This week is SXSW, a big tech, movie, and music conference here in Austin. We’re used to companies pulling out all the stops in an effort to impress the “influencers” attending the conference, especially during the Interactive (tech) portion that kicks off the convention.
Still, HBO managed to blow all prior efforts completely out of the water by building a replica of Sweetwater, a town from Westworld. And thanks to my husband, we were able to go check it out.
If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s about a self-contained, Wild West-style amusement park called Westworld, populated by android hosts. Guests can visit Westworld and interact with the hosts however they want without fearing retaliation. As expected, this brings out both the best and worst in people.
To replicate this experience, HBO hired something like forty actors to play the park’s hosts. All were decked out in appropriate clothing and had narrative loops that interacted with other characters and guests.
We were given cowboy hats (mine black, my husband’s white—clearly a mixup because I roll lawful good) and were warned not to touch the hosts, for obvious reasons, but otherwise, we were let loose to explore the town on our own.
The level of detail was incredible and the actors were amazing. Just look at these costumes! You can click on the pictures to see a bigger version.
In this photo, the woman leaning against the column had just tossed the man to the ground. Before that, we had been standing behind her. She turned around and said something like, “You’re making me nervous, standing behind me like that. Think you could back up?” We did, and the the lady with the gun apologized and said the first lady didn’t outsiders, when it was actually just a clever way to get us away from the fight.
They had a post office, where we each had a letter waiting. Apparently, I had something of a reputation in the prior town, which paired well with my black hat.
They also had a Photographic Studio using the latest tech. It only required us to hold our solemn expressions for a mere three seconds. “It’s instantaneous!” the photographer crowed. Some of the other characters raved about how it no longer required the exploding flash powder.
As introverts, talking to strangers isn’t really our jam, so we didn’t uncover all of the secrets, but we still had a really nice time in Sweetwater. A huge thank you to HBO and all of the actors who made our stay a memorable one!