Senior videographer attends South by Southwest Film Festival

Sophie Gillard and Max Westmark

Westmark documents his SXSW experience.

The South by Southwest Film Festival is evocative of indie bands and famous actors. After this year’s festival, March 10-18, students will associate one more thing with SXSW: senior Max Westmark.

Westmark is the director of photography and executive producer of the short film Breakfast. The film follows a married couple dealing with relationship issues that come to a head over breakfast.

“I got to work with some really great actors who gave a really emotional performance,” Westmark said. “Anyone who’s ever had a conflict with someone that they love can relate to this.”

Westmark got involved with the project in summer 2016 while he was working as a freelance cinematographer in Los Angeles. There, he met director Rohun Vora, who connected with Westmark over their shared taste in music. Vora then asked Westmark to help him with Breakfast.

In filming the short, Westmark was strongly influenced by the Dogme 95 movement, a Danish film movement that emphasizes storytelling and acting over the use of elaborate special effects. That influence can be seen in Westmark’s cinematography: he used only natural light, filmed with hand-held cameras and shot the film in one take.

“I think the emphasis on realism was why the film got in,” Westmark said. “South by Southwest loves stuff like that.”  

The team decided to submit Breakfast to South by Southwest, and the film was accepted to the festival. There, Westmark met well-known directors and actors such as Ryan Gosling and James Franco.

Breakfast premiered as part of a series of short films shown at the festival, and Westmark participated in a Q&A session after the screening.

Westmark says that after each short played, the audience usually started clapping immediately once the credits rolled. Breakfast received a different reaction. After the film ended on a heavy note, the audience was silent for a few moments.

“No one applauded for about ten seconds, because everyone was still processing it,” Westmark said. “The audience seemed like they were speechless.”

One person started clapping and the rest of the audience followed suit.

“It was the perfect reaction to the movie,” Westmark said.