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Exclusive: Leonard and Jessie Maltin Hope to Help Filmmakers Left in the Lurch After the SXSW Cancelation

The Maltins are working to set up screenings and press events for SXSW filmmakers.

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Leonard Maltin has been covering stories in the entertainment industry for more than four decades. He’s known for his legendary celebrity interviews and passion for the movies. He’s also a champion for up and coming filmmakers. So when he and his daughter Jessie Maltin found out that South by Southwest was canceled over coronavirus health concerns, they came up with an idea to try to help.

“South by Southwest is such a springboard for getting movies seen, noticed, picked up for distribution, generating buzz, all of those things. And having the rug pulled out, for reasons beyond anybody’s control, is just beyond words,” Mr. Maltin says. “We’re trying in our modest way, to try to help.”

He says when he and Jessie realized just how devastating the loss of revenue, and exposure would be to the filmmaking community they reached out on social media. Jessie says the goal was just to offer comfort and let the SXSW community know someone was stepping up to fill the gap.

“I posted online, 'I don’t know what we’re going to do, but if you get in contact with me we’re gonna figure this out together,' "Jessie says. “And I knew the sooner we did it, the filmmakers would at least know we were there and on it. So it wasn’t a week of silence and not knowing what was going on.”

“We were going to be attending South by Southwest. We had our tickets, our hotel room. Our appearance schedule. So we were a small part of SXSW as we have been for many years," Mr. Maltin says. “When Jessie began to understand the larger implications of this cancelation, she began to reach out. And quickly became a clearinghouse for filmmakers and distributors who are trying to figure out what to do now.”

Leonard and Jessie host a podcast together called “Maltin on Movies.” They are deeply entrenched in the film community and know how devastating this loss is for small filmmakers who depend on festivals like SXSW. The problem is, Jessie says, many of the filmmakers who were set to screen films at SXSW have missed the deadline, or are ineligible for other film festivals. They are effectively sitting on a feature film or short film with no way to recoup their costs.

“I know that people have worked really, really hard to get their film into a festival, to get their film seen by people and purchased. I said, we have to figure out something,” Jessie says. “So what I’m doing specifically is, I’m talking to people at CherryPix and our friends at Alamo Drafthouse to work on setting up screenings.

While the details of those screenings are still being worked out, they have set up a press day inviting filmmakers to join them for a day of interviews, and podcast recordings to stir up publicity for their projects. That’s being held Wednesday March 18, from 11am to 5pm at the Alamo Drafthouse in downtown Los Angeles.The Maltins says the press day came first because that’s the easiest way to get the word out about these films that were robbed of their opportunity to screen for the public and the press.

So far they have been in touch with 35 filmmakers from around the world and are encouraging anyone who was scheduled to screen at SXSW to reach out via email or social media. 

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