ATX Television Festival Austin, Texas June 7-10, 2018
This past weekend I attended the ATX Television Festival, a TV camp for grownups. The Festival began in 2012, now enjoying its seventh season. It is a four-day festival held in June each year in downtown Austin. The venue locations for the TV Festival this year were the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz on East Sixth Street, Google Fiber Space on Colorado Street, Paramount Theatre on Congress Avenue, Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel on Congress Avenue, and Trinity Hall on East 5th Street. The venues are all in close walking range, which is important for the hot Texas afternoons.
You can attend all of the panels and events with your ATX Television Festival badge, but that usually entails a long line for popular events, and the slight possibility of not getting in. However, as a badgeholder, you get four fast passes that allow you to go in before everyone else, ensuring a great seat and not having to stand in a long line. You don’t always get a fast pass for an event you want to attend, but most likely you’ll be able to get in even without a fast pass for it.
My first panel on Thursday was Critics Throwdown, with TV critics Maureen Ryan, Sarah Rodman, and Tara Ariano as the panelists. Some of the things discussed were Peak TV, the growing length of some cable and streaming TV shows, and the reboot craze. The second panel of the day was A Conversation with Ray Liotta. Since this is a TV Festival, they kept it mostly to his TV work. That evening I attended the opening night screening of Sharp Objects, the new HBO series. That was a long line. After watching the first episode, Amy Adams, Jean-Marc Vallée, Marti Noxon, Gilliam Flynn, Jason Blum, Pancho Mansfield, and David Levine discussed the program and answered questions from the audience. Sharp Objects appears to be another win for HBO and I wouldn’t be surprised if Amy Adams at least gets an Emmy nomination for the role.
Friday was a busy day. I kicked it off with the Modern Fandom panel, with James Lafferty (Everyone is Doing Great), Emily Andras (Wynonna Earp), Miles McKenna (All Night), and Carina MacKenzie Roswell, New Mexico). The panelist discussed how fans have become a major part of their show. Fan enthusiasm can keep a show afloat. This is especially true for fans from marginalized groups who really grow attached to a show that features them. On smaller shows it increases the fans importance. Still the creators of these shows said they have to maintain creative control of their shows. Next was the American Vandal panel with its creators, director, showrunner, and executives, Dan Perrault, Tony Yacenda, Dan Lagana, and Joe Farrell. If you’ve seen the show on Netflix, you can guess this was a funny panel with an in depth discussion of dicks. They discussed how they combined America’s obsession with the “true crime” genre with dick jokes, and still made a show that didn’t peter out with one joke. After the American Vandal panel, I attended the Directors: Full Season panel. The panel consisted of TV Directors who have directed full seasons of their shows. They discussed how TV directors are putting their stamp on a writer’s medium; Tony Yacenda (American Vandal), Sara St. Onge (You Me Her) and Pamela Fryman (How I Met Your Mother). While the first two panelist are new to the TV medium, Pamela Fryman directed over 190 episodes of How I Met Your Mother and directed episodes of Frazier, Just Shoot Me and the new reboot of One Day at a Time. Being a veteran, she had more insights to share. My final panel for the day was Wynonna Earp with its creator and showrunner Emily Andras and the cast, Melanie Scrofano, Tim Rozon, and Katherine Barrell. It was a lively panel with an enthusiastic audience in attendance. Emily Andras was on the Modern Fandom panel, and this audience was an example of that. After being inside the Stephen F. Austin Ballroom for most of the afternoon, I stepped outside to the Republic of Texas Biker Rally. Most of the streets around the area were blocked off for the bikers. Being caught up in the spectacle, I missed going to the Parks and Recreation screening at the San Jose Hotel on South Congress. They had the parking lot set up like the Harvest Festival, and Lil Sebastian was there. I let fast bikes, loud music, and scantily clad women distract me from the wholesome activities in Pawnee. For shame, for shame.
On Saturday morning, I went to thirtysomething Years Later at the Paramount Theatre. The creators, Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick were there along with cast members, Melanie Mayron, Timothy Busfield, Peter Horton, David Clennon, and Polly Draper. They shared fun stories about doing the show. Nearly all of them are directors now, and they got their start on the show. They seemed to enjoy being together again on stage. That afternoon I went to Awkward & Amusing: A Look at Contemporary British Comedies. Ben Farrell who is a producer at All3media International was the panelist. Before he came on, they showed clips from some of his company’s shows, GameFace, Us, Year of the Rabbit, Fleabag, and Maxxx. If you have Amazon Prime, you’ve probably seen Fleabag here in the states. If you’re a fan of British comedies, this was the place to be.
The ATX Television Festival is a laid-back event that has a lot of panels and events going on throughout the day. Between panels and events, you could hang out at the Hulu Lounge for a drink. There were many panels and events I would have liked to attend; maybe next year I’ll plan my schedule better. The ATX crew have a new podcast, The TV Campfire. They recorded some of the programs at the Hulu Lounge. All of the panels and events were recorded, so you can watch them once they are posted. If you’re a TV fan, and would like to meet people in the industry and mingle with fellow fans, the ATX Television Festival is the place to be.