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Asif Kapadia

Austin Transforms Into "The Pop Culture Mecca" This Week for SXSW

In less than 48 hours, all trend-setting eyes will be on Austin for the 26th annual South by Southwest® (SXSW®) Conference & Festival. Comprised of three varying components, the series offers the unique convergence of original music, independent films, and emerging technologies. Fostering creative and professional growth alike, SXSW is the premier destination for discovery.

Here, take a look:

Last year Austin welcomed 49,126 registrants from 76 countries and an additional 49,681 single admission tickets to film and music events, showcased 2,098 music acts across 92 stages and screened  140 feature films with 1,116 screening filmmakers in attendance, and that's not the half of it. These numbers cover the official registrant stats; countless attendees participate in Austin's largest discovery event without a SXSW badge.

This time last year we were pulling together the final touches to help sell out both showings of the award-winning SENNA movie at Austin's gorgeous Paramount Theatre and welcome Asif Kapadia to Austin.

This year we're also doing our part to keep the F1 buzz growing in Austin. On Monday, March 12 from 5:00-6:00PM I'll host the official SXSW "F1 Meet Up" at the Hilton Austin Downtown. If you're a registered attendee of the SXSW Interactive festival, join us for an hour of networking, brainstorming and idea-building as we discuss the next big thing to transform Austin later this year.

On Sunday, March 11, Kevin and I will again join Social Media Clubhouse as they broadcast live from the IBM Social Lounge in the Austin Convention Center via their Ustream channel at noon. Social Media Club is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing social media education to more than 300,000 members across 52 countries. Last year we had the amazing opportunity to discuss how social media played a role in the distribution of the SENNA movie with director Asif Kapadia. This year, Kevin and I will share our thoughts on the role of social media in the sport of Formula One, especially in the United States in anticipation of our inaugural race this November.

There are countless sources to learn more about the SXSW experience. CNN News broadcast live from the event last year and will be back again at the CNN Grill, apparently with a US presidential candidate in attendance this Friday. There are numerous SXSW-themed information boards on Pinterest. Austin-based advertising agency GSD&M has a fun online "SXSurvival" guide.

The ultimate resource, however, continues to be the official website, which is

Here are a few quotes about SXSW that capture its essence:

Every March, thousands of young, jeans-wearing techies, filmmakers and musicians descend upon Austin, Texas, harboring dreams of getting noticed and hitting it big. They come not just for the balmy weather or the Tex-Mex food but for South by Southwest ("SXSW"), a collection of conferences and festivals that's considered one of the most influential happenings on the annual cultural calendar ...

... It's a massive crystal ball for pop culture. Whatever people are talking about at SXSW - the movies, the bands, the apps - are the things that will really hit it big in mainstream pop culture in six months to a year down the line."

CNN, March 10, 2011


What SXSW has always been about is people. It is the single best place in the creative innovation world to build relationships and get to know people. I have friends from all over the world that I've met over the last five years thta I can't wiat to see in Austin every year.



SXSW's creators never conceived of the festival as the massive, three-pronged assault by the latest in music, film and technology that it is today when they launched the original, music-only event in 1986, with 170 bands in 12 clubs to an attendance of about 700. But they've been smart enough to keep an eye to the future all along - first in the music programming, then in the bringing togeterh of music with film and computer-age "interactive" components in 1994 and, this year, by combining all three trade shows into one giant mass that recognizes that all three sides of SXSW now feed and feed off each otehr."

The Toronto Star, March 15, 2011


Twenty-five years after the South by Southwest Music festival emerged as a showcase for new bands, it has become as big and eclectic as pop culture itself with spotlights on movies and, increasingly, high-tech.

Reuters, March 22, 2011


After the festival we'll share our discoveries with you and reflect upon what we learn in anticipation for our November race, which is slated to be three times the size of this production. Until then, enjoy the show.


Lap One Done With the Support of Our Fans!

