Since starting here at HitFix in December of '08, I've attended more film festivals than I had in the four years prior put together, and it seems like every day, there's festival news of some sort in my inbox.

For example, I'm leaving next week to fly to Austin, TX, my favorite city on Earth, so I can attend the film portion of the SXSW Festival.  I've written about their amazing line-up at length already but today, it got even cooler.  How is that possible?  Well...
 
"The South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Conference and Festival has announced Austin-based filmmaker Robert Rodriguez and director Nimród Antal will present a  First Look at their upcoming motion picture 'Predators', at SXSW on March 12, 2010.  SXSW also announced the world premiere of Géla Babluani’s '13', the previously announced Super Secret TBA as part of the SX Fantastic midnight section.  The 2010 event will take place March 12 – March 20, 2010.
 
The special presentation of 'Predators' will take place at the Alamo Ritz Theater in downtown Austin, at 10:15pm. Doors open at 9:45pm, and the special event is only open to SXSW Badge-holders on a first-come, first-served basis. An audience Q&A follows the unveiling.  SXSW Badges are still available for purchase.
 
A bold new chapter in the Predator universe, 'Predators' was shot on location under Rodriguez’s creative auspices at the filmmaker’s Austin-based Troublemaker Studios, and is directed by Nimród Antal.  The film stars Adrien Brody as Royce, a mercenary who reluctantly leads a group of elite warriors who come to realize they’ve been brought together on an alien planet… as prey.  With the exception of a disgraced physician, they are all cold-blooded killers – mercenaries, Yakuza, convicts, death squad members – human predators that are now being systemically hunted and eliminated by a new breed of alien Predators.  In addition to Adrien Brody, the film stars Topher Grace, Alice Braga, and Laurence Fishburne.  Co-starring are Walton Goggins, Danny Trejo, Oleq Taktarov and Mahershalalhashbaz Ali.
 
'Predators' was written by Alex Litvak & Mike Finch based upon characters created by Jim Thomas & John Thomas. The producers are Robert Rodriguez and Elizabeth Avellàn.  Twentieth Century Fox releases 'Predators' in theaters everywhere July 9, 2010.
 
Commented Robert Rodriguez:  'My director Nimród Antal and I are excited to bring this first look at Predators to Austin's SXSW Film Festival, an event that’s become vital to the filmmaking scene.  Austin is my home and I’m proud that Predators was conceived and filmed here.'
 
Said Film Conference & Festival Producer Janet Pierson:  'Robert Rodriguez and Troublemaker Studios are a continued fountain of filmmaking creativity and innovation here in Austin, TX.  We couldn't be more proud to present the unveiling of Predators at our 2010 event.'
 
Additionally, SXSW has revealed the identity of the Super Secret TBA in its SX Fantastic section – the anticipated world premiere of Géla Babluani’s '13' will take place at Midnight on Saturday, March 13 at the Alamo South Lamar Theater. 
 
'13,' a remake of the 2005 French film '13 Tzameti', also directed by Babluani, stars Jason Statham, Mickey Rourke, Ben Gazzara, and Alexander Skarsgard. The thriller follows the story of Vince, who unwittingly becomes involved in a degenerate, clandestine world of mental chaos behind closed doors.
2010 marks the second year of the SX Fantastic section, a series of mind-bending international midnight films at SXSW programmed by Tim League, founder of the Austin-based Fantastic Fest.  This year features a diverse slate of five action, thriller, sci-fi and just plain fantastic films from all corners of the world.  For more information on the SX Fantastic section, as well as the rest of the Festival program, visit www.sxsw.com/film.
 
Over the course of nine days, the 2010 Festival will host a total of 134 features, including 64 world premieres, and will open with the world premiere of 'Kick-Ass,' directed by Matthew Vaughn and starring Aaron Johnson, Cholë Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Nicolas Cage. SXSW will also host more than 80 Film Conference panels, which will take place Friday, March 12 – Tuesday, March 16.  For the complete program of films and panels, as well as schedule information, visit http://my.sxsw.com."
 
Crazy.  So opening night now features that "Kick-Ass" screening followed by that "Predators" event?  No, I'm not going to be busy or anything.
 
