Terrence Malick showed up. Even as early risers headed to the SXSW panel discussion of his Song to Song at the Austin Convention Center, they no doubt wondered if the enigmatic filmmaker would actually be there.

Last night, the film’s producer Nicolas Gonda announced the director “may show” at the film’s world premiere at SXSW, and indeed he did, sharing his thoughts on filmmaking in general and his latest film in particular: Song to Song, the star-packed project with Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett and Val Kilmer.

“You’re here at an historical moment,” said SXSW Film Festival director Janet Pierson this morning at the start of “Made in Austin: A Look Into Song to Song,” officially billed as a discussion with Fassbender moderated by Richard Linklater.

Soft spoken with a shyness that silenced the room when he spoke, Malick talked up his filmmaking process, working with his actors on Song To Song and simple observations of life.

“We shot the film on a 40-day schedule,” he said about his latest feature which opens next week via Broad Green. “We had an 8-hour first cut of the film and it took a long time to cut it to a manageable length.” Continuing he said he asked at the time rhetorically, “Is this going to be a miniseries? We have enough to make a different movie.”

Making reference to the length of time to complete Song To Song, Malick said that he’s had to go “more than once” to the “financiers and studios.”

Song to Song centers on two intersecting love triangles, and Fassbender said that by the time he had come onto the project, he didn’t have time to learn lines, so when he spoke to Malick about doing it, he said they would have to wing it.

“I told him the best I could do would be to improvise. Terry said this is better. It’s Starbucks induced dialog,” said Fassbender who also said he’d like to direct in the future. “I guess it was an unconventional approach from the beginning.”

Malick revealed that he’s often referred to by his close associates as the “Apuntador,” a term meaning “prompter” and used in Italian theater and, he said, Mexican soap operas to refer to a person who directs an actor from the side when the actor doesn’t know his lines or where to go. Whether that was in fact the case here or not, Song to Song has a spontaneity that is very apparent – and that’s just fine with Malick.

“You don’t want something to look too staged in movies or they look overly presented,” he said. “You don’t know what comes out [and] you don’t know what you have at the end of the day.”