We are excited to celebrate with you the one year anniversary of the announcement of Austin, Texas as the future home of Formula One™ in the United States starting in 2012. It was also one year ago today that we founded The Austin Grand Prix and embarked upon our mission to bring the most comprehensive news surrounding this announcement to fans around the world. Our mission was simple: “To bridge the gap between racing fans and Austin and welcome everyone to the future home of Formula One™.”

We are extremely grateful for the support of our fans from Austin to Australia and everywhere in between; whether you’ve connected with us via our dedicated website, Facebook page, Twitter account, Vimeo video page, or met us out and about in the streets of Austin at a watch party, networking event, movie premiere, press conference or any other exciting event. Thank YOU for supporting our efforts to be the new media and community resource for the Circuit of the Americas™ under construction in Austin, Texas as the future home of Formula One™ and MotoGP racing, starting in 2012.

On location at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX

What's Next?

  • 3 June 2011: The FIA World Motor Sport Council will meet and discuss rescheduling of the cancelled Bahrain GP and preliminary talks of a 2012 race calendar.
  • November 2011: Expected announcement of finalized 2012 race calendar.
  • June 2012: When COTA has been told to “be ready” for an inaugural race. Also, a June race date would make logical sense, if the track was ready by this time, because the cars should already be on the North American continent, coinciding with the Canadian Grand Prix.
  • September/October 2012: Another logical date for the USGP because the cars are shipped through Dallas, Texas (about a 3 hour drive from Austin) on their way to Brazil in South America for the Brazilian GP. Also, back in April, the University of Texas said their Longhorns Football Team would consider moving a football game to accommodate a race weekend in Austin - which would be unprecedented!

Headed to Montreal!

We are also excited to be packing our bags for Montreal in two weeks for the Canadian Grand Prix from 9-13 June. We hope to meet as many F1 fans as possible and have created a casual meet up in Montreal, which you can RSVP for on our Facebook page and stay tuned for more information.


"SENNA" Wins The Hearts Of Austin

It is hard to believe that it was just two months ago that we had the great Kerri and Kevin with SENNA Director Asif Kapadia at SXSWhonor of working alongside Director Asif Kapadia and Working Title Films to help promote and welcome the Texas premiere of the SENNA film during Austin’s famed South By Southwest Film Festival. Thank you for helping sell out both screenings of the film at the iconic Paramount Theatre on Congress Avenue. If you were able to attend a screening, we hope you enjoyed the film as much as we did! If not, check out this exclusive video interview of Asif at the Social Media Clubhouse. Please also continue to support SENNA for next week’s UK release (3 June) and a broader US statewide release planned for 12 August. We want to continue to serve as a reliable resource for the SENNA film so please check our website in the coming week as we roll out some amazing new SENNA film features.


How Can You Help?

Another question we are frequently asked is how our fans and supporters can help. Here are a few ideas:

  • Sign-up for our newsletter and tell your friends and colleagues about it!
  • Got an idea? A burning question? A referral? Send us an email anytime atOur fan and friend Heath showing his support at the 2011 Australian GP! We would love to hear from you!
  • Get your hands on the first product promoting the return of Formula One™ to Texas via our COME AND RACE IT™ shirts! We will also be adding more products in the coming months.
  • Please send us your pictures in your COME AND RACE IT™ shirt, as we are compiling photographs of our fans from around the world, just like the one shown here from Down Under!

We are extremely grateful to our fans and supporters because we have been building The Austin Grand Prix to serve you. Sometimes we are asked: “Why is it the Austin Grand Prix? Don’t you think that is exclusive of the rest of Texas, or the US, or North America?” We are the Austin Grand Prix because we are a part of the social fabric of the Austin community; we believe over the next twelve months you will start to understand why we love this great city so much. We look forward to welcoming you and we hope you will join us in 2012 for the inaugural United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.


Thank You and COME AND RACE IT™!


