Inside HBO and Giant Spoon’s Massive Immersive Westworld Activation at SXSW

Giving fans a taste of the park in the show

Video: Joshua Rios, Editor: Breana Mallamaci
Headshot of Kristina Monllos

In HBO’s Westworld, people come from all over to experience what it’s like to “live without limits.” This weekend at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, attendees can give that a try at a recreation of Sweetwater, the world within Westworld.

After meeting at a tavern and finding out whether you’ll wear a white hat or black, as Sweetwater guests do in the show, attendees take a shuttle outside of Austin to the two acres of land where the park is located. Once at the park, you walk through a train like the one on the show and enter the town where it’s a bit of organized chaos. There are taverns, live music, six horses, a showdown that’ll probably end in gunfire and a personalized piece of mail with a clue about the show’s second season.

The show’s creators, Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, HBO’s marketing team and Giant Spoon, the agency behind the activation, wrote 444 pages of scripts for the 60 actors populating the town. The park is a promotion for the second season of the show, which premieres on April 22.

“The theme of Westworld and the idea of it is that it is actually immersive entertainment,” said Steven Cardwell, director of program marketing at HBO. “To us, it seemed like a no-brainer to build and extend that story narrative to the real world.”

HBO broke ground on the activation in November, and a team of 40 people has been building it for the past five weeks.

“We do think this is one of the most immersive experiences that’s been at SXSW,” said Trevor Guthrie, co-founder of Giant Spoon. “SXSW has always been about experiences. We do think this is one of the largest ones at SXSW. We literally built a Western town in the middle of Texas.”

HBO also partnered with Lyft (on co-branded shuttles) and Delta (on a co-branded plane experience from Los Angeles to Austin) for the activation.

@KristinaMonllos Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.