Tuesday, August 22, 2017

better late than never: atx television festival, season six

In June, Andrew and I went to the ATX Television Festival for the third consecutive year. I posted about season four here, and I have a draft of season five that I never published, and I'm bummed not to have finished writing out those memories. I took actual notes over season six, so I thought I might share them.

I find the ATX Festival hard to describe to people. It's for people who really like TV; who talk about it with others and think about it long after a show is over, who are moved to feeling different ways by the music chosen or the way an episode is shot. It's a celebration and appreciation of the people who make it (in front of and behind the camera). It takes place from Thursday afternoon though Sunday afternoon at a few different venues (nearly all in walking distance!) in Austin, Texas. You make friends with people in line and talk to a lot of strangers, in person and on twitter. I love it.

I'm not going to get into the details of festival tickets, but we always get a weekend badge which I think is a steal for what you get. The programming is a mix of panel discussions (with behind the scenes people, actors, or both), screening opportunities, script readings, an outdoor party, a Saturday night main event, and themed events in the lounges with free food. Every year, I have loved a different part.


2017 was the year of the screening for me. I got a chance to watch the premiere of Ghosed with Adam Scott and Craig Robinson and then they chatted a bit about the show. To be honest, I didn't love the show - network TV is not my favorite - but I may give it another try. It was just fun to see Ben Wyatt and Darryl Philbin (had to google that one - he's from The Office) in person. I also checked out Glow (loved the first ep, didn't love the season), Snowfall (liked the first ep but it's still on my DVR), and Loudermilk (definitely giving this a shot when it airs). It was so cool to check these out before anyone else, and at each one, members of the cast were there in person to talk about the show after you watched it. Alison Brie is tiny in real life. Ron Livingston will forever be the guy from Office Space. Fun fact, they screened The Bold Type at the festival and while I didn't go, all the good stuff I heard made me watch it and it's a great summer show. There was also a panel with the season four premiere of Younger and I can tell you that Josh and Charles are just as good-looking in real life. I don't how how Liza will ever choose.


I tend to love panels because they are like podcasts come to life. I love hearing the thought behind different shows and the moderators are TV journalists who ask great questions. My favorite panel this year was with the creators of The Americans. Andrew and I had just binged that and caught up to the current season so hearing about the world of Elizabeth and Phillip and how it's created by a former CIA employee was fascinating. They keep a timeline in the writers' room to make sure they are historically accurate! Panels cover all different things from diversity on TV, how writers got their start from another writer, or the cast of a show talking about the season that just aired. I want to be best friends with Justin Simien, the creator of Dear White People and I wish I liked Julie Plec's shows (Vampire Diaries, iZombie) because I have attended a panel with her each year and she is just so funny and down-to-earth. One panel that was especially good was with some of the cast of Sneaky Pete (the siblings) and they played pivotal clips from the season of each character and then talked to them about it so if you had never seen the show, you would still get it.

One big draw for me this year was a This Is Us panel. It was supposed to be Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore, but a few weeks before, they swapped Mandy Moore for Chrissy Metz, which still sounded great. The show's creator was supposed to be there, too, along with the president of programming at NBC. Well, Chrissy Metz was sick so she didn't come, and the creator had to stay in L.A. to work, so it ended up being Milo Ventimiglia and the president of programming. There was no announcement to this beforehand, and people missed other festival programming so that they could get in line for this. It wasn't the end of the world, but honestly, since This Is Us is such a tight-lipped show, nothing was said during the panel that I hadn't read before. So, that was kind of a bummer, but there was still a ton that I enjoyed.


This year, the sponsored perks were fantastic. The first year we went to the festival, I wanted to go to all of the events and I didn't take time to eat and got hangry. Last year, we realized that we could take breaks and still get our money's worth and we had a good time (and I packed snacks). This year, there were tons of sponsored events with free stuff and we didn't have to pay for many meals. I especially enjoyed a themed breakfast one day with a taco bar and mimosas - all for free. If you made time to stop by the lounge and paid attention to the schedule, there was so much food.

Other things to know

The first two years we attended, we went to script readings: one of the Dawson's Creek pilot and the other of The O.C. They are gender swapped and performed by actors you've likely seen before and were highlights for both Andrew and me both years. This year's was Suits, which we have never watched, so we skipped it. The festival focused on past, current, and upcoming programming. There was a panel with Pete and Pete this year that I would have loved to check out and the main event was a Battlestar Galactica reunion. There is something for everyone; I think the key is knowing if you like to sit in ballrooms and take things like this in all day, and if there's enough for you to justify the (very reasonable but not insignificant) price. This is not a fan fest with photo ops with celebrities. Most people will take a photo in a panel, but if you see a celebrity in a venue, it's common to just say hello, not immediately ask for a selfie. Andrew and I saw Damon Lindeloff walking down the street and as much as I know he would have loved to talk to him about Lost, we just let him go about his day.

After leaving ATX Festival, I have a renewed love of TV. I want to talk about it and think about it and I appreciate it so much more. I want to travel back in time and make my high school self dream of becoming a TV writer. It really is a good time. I'll be back in 2018.


  1. Always so interesting. Have I asked this before? Is there a hotel near the grounds?

  2. This sounds like such a neat experience!


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