Kerri Olsen and Kevin Olsen


Is Momentum Building at Austin's Newest Park?

Austin's track is gaining momentum, YEEHAW! It's been an amazing couple of weeks since all activity at the SXSW Film, Music and Interactive conference in Austin, Texas. Let's recap:

-Congratulations to Asif Kapadia, Manish Pandey, Working Title Films, Universal and all parties involved with the SENNA film, as release dates have been progressing:

  • 13 April - Valencia, Spain - Spanish premiere
  • 4 and 6 May - Toronto - Canadian International documentary film festival, "Hot Docs"
  • 3 June - UK Release
  • 15-19 June - Sydney, Australia Film Festival
  • 21 July - Australian Release
  • July - US Release

-Asif and the SENNA online outlets (Twitter, Facebook, web) have been working hard to keep us all informed of the latest release info. It is motivating to read inquires from fans all over the world: "When can I see SENNA in MY hometown!?" Keep asking and keep coming back here. We will continue to help bring this movie to you because it truly is an epic film which we so thoroughly enjoyed. Believe it or not, we have even more #SENNAxSW content to share with you in the coming weeks!

Congratulations to the entire Formula One drivers and teams for the amazing first two races of the season. Although Bahrain was cancelled, Sebastian Vettell gave everyone a run for their money at Australia and Malaysia. Check out this Formula 1 interview here.

And now...there have been many reports in the past few weeks that suggest development at the future home of the Austin Grand Prix is racing ahead.

-Tom O'Keefe published his recap of his Texas visit on Autosport today; you can read it here.

-Dave Doolittle, of the Austin American-Statesman, reports that zombie roadkill is halting F1 construction at the site! Oh no!

-Bob Varsha, of SPEED TV, said "We have a delegation from SPEED that’s going to go visit the track and assess the situation with our own eyeballs on April 13."

-During SPEED TV's airing of the Malaysian Grand Prix on April 9/10, they also made an announcement regarding the upcoming April 12 "special news conference" and said they plan on bringing you a live feed on Tuesday night at 8pm ET.

-Austin's KVUE News posted a supershort video of earth-movers and construction at the site from the ground level, however we're still partial to our exclusive aerial video which F1 Russia picked up and sent us viral! Here it is if you'd rather not dig through our archives:

Exclusive: First Aerial Video of Austin Track Construction from The Austin Grand Prix on Vimeo.


So, with all the recent rumblings, we want to know what YOU think will happen at tomorrow's news conference. Here are a few ideas we've heard and/or made up over a few cups of coffee this AM:

  • Tavo Hellmund and Bob Varsha will skydive out of an airplane to give you an idea of a real aerial descent upon the future track site, since they weren't too happy with our photos or video.
  • Since the Bahrain race was cancelled, construction is really going to ramp up and the Austin race will actually happen in <gasp> 2011 later this year!
  • Red Bull is going to return to Austin, the home of their largest U.S. Flugtag audience of 85,000, and create a permanent Flugtag stage constructed over the F1 pit area. (What's Flugtag? Read recap of 2007 event here.)

    by Lynn M. Stone

  • The official F1 USGP team is going to formally name the track: "The Best Little Race House In Texas."
  • SPEED TV will start the highly-anticipated 24/7 webcam of progress, so you never have to miss a second of the non-stop action as earthmovers crawl around the track!
  • Bernie decided that in addition to artificial rain, he would also like to create artificial snow for future driving "excitement" the summer.
  • While Tavo and Bob dive into the track location, Bernie will be on the ground to catch them atop his new ride, this lovely Texas Longhorn:


What are you expecting tomorrow and what would you like to see?

Before I go, I wanted to introduce you to our expanded product line at COME AND RACE IT©! We now have shirts in 4 different colors:



Natural, Texas Orange, Heather Grey and Ladies Mocha Brown! (Click on the pictures above to go directly to the order page.)

