AUSTIN, Texas — A giant cutout of the tribal war shield from the Oklahoma flag greets you as soon as you step inside the Buffalo Lounge in Austin.
It's an odd site considering you're in the heart of Texas, but once inside, you are greeted by even more reminders of the Sooner State and its talented and intrepid musicians, filmmakers and innovators.
After starting at the 2010 South By Southwest festival, the Buffalo Lounge has grown every year. This year, more than 40 bands will take to two stages inside The 512 bar on Sixth Street.
Ginger Roddick, a partner with the Oklahoma City-based creative firm The Idea Collective, said Buffalo Lounge has grown exponentially the past three years and that she thinks this year it will have the best gathering yet.
“We are really amazed at our turnout,” Roddick said. “We are just happy so many people took advantage of being around some really Oklahoma bands, thinkers and moviemakers.”
A lot of the focus this year has been placed on the film and interactive portions of SXSW, with hopes that the Buffalo Lounge will help promote Oklahoma's growing industry and support economic growth in the state's cultural department.
“I think we are at a crossroads,” said Jill Simpson, Oklahoma Film and Music Office director. “The vision has been evolving, and I feel like we are just now really poised to not only have this at SXSW but to have events in Oklahoma as well and not only to showcase talent and provide a performance space but to do some education components and some business skills and incubation. We are just trying to grow it every year.”
On the first day of the lounge, a panel of experts from the film industry did a webinar that highlighted the incentives of filming big-budget movies in states such as Oklahoma instead of the normal go-to places like New York and California.
A featured guest on the panel was Shannon McIntosh, who most recently worked as the executive producer for the 2012 blockbuster “Django Unchained.” McIntosh, a Norman native, said she still has family in the state and hopes to one day film in Oklahoma.
“There are so many positives to filming in Oklahoma,” she said. “But mostly I think it's the people. They would be there to rally and support me, and they have the attitude and the spirit of the people I want to be around.”
Toward the end of the day, the focus of Buffalo Lounge shifted to smart ideas from small business owners.
Roddick said Buffalo Lounge has tried to make a big push for local startups to make the trip to Austin to help showcase the state's innovative side.
“We have a budding industry of interactive, and we've had companies written up in major publications like Wired magazine and other places,” Roddick said. “We are trying to make a push to Oklahoma companies to start coming down to South By and promote Oklahoma and the great ideas we have.
“We think there are some diamonds at Buffalo that we want to showcase.”