I thought I'd be slowing down in April, thankfully, but it looks like plans have changed.  I got a call the other day from Matthew Kiernan, a guy I've known for nine years now, originally meeting him at the FanTasia Film Festival in Montreal.  Over the years, he's been involved with the Alamo Drafthouse, Fantastic Fest, various DVD companies, and B-Side, the now-defunct festival scheduling service.  I didn't know what he was up to until this recent call, but it sounds like he's got something very cool cooking in Asheville, NC.
I think I'm going to try to make it to Asheville for this event.  My parents actually just retired to Asheville a few weeks ago, so it's a weird sort of synchronicity of events, and a perfect excuse to see where they're living now as well as a chance to get a peek at the new Neil Marshall film, "Centurion."  And if Tom Quinn from Magnolia is involved, you can bet they've got access to some of the best action films being made in the world today.  God, I hope they show "Merantau" there...
 
Check this out:
 
"This April, Asheville, NC will be the home to the inaugural edition of ActionFest, the world’s first film festival devoted exclusively to action cinema, and to the people who make it possible, from filmmakers to stuntmen and fight choreographers.   Created by Carolina Cinemas founder/Magnolia Pictures co-founder Bill Banowsky and famed action director and producer Aaron Norris ('Missing in Action III,' 'Walker, Texas Ranger'), the festival will take place at The Carolina Asheville cinema from Thursday, April 15th to Sunday, April 18th. ActionFest opens with the world premiere of Neil Marshall’s bloody sword and sandal epic, 'Centurion,' and is proud to announce that the recipient of its first annual Lifetime Action Achievement Award will be none other than legendary martial artist and action movie superstar Chuck Norris!

With an impressive roster encompassing the best contemporary action films from around the globe, including several world premieres, major studio previews and classics of the genre (including some of Norris’s most loved titles), ActionFest will be four days of heaven for fans of adrenaline fueled cinema, with a full list of films to be announced on Monday, March 22nd. There will be a competition section juried by genre experts from around the country, including award recipient Chuck Norris. Additionally, stuntman Kinnie Gibson will be on hand for a demonstration of his famous Flying Rocket Belt, a feat of bravery and technology that’s been featured at the Olympics, the Super Bowl and the Daytona 500! Magnolia Pictures/Magnet Releasing SVP Tom Quinn is head programmer for ActionFest, and Matthew Kiernan is festival director.
 
'Centurion,' the latest genre masterpiece from cult favorite Neil Marshall ('The Descent'), will have its world premiere at ActionFest on Thursday, April 15th.  Based on the legendary battle between Rome’s famed Ninth Legion and ferocious Picts of Northern England in 117 AD, 'Centurion' stars Michael Fassbender ('Inglourious Basterds', '300
', 'Hunger'), Dominic West ('300'; HBO’s 'The Wire') and gorgeous Bond-girl Olga Kurylenko ('Quantum of Solace', 'Hitman').  Recently acquired by Magnet Releasing, 'Centurion' will open in theaters nationwide this summer.
 
Chuck Norris will receive the Lifetime Action Achievement Award in person on Sunday, April 18.  Best known for the hit CBS-TV series 'Walker, Texas Ranger' and over 30 action films, including such genre classics as 'Return of the Dragon', the 'Missing in Action' and 'Delta Force' films, and 'Code of Silence', Norris is also a best-selling author and weekly columnist for WorldNetDaily and Creators Syndicate.  Next to his family, he feels his greatest accomplishment is the KickStart Kids, a foundation that he conceived in 1992 that’s committed to helping inner city kids by building strong moral character through the Martial Arts. Taught in middle schools, over 63,000 kids have graduated from the program since its inception, most of them going on to college and becoming successful in their own right. KickStart Kids currently has over 6,500 students in the program.  In honor of Norris’s appearance at ActionFest, all profits of this year’s festival will be donated to the Kickstart Kids Foundation.
 
'A festival like this one is long overdue,' said co-founder Aaron Norris.  'ActionFest will cover the full gamut of what defines the genre and will pay appropriate respect to the artists who create great action films:  the actors, directors, producers, stuntmen, stunt coordinators, and fight choreographers.'
 
'Aaron and I are very pleased to bring ActionFest to life,' said co-founder Bill Banowsky.  'The festival will benefit
Asheville, it will benefit fans of the genre, and most importantly, it will benefit worthy causes like Kickstart Kids. And who better for the world’s first action-oriented festival to honor than the iconic Chuck Norris, whose presence at this year’s festival will ensure its success.'

