Wednesday, June 10, 2015

the atx fest! part one

A few people have said that they want to read about my time at the ATX Fest. I'm happy to share. These posts are fairly detailed, mostly for me. I'm breaking my experience down into two parts because a lot happened in three days. This part is about the presentations I went to and what they were like or what I got from them and the next will be more about the logistics and what we did, kind of like a weekend recap.

I'm also mostly referring to the actors by their characters' names because I don't expect you to know who Kelly Bishop and Sutton Foster are, but if you do, you get extra bonus points in my book.

Boy Meets Girl Meets World
I binged about 12 episodes of Girl Meets World in the week before the festival and I loved Boy Meets World growing up and still watch reruns. Ben Savage (who still looks the same) pointed out that no one would want to watch the BMW characters for more than a few minutes to see what they were doing, so it was necessary to create a show for a new audience. Michael Jacobs (the creator) said that it was important to make the audience fall in love with the new characters before bringing the old characters to the forefront. Someone also made the point that the BMW audience already had their chance - it was time to teach lessons to today's kids. The actresses who play Maya and Riley are incredibly well-spoken. I had a bad seat so I unfortunately couldn't see them at all. Morgan, Mr. Turner, and Angela are all coming back and the Angela storyline is going to make people mad. And we'll get to see Minkus and he's married to someone we already know. These tidbits will probably get me to keep watching.

The panel: Riley, Maya, Cory Matthews, and the show's creator, Michael Jacobs | Ben Savage taking a selfie with a fan.

Friday Night Lights Tailgate
This event is open to anyone and has been going on since the festival started. Members of the FNL cast always attend. This year, the actors who played Matt Saracen's grandma, Billy Riggins, Mindy (Colette) Riggins, and Tyra Colette were there. When Mindy and Tyra got there, they went to the face painting tent and got blue paw prints on their faces. I snuck a pic of Tyra. We were just sitting and hanging out and I happened to look at my phone and the festival app send out an alert that there was going to be a surprise reunion of a Stars Hollow Band. Of course, it was going to be Hep Alien so I told Andrew and he said he would save our spot so I could go over to the stage area and get close. I am SO GLAD I did because a few minutes later, there were tons of people around and I was in the front row. Amy Sherman Palladino, Sutton Foster, Jackson Douglas, and the members of Hep Alien (Lane! Zach! Brian! But no Gil) came and were swarmed. ASP and Sutton Foster were taken to the front of the stage and sat down at my feet. I was giddy and weird. And then the music started, so there was no time for pictures. I could tell they were having a good time and ASP was taking pics and video (I was trying to see who she was sending them to but my eyes weren't that good). The band played songs they played on the show and a country-fied version of Single Ladies because Beyonce is from Texas and they wanted to be awesome. And they played the Gilmore Girls theme song because they had to. It was so fun to be there and watch and the actors were really into it. At first they were in character but later broke on purpose. It was so cool to be so close and with other people (adult women) as excited as I was. When I went back to Andrew when it was over, he said he couldn't even tell which songs they were playing from our seats so I was even happier I saw the alert. Jackson was taking pics and signing autographs so I went and got one and asked him his opinion on vegetables which is SO DUMB but I didn't know what to say and now feel better about that because he joined twitter and his username is jacksonveggies. So I feel a little less lame. We were hot and sweaty but I enjoyed the screening - it was the Mudbowl episode. Fun to watch it under the stars and with a crowd!

The tailgate set-up while it was still light out. Love the Dillon goalposts!

To Adapt is to Evolve
This panel was about adapting a previously created work into a TV show and the showrunners for Fargo, Hannibal, and Justified were the panelists. I loved Pushing Daisies so, so much and so even though I'm not a huge fan of any of those shows (Andrew likes 1 and 3 and we watched 2 for a short time, so I'm at least a little familiar with them), I wanted to go to something Bryan Fuller was involved with. He told a story about getting a speeding ticket in his Prius while listening to the Mad Max soundtrack and was just so strangely endearing that I wanted to know more about how his head works. It's hard to explain. The panel was really interesting, though - everything from Hannibal having access to some material in the Hannibal "universe" but not all, Fargo being like a Coen Brothers movie while not being one, and Justified trying to adopt the voice of its creator within the works they had the rights to. Just a really cool look at how an element of TV works.

