tree.”
10 p.m. – After party at The Kabaret Room. First thing I notice: My mom has cornered Bradley Whitford. This cannot be good.
10:05 p.m. – “I love that scene [in Revenge of the Nerds Part Two] when you were sitting in the hot tub with the other Alpha Betas and Ogre wouldn’t stop urinating.”
12:07 a.m. – Party is a lot of fun. But starting to hit the wall. Adrenaline crash.
12:15 a.m. – Bradley is among the first to leave. As he’s walking out the door, he sees me and says, “Wait! I didn’t say goodbye to your mom.” He marches across the club, grabs her and gives her a full, open-mouth kiss right on the lips, like a sailor coming home from war. Then, without saying another word, he turns and walks out of the club.
12:45 a.m. – Officially exhausted. Time to head back to the hotel. Can’t help but notice as I leave — last man standing in club? Richard Jenkins.
Saturday, March 10 — DAY 3
9:30 a.m. – Hey, look at that. Still raining.
10 a.m. – 1 p.m. – One-on-one interviews. For those unfamiliar with these junkets, here’s what happens: You sit in a chair in a lobby, and every 10 minutes a new reporter sits down across from you and interviews you. I would imagine it’s a little like speed dating. It turns out to be a lot of fun. People seem genuinely excited about Cabin.
1:30 p.m. – Lunch break.
2 -5 p.m. – Television interviews.
6 p.m. – Mondo is doing a poster exhibition at a local gallery. I’m a huge Mondo fan. We duck away on break to try to check out the show. When we arrive, the line snakes around the block. We wait in line for about a half-hour, then realize we’ve only moved about two feet. People in front of us tell us they’ve been waiting for over three hours. Sadly, we have to bail. Decide to drown our sorrows.
7 p.m. – Cocktails at Haddingtons. They have a drink distilled in duck fat. Texas. Is. Wonderful.
8:30 p.m. – Dinner with the cast and Lionsgate at Four Seasons. My entire goal for this dinner is to coax Bradley Whitford into doing his impression of a Vomiting Dog. (For those unfamiliar, Bradley does an impression of a dog vomiting that rivals the Sistine Chapel as man’s greatest work of art.)
10:05 p.m. – And… we have Vomiting Dog.
11:15 p.m. – The group piles into a van, heads out to investigate the Austin nightlife.
12:00 a.m. – Drive to the Highball, for karaoke/bowling/dancing. I make the driver swing past The Alamo Drafthouse, because I’ve always wanted to see it. I can almost make it out through the rain.
12:30 – 3:30 a.m. – The Highball is a great time. At one point, a fist-fight breaks out on the dance floor, right in front of us. Full-on, multi-person brawl. Nobody around us seems particularly concerned. Maybe this is just how people in Texas dance.
Sunday, March 11 — DAY FOUR
8:30 a.m. – Did you think it wasn’t raining?
9 a.m. – 1 p.m. – Another day of press. As we’re wrapping up, realize I might not see the cast again for a while. This makes me sad.
3:00 p.m. – And… the sun finally comes out. Hallelujah! I spend the next few hours exploring the town. Go back and see The Drafthouse in the daylight, as it should be seen. Austin is a beautiful city.
7:45 p.m. – Time to go home. Hate to leave. Wonderful time. Thank you, SXSW.