'I set out to do something only when I know it’s going to be done right. And I know that’s how Bill and Aaron have approached ActionFest,' said Chuck Norris.  'I am honored and privileged to receive an award from ActionFest and to be part of the creation of the first action film festival, one which has been founded in the spirit of giving.'
 
ActionFest’s home is beautiful Asheville, NC, voted America's Top 25 Arts Destinations by American Style magazine and the New Freak Capital of the U.S. by Rolling Stone magazine. The fest will be held exclusively at The Carolina Asheville, part of the Carolina Cinemas chain founded by Banowsky, former CEO of Landmark Theaters. The newly renovated theater features 14 screens with state-of-the-art digital and 35mm projection, plush seating, a bar stocked with over 15 local beers on tap, and sofas and loveseats in four of the auditoriums.  The Carolina Asheville has reinvented the movie-going experience in Asheville and has become the most talked-about theater in Western North Carolina in less than one year of existence.    
 
Tickets for ActionFest will go on sale in early April; individual show tickets are $10, while festival badges purchased before April 1, 2010 will be $65.  Tickets can be purchased at www.actionfest.com.  Follow ActionFest on Twitter at @actionfest."
 
An all-action-movie film festival that Kiernan is in charge of, co-founded by Chuck Norris's brother?  With Chuck Norris actually in attendance?  How is that NOT worth traveling cross-country for?
 
Not that travel's even a pre-requisite these days for people to feel like they're taking part in a festival.  Sundance this year put several titles out there through VOD and other services, day and date with their premiere at the actual festival, so that people could watch certain titles at home.  Now Tribeca's doing the same thing.  Here are some details:
 
"Tribeca Enterprises today announced the launch of Tribeca Film, a comprehensive distribution and marketing platform for independent film, and Tribeca Film Festival Virtual (TFFV), a new online venture offering worldwide audiences an opportunity to experience the Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) through www.tribecafilm.com/virtual.  These two new initiatives stem from Tribeca’s desire to redefine traditional models of film distribution and release patterns and with TFF, create new opportunities for filmmakers. American Express is broadening its relationship with Tribeca and reinforcing its commitment to independent film and filmmakers by signing on as the Founding Partner of Tribeca Film and of TFFV – two endeavors that promise to give independent filmmakers a platform to reach even broader audiences and deliver compelling stories to audiences, and American Express Cardmembers, everywhere.
 
Tribeca Film is a national distribution platform that will acquire and release films year-round through a network of distribution partners.  Tribeca will maximize marketing leverage by compressing traditional distribution windows, starting with a branded VOD offering that will launch day-and-date with TFF (April 21 – May 2) and then expanding to theatrical, home entertainment, airline, hotel, subscription and advertising-supported digital platforms.  Tribeca Film’s first acquisitions include 10 feature titles, 7 of which will be screened day-and-date during TFF.  These films are expected to reach more than 40 million households through partnerships with leading cable, satellite and telecom providers, including Comcast, Cablevision and Verizon FiOS.  The titles will be available on a Tribeca-branded menu for a minimum of 60 days.
 
Tribeca Film will release more than 10 titles on VOD under the Tribeca Film banner, over half of them day-and-date with the 2010 Festival, including: the North American premiere of Participant Media and the Alliance for Climate Protection’s 'Climate of Change', an environmental documentary narrated by Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton; the world premiere of 'Birth of Big Air', an ESPN documentary produced by Spike Jonze and Johnny Knoxville about extreme sports athlete Mat Hoffman; the North American premiere of 'sex & drugs & rock & roll', the critically-acclaimed story of punk rock pioneer Ian Dury, played by Andy Serkis; and the U.S. premiere of 'Road, Movie', the tale of a young man’s life-changing drive across India, from the producers of 'In The Bedroom' and 'Lost In Translation'.  Additional Tribeca Film titles include 'TiMER', a brain-teasing romantic comedy that was well received at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival."
 
Like everyone, film festivals have been hit hard by the economy, but seeing this much innovative thinking out there, seeing how aggressive some festivals are becoming about winning new audiences, I have to think the future's looking good in general.
 

Can't get enough of Motion/Captured? Don't miss a post with daily HitFix Blog Alerts. Sign up now.

Don't miss out. Add Motion/Captured to your iGoogle, My Yahoo or My MSN experience by clicking here.

Not part of the HitFix Nation yet? Take 90 seconds and sign up today.

You can e-mail me at drew@hitfix.com or follow me on Twitter, where I'm DrewAtHitFix.