Turn Down for What? A Look at Testing and Focus Groups
This panel was an unexpected highlight for me. There was a short presentation on audience testing and how it works and what it's said in the past. Seinfeld tested incredibly poorly when it first came out while some show about a nun adopting orphans tested well and which show do we still talk about today? Other shows that tested badly were Everybody Loves Raymond and The Office in case you were wondering. The moderator was the creator of Lone Star and Awake, both shows cancelled in their first seasons, and the panelists were two showrunners who have had shows cancelled early on and a studio executive. One showrunner actually wrote The Playboy Club, which I remember as being a huge joke on NBC a few years ago. He said that the pilot script he wrote was completely different than what aired, and a lot of that was due to the audience testing and the network's notes on what he needed to change. The panelists seemed to agree that while audience testing can provide valuable feedback, it shouldn't absolutely determine the fate of a show for numerous reasons. There were lots of cool tidbits about how shows get made and changed based on the feedback of a random sample of people.

Lifetime Achievement Award Presentation - James L. Brooks
I remember James L. Brooks' name from when I used to watch The Simpsons. He's been in TV for 50 years and worked on Mary Tyler Moore, Taxi, and The Tracey Ullman Show and many, many other things. The creator of Everybody Loves Raymond had an hourlong conversation with him about his career and he just has so much history. He talked about the controversy of Mary Tyler Moore taking a birth control pill and chose a sketch to show from Tracy Ullman that was definitely a tongue-in-cheek look at hiring policies in the late 80s to show, and to me he seemed like a great champion of women. I wish the presentation had been much longer since I'm sure he has great stories to tell, but I was happy to spend an hour with a legend.

James Hibberd from Entertainment Weekly as the moderator, Bryan Fuller (Hannibal/Pushing Daisies), Noah Hawley (Fargo), and Graham Yost (Justifed and The Americans) | The Audience Panel (the guy in white is the show runner for Wayward Pines!) | Phil Rosenthal and James L. Brooks

The Gilmore Girls Reunion
This was everything I wanted it to be. The show started with the theme song, which the whole audience sang along to, as the credits played all spliced together and with clips of the supporting cast (who were never in the regular credits) added in as well. The moderator was a writer for Entertainment Weekly and the panel started with ASP, Lorelai, Rory, and Emily. The crowd cheered the loudest for Emily - she still looks amazing. They all do, really. I'm not a crier but when they were walking across the stage, I felt weirdly emotional. I don't know what it was but I guess seeing these people who played these characters who have been in my life for fifteen years (I feel old!) got to me. No real tears though, I promise. Anyway, Rory seemed nervous the whole time. The actresses talked about getting cast and ASP talked about casting them. None of them remembered the origin of Copper Boom and Lorelai forgot about Oy With the Poodles Already but Rory reminded her. They confirmed the oft-repeated tale that Rory didn't know where to be in season one so Lorelai was always touching her. It was great. When the subject of Edward Hermann/Richard's death came up, Lorelai definitely wiped away a tear and ASP said that no one knew how sick he was and that he had been the first to sign on for the reunion. They played a great montage of him on the show - golfing with Rory, golfing with Luke, the toast at his and Emily's vow renewal, and other great stuff, and I got a little teary for that too.
After that, the screen went up and a bunch of chairs and signs for Stars Hollow businesses were above them. The rest of the cast came out. I thought there was a good mix of cast members giving answers and Danny Strong (who wrote The Butler and cocreated Empire) answered tons of questions with "Word" (he's a short, white man and it seems ironic that he has become "a voice of black culture" as the moderator put it. Maybe you had to be there). Jess is Team Dean and Dean is Team Jess and even my beloved Logan said that Logan was a dick and he was Team Jess. And Luke said that none of them were good enough for Rory. They all talked about where their characters would be now (Luke and Lorelai would be together and so would Lane and Zach, but Ms. Patty thought she would be with Luke. Dean would take over Doose's Market and Logan "would not be working").  I tried to just listen and soak it all in. It was weird because no one ever mentioned Melissa McCarthy which led to lots of speculation at the festival. If you're a fan, you should go watch the reunion on (though I read that it's heavily edited and there's no Edward Hermann tribute). Lucky for you, they omitted the audience questions, which were mostly awful. The two hours flew by but it was so good!

 The stage at first, with ASP, Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, and Kelly Bishop | Logan, Miss Patty, and Dean | The Gilmore Girls | Daniel Palladino, Luke, and Jess | Lane, Michel, and Paris | Dean, Doyle, and Jackson. We were sitting on the far right so you can't see Zach and Brian next to Jackson. The empty chair was left in Edward Hermann's honor.

The Directors
The panel was composed of four directors, all of whom happened to be female. There were a few interesting stories about making it into the business and how hard it was to be a female in a male-dominiated occupation, but overall this panel was a little too dry and industry-specific for me. It was my least favorite overall, but it was far from bad.

