Jess Reihana’s SXSW Sydney Diary Day #4

Jess Reihana’s SXSW Sydney Diary Day #4

Jess Reihana, senior creative and art director at True NZ, is over in Australia checking out the wonderful world of SXSW Sydney, the inaugural event to come down under. In case it isn’t obvious, Reihana is not pictured in the above image: L-R Nicole Kidman, Charlie Brooker, Chance the Rapper.


I love nerds.

I’ve always wanted to be one.

So, on my journey to getting there, here are three things I learnt from master nerds presenting their inner genius to the crowds at SXSW Sydney:

  1. 1. No one is worried about AI. “Embrace it to make the creative better”.
    1. 1. Charlie Brooker, creator of critically acclaimed show Black Mirror, said emulating a Black Mirror episode isn’t the same as creating one – that the nugget of beauty in any script that gets pushed forward for production always derives from an unintended mishap with technology (the ‘photo memories’ on iPhone reminding him of his children’s shit from 5 years ago) and the messiness of the human response to it – that messiness being something CHATGPT can’t replace.
    2. 2. When asked about the effects of the algorithm on film production, Blossom Films Producers, Actors and Co-founders Nicole Kidman and Per Saari spoke at length about everyone wanting ‘what’s worked’, with their advice being to “forget the algorithm, forget the groups – we have to shape the algorithm, not be a slave to it. Stress testing ideas happen once a project is live – NOT beforehand – otherwise you’ll get driven mad by the data. The risk is exciting. The risk is the creative part. The risk makes the payoff sweeter”.
  1. 2. Impowering and mobilizing people will get us through whatever the future brings.
    1. 1. Motion Picture Association (MPA) CEO Charles Rivkin observes that the world falls in love with a country through movies and entertainment – that the relationship between Hollywood and Washington is an investment in a nation’s story. Also referred to as ‘Soft Power’, he recalled an event during his time as an Ambassador in France of only getting in front of the then French President because he had a photo of Rita Hayworth on his book, whom the president had a long time crush on.

Or another time in the poorest parts of Paris, where a young Parisian yelled at actor Samuel Jackson in the street “Big Mac! Big Mac!”, to which Mr Jackson smiled at the youth and said “Believe in yourself. The French dream is the same as the American Dream, you just need to believe in it”. Rivkin finished it off by saying creativity is the balm against future paint points – be it AI, political troubles, cash cows etc – if media is used properly, it can be the best source for good in the world.

  1. 1. Speakers on the ‘Women in Media: The Future of Sports Media and Amplifying Women’s Voices” panel focused on some pretty overwhelming data of how far we still need to go: 15% of sport coverage in media globally focuses on women’s sport; 30% of experts quoted in media are from women; 16% of quoted research in sports studies in media is from women; 16% of fans in imagery at sports matches are women; 18% of bylines in sports reporting are women. While we’ve moved forward a lot in the last decade, particularly when it came to the language around athletes, the visual representation of athletes and the opportunities for female athletes, there was still a long way to go in the back rooms.
  2. 2. Multiple GRAMMY Award winner Chance the Rapper (I could write for days about his fantastic and inspiring presso) spoke on the 50th Anniversary of HipHop, and the chat naturally focused on his upbringing in Chicago and the incredible talent, both musically and also politically, that the city has produced . However, out of the blue, he asked who the crowd of 4000 people voted YES in The Voice vote. Roughly 75% of the crowd raised their hands.

After a pregnant pause, he talked about the opportunities he and many of his fellow Chicago rappers have taken in their careers: be what you want to be vs be what they want you to be; empower or take power; make life or take life; his purpose or His purpose.

Without needing to say it he both empowered The Voice supporters to keep fighting the fight and weighed in on the topic without stepping on toes. It was impressive. And ballsy. 

  1. 3. You can’t falsely produce joy.
    1. 1. Back to (MPA) CEO Charles Rivkin he called it “Spinach Programming” – when you know something’s good for you, you won’t eat it. “Creativity can’t be on purpose, or follow some set rules – otherwise people won’t want it. If they can predict the end, then what’s the point of watching the tv show or movie”.
    2. 2. And lastly, back to my man Chance the Rapper, he spoke about his choice to stay 100% independent from Day 1 – “the power dynamic between the people with money and the people with ideas is lopsided. Why would I work with someone who can’t rap. If these n***** can’t rap, then what the f*** am I supposed to get out of it. Money!? Na. I’m good.”

If you want to see more shenanigans and learnings from SxSW Syd, I’m on the True TikTok – Come say hello!