Here's our shirt Down Under at the Australian Grand Prix last month! We would love to get pics of you in your shirts at every Grand Prix and from all over the world. Please send them to us at COMEANDRACEIT {at} Thank you for your ongoing support!

Exclusive: Interview with Senna Director Asif Kapadia - #SENNAxSW

On Sunday I got the chance to sit down with Kevin and Asif to talk about how social media has affected the release of the movie, our growth of The Austin Grand Prix, and the Formula One community. The Social Media Club House at SXSW in Austin, Texas was the venue, as Social Media Club hosted a full four days of live Ustream broadcasts from the house. We had hoped to patch in the film's writer, Manish Pandey, to join us in the discussion but were unable to do so. Enjoy...

Exclusive: Interview with SENNA Director Asif Kapadia from The Austin Grand Prix on Vimeo.


Behind The Scenes Gallery


DNQ - Senna

Ayrton Senna could have been a god. Not necessarily if not for the new documentary about his racing career, but if not for technology… at all. Let me rephrase - in a world where television, photography or print did not exist for some inexplicable reason, but race cars did, Ayrton Senna would have been a god. Here's the proof, thanks to director Asif Kapadia and his documentary Senna.

So first things first - the obligatory "you don't have to be a fan of Senna or even a fan of Formula 1 or even a fan of racing or even a fan of sports at all to enjoy this film" disclaimer. Maybe in the past you've been coerced by this sort of lead-on by a friend or significant other, only to suffer and moan. I asked my wife while leaving the Paramount Theater if she enjoyed the movie. My wonderful, accommodating, supportive wife, who has absolutely no interest in racing whatsoever (strike whatsoever - I think she might have an unhealthy and/or impure appreciation of Mark Webber and Jenson Button), responded, "How could you not?" From across the theater, my friend Eric, whose interest in sports essentially begins and ends with the University of Arkansas Razorbacks, hallowed be thy name, flashed two thumbs up (I'm not sure if this wasn't in honor of Roger Ebert, also in the audience), then pantomimed tears falling. Then two more thumbs up, so as not to end his review on an unmanly note.

If you want to read a professional review of the film, I'm not going to discourage you one bit. I'll try to give you a bit more than, "It was good," but ultimately my appreciation of Senna derives from the perspective of how it immortalizes Ayrton Senna, a god among men, as a human being. If you're disinclined to be all gung-ho about a documentary, I have some encouragement. Kapadia foregoes the typical talking head, television style interview with someone who knew Senna recounting their experiences and memories. Instead he lets the characters, primarily nemesis Alain Prost, McLaren team boss Ron Dennis and of course, Senna himself, tell the story, more or less chronologically, and in the moment. With hundreds of hours of footage available, from interview to candid behind the scenes to in-car, supplemented by more recent interviews specifically for the film, the narrative of Senna's rise to the pinnacle of the racing world is already extensively documented and well known, at least in a mythological sense. The drive and focus of that narrative then is a masterstroke of tireless research and judicious editing. Senna is undeniably a good film, full stop.

Senna, as the protagonist in the drama, develops as thoroughly as any of the best films you could name. One of the most controversial moments of his career, the infamous shunt with Alain Prost (our lead antagonist) at the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, is suddenly recontextualized from its usual portrayal, with the background to color the incident (accurately, you could argue) as a righteous middle finger to the sport's governing body, and particularly its then demagogue of a master, Jean-Marie Balestre. In many circles, purists will cluck and bemoan the unsporting intent of Senna's defiance by charging for a gap and holding a line that would likely, and in fact did, retire both drivers from the race. The crash brought cheers from the audience in the theater. Senna went on to clinch the championship. Unsportsmanlike or the very illustration of competitive purity? There's room to argue but the context underlying the whole ordeal is undeniable. 

