Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What made the ATX Festival so special?

When I first heard about the ATX Festival from a friend of mine, I was both immediately interested and immediately skeptical. After all, it was on Kickstarter. It might not even happen. The original list of attendees continued to ebb and flow and it took quite a bit of time for it to stabilize. What if I got there and was let down?

Thanks to sweet Scott Porter
and his amazingly gracious wife for
granting us access to him!
Finally, I decided, what the hell? What's the worst that can happen? Nothing, really. If the project doesn't get funded I wouldn't lose anything. If it did get funded and nobody showed up, I'd spend a couple of fun filled days in Austin for a mini vacation.

What did happen may have been a once in a lifetime experience.

I've been to San Diego Comic Con, and it's fun. Sitting in a press room and talking with producers, writers and actors on my favorite shows can be dreamy. But you have to remember that Comic Con, due to the nature of the