Dawson's Creek Pilot Script Reading
After Gilmore Girls, this was my favorite part of the festival. They offered these things called fast passes that you could register for ahead of time, and I asked Andrew if he minded using one of our three for this event because a surprise cast was supposed to be there and I was hoping for some Gilmore alumni. The line was really long, so I was happy we were guaranteed entry. We had great seats in the second row right in front of Arielle Kebbel (from Gilmore Girls [Lindsay] and Life Unexpected) and Nick Wechsler (Jack on Revenge) who read Tamara (Pacey's teacher!) and Bodie (Joey's sister's boyfriend), respectively. Apparently it's a thing at script readings like this to gender swap the roles, so they did that with Mae Whitman (Ann Bland! Amber on Parenthood!) as Dawson and Kerr Smith (Jack McPhee!!) as Jen (remember, Jack and Jen dated and then were BFFs on the show!). The actors who read as Pacey and Joey were actors I wasn't familiar with, but they were awesome. Grandma Saracen came back and played Gram and Billy and Mindy Riggins were Mr. and Mrs. Leery. It's hard to explain, but it was just so funny. The actors got really into telling the story and some of the lines were hilarious when read by someone of the opposite sex. My face hurt from laughing when it was done and even though this sounds like a waste of time, I would definitely attend a script reading again.

Kevin Williamson and Mae Whitman (with a framed pic of Tim Riggins that Stacey Oristano gave her from the FNL set) | Grandma Saracen, Billy Riggins, and Mindy Colette/Riggins | Kerr Smith | Nick Wechsler | Almost the whole cast taking a bow at the end.

We also went to panels about Justified and The Leftovers since Andrew watches Justified and Damon Lindeloff, the Lost creator, was at The Leftovers and Lost is Andrew's favorite show ever. It's his Gilmore Girls, so I went without complaint. I just kind of tuned those panels out, in the nicest way possible, so I don't have much to say about them.

The directors (the woman in blue directed Billy Madison!) | Damon Lindelof

A few other things I learned:

- Actors and actresses are TINY. Every single one seemed so small in real life, both in height and in weight. They are also beautiful and I don't know how they do it. Their skin, make-up, and everything was as flawless as I would expect.
- People are ridiculous jerks about famous people. Just calm down. You'll live without that selfie, I promise.
- That said, I do like taking clandestine pictures of famous people. Hi, Adrianne Palicki, Wilmer Valderamma, and Fred Savage.
- There were a few hosted happy hours in conjunction with the festival, and those meant free drinks. We took full advantage.
- Turn your phone screen's brightness down when you're away from a charger for a long period of time. It made tons of difference.
- Talking to strangers in line will make the time pass much faster.


  1. All of those panels sound awesome!

    I am a huge Boy Meets World fan. I haven't watched Girl Meets World yet, because I don't have cable.

    I loved the first seasons of Gilmore Girls, but stopped watching right after Rory went to college. I don't remember why I stopped now. I have added it to my Netflix queue to finish the series.

  2. Amazing. I love how you clarified that adult women were excited. Hell yes!

    The pilot script reading sounds awesome. I would have loved that.

    The audience testing makes me think people are dumb as I loved Seinfeld and The Office.

  3. So many great shows and totally would have fangirled over FNL cast. It is such a shame what happens to some shows, they don't give them a chance let alone a quick focus group test.

  4. Wow Lauren, this sounds like such an amazing event!! I'm convinced that focus groups do not know what they are talking about. I can't understand how some shows stay on and others go off. I feel like all the shows I like get canceled :( We watched Justified, it can be funny but I'm not that into it, it's more a P show that I sit through. I am into Hannibal though. Lost, oh man, I was so into that show and the ending made me so mad. I get some people are ok with it, I'm not one of those. P's never watched it, but I just don't know if I could re-watch it. Are you watching Wayward Pines? We have been and holy crap the last episode! I could never get into Dawson's Creek, and I lived in Wilmington when it was filmed. They even filmed where I worked two episodes and then built a set across the street from our shop, so we use to see all of the actors, but I just was never into it. I might try FNL again, I watched a few but never got into it.

  5. Gah!! I'm still so pumped you went to this festival!! I would loooooove going to the FNL tailgate. If they could get Matt Saracen, Riggins, and Coach and Tammy Taylor that would be amazing! And everything about the Gilmore Girls reunion sounds incredible and the Hep Alien revival was the cherry on top. I am really late to the whole Gilmore Girls fandom (I've only loved the show for the past year), but nevertheless, it sounds awesome. :) We are attempting to watch Lost with my parents (my second time and David's third time) and they aren't too into it. We're only on Season 3 and that alone took at least 3 months!

  6. I lurve Gilmore Girls so much (I'm actually currently watching it). I wonder if some of Alexis Bleidel's nervousness had to do with Milo being there. People reported witnessing the two fight towards the end of their relationship and him being kind of horrible to her. Also Danny Strong <3 He's awesome. I will always love so many of those characters and their actors.


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