My favorite sequence, and the one that honestly caused something to get in my eye, was the 1991 Brazil Grand Prix. Piloting a broken car, but having never won in his home country, Senna drove an impossible drive to cling to his victory. If the story ended here, it would be Roy Hobbs slamming the ball into the lights. Senna winning in Brazil exemplifies my theory that athletic competition can be art, or at least artistic. Senna's drive was a pure expression of the human spirit, and it is beautiful to behold. Seriously, truthfully beautiful. If you could package this segment of the film, a model of Micelangelo's David and maybe a recording of  Mingus Ah Um, and send it all into space for aliens to understand what humanity is and is capable of, you wouldn't be doing the universe a disservice.  Watching the footage of him on the winners' podium in sheer agony, try and fail, then try again to hoist his trophy over his head, and knowing that he wasn't doing so out of a need to satisfy his ego, but to salute his country and its citizens - it's moving. Best scene in the film? Discuss.

But this is all a bit like the Titanic, isn't it? Most racing fans know what happened to Ayrton Senna on May 1, 1994. We know every race, every victory, brings us closer to The Monster at the End of This Book. Raise your hand if you didn't know racing cars was a dangerous profession. Few serious accidents are shown in the film. Only the outcome of Martin Donnelly's career ending but amazingly not fatal 1990 crash is shown, his broken body lying motionless on the circuit. It's a nauseatingly frank shot. Rubens Barrichello's airborne shunt during practice at Imola in '94 that ranks in the majority of morbid but somehow requite top 10 crashes of all time lists. Roland Ratzenberger's fatal crash at qualifying for the same race. And finally Senna. It's jarring, even when you know it's coming.

Throughout the film are shots of Niki Lauda. Although he's never named either in narration or by subtitle, the burn scarred face of the three-time world champion, and still competitive driver at the time, is a frequent, looming reminder of the supposedly bygone age when the life expectancy of F1 drivers was not the job's mot vital selling point. But in the "modern" era, no one expected the greatest driver possibly in the history of the sport could be snuffed with so little effort on the part of the universe. To keep things in  cinematic frame of reference, it's like Leonardo DiCaprio's character in The Departed taking one in the brain the second the elevator doors open. Except this is real life. It was tragic and will always be tragic, like the last man to die in the battle before a truce is called, but that doesn't make it senseless. If the Spirit of Racing Future floated down to Senna and handed him a signed declaration of his impending death, he'd likely have strapped into his wobbly Williams and tempted the Almighty's resolve. Because that loving, thankful, but nonetheless defiant middle finger to the institution he loved so much, whether we're talking racing or God, defined him as a human.

There's more to be said about Senna the citizen. The man who fought for Brazil. The man who established an educational foundation for poverty stricken children. The man who never denied or belittled his faith or his family, even at the height of his fame. This film isn't about those areas of his life, really. It's about Senna the driver, which encapsulated all of those qualities, virtues and vices. Go see it at 7:30 Thursday night at the Paramount.

SENNA By Southwest (aka #SENNAxSW)

"SENNA Wins at Sundance," Courtesy of Working Title Films   "We were told that no one in the US knew who Ayrton Senna was, that there was no interest in Formula One, that we should forget about releasing the film here, so to win the Audience Award at Sundance is just fantastic, it makes us feel so proud. We hope this shows that there is an audience for SENNA in the US, both fans and people who have never heard of him before and I hope this is just the beginning of a long journey for SENNA in 2011.”-Asif Kapadia, Director of SENNA, upon collecting the World Cinema Audience Award for Documentary at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival


Hopefully you've heard the awesome news that the SENNA film will be screened at SXSW on two occassions. We've got a few more tricks up our sleeve for anyone in Austin this week for SXSW AND for our worldwide fans who are saving their pennies for the inaugural Grand Prix race in 2012. Let me simplify for you:

SENNA film posterSENNA premiere #1 at The Paramount Theatre on Saturday, 12 March, 11:00AM:

  • Doors open at 10:30AM.
  • If you have a SXSW Platinum or Film Badge, you are guaranteed entry to the film.* I would still get there by 10AM.
  • Next are SXSW Film Passes. I would get there by 9:45AM to get a earlier spot in line.*
  • Last are the Advance Single Tickets. These are what you bought online from The Paramount Theatre for $12 and congrats, you helped sell out the SENNA film first :) You should line up early, I'm thinking REALLY EARLY. Like 7AM. Call me crazy but if this is the first screening to completely sell out 100 these Advance tickets (which don't even insure your entry) wouldn't you want to be in line first?? The good news is that The Paramount is the largest screening in Austin (I think, however Vimeo may be larger) and if you don't get in, you can get your $12 refunded but you have to be at the box office "within 30 minutes of the film" (not sure if this means before or after; double check.)*
  • Bring tissues and waterproof mascara so you can continue your SXSW schedule after viewing this film as I am sure you will be touched and inspired.
  • RSVP ON OUR FACEBOOK INVITE so we know you're coming. Heck, the Director and Austin Mayor Pro Tem did; are you too cool? 
  • Please wear your COME AND RACE IT© shirt to the movie premiere!!
  • I purchased a few extra Advance Single Tickets so if you're looking for one please tweet me @AustinGrandPrix ASAP.

Post-Premiere Reception by the Formula 1 United States team at the Long Center.

  • Press & Media event including a discussion with Tavo and Asif on the SENNA film and the future Grand Prix in Austin and the appearance of the AT&T Williams F1 car (interesting choice); here's a preview:

    From AT&T Williams website.

  • Kevin and I will be sharing as much information as we can with you LIVE from the Long Center.
  • Watch our Facebook page and Twitter Feed for the latest.
  • I will also use the hashtag #SENNAxSW all weekend so watch for that.
  • If you want to interact with us and ask us questions about SENNA, Asif Kapadia or SXSW just use the hashtag #SENNAxSW or tweet it to us @AustinGrandPrix.

Social Media Club Panel broadcast live on Ustream

If you can't join us in Austin, On Sunday afternoon I'm conducting a discussion on how social media is affecting the Formula One world live from the Social Media Clubhouse 6 at SXSW. This year they've partnered with Ustream to broadcast the interviews LIVE on the interwebs!

  • The broadcast is at 1:30PM CST on Sunday, March 13.
  • You can join us at the Social Media Clubhouse 6 but you must have Social Media Club credentials.*
  • The panel will include me, Kevin and SENNA Director, Asif Kapadia. We're also still working on technology to include the SENNA writer, Manish Pandey, from London. We really wanted him to be here for SXSW but since he can't join us, we're still working to include him.
  • Again, use the hashtag #SENNAxSW to tweet us your questions and feedback. We'll do our best to participate with y'all live while on the air.
  • I'm embedding the Ustream channel below but in the event it does not work, watch it live from the SMCH6 Ustream channel.

Live Videos by Ustream

SENNA premiere #2 at The Paramount Theatre on Thursday, 17 March, 7:15PM

  • Same details as above but there are 56 Advance Single Tickets still available from The Paramount Theatre here.
  • Asif will also be in attendance at the second screening.
  • More details early next week.
  • RSVP on our Facebook invite for this event as well.
  • Please wear your COME AND RACE IT© shirt to the movie premiere!!

Kevin and I are extremely excited that we've been able to help bring the SENNA film and Asif to Austin and SXSW. Thank you to those of you who reached out and helped us for this amazing project! We'll definitely have a lot more to write about in the coming days including how this all came to be.

Please wear your COME AND RACE IT© shirt at SXSW and continue to spread the word about The Austin Grand Prix!

Thank you for your support. Without you, our amazing fans, we wouldn't have grown so incredibly these past 9 months.


Kerri Olsen
The Austin Grand Prix

*All suggestions in this post, especially regarding SXSW film viewings and entry, are solely my personal recommendation and are not to be taken as a guarantee for entry into any event. Ultimately SXSW is the gatekeeper and you should check for official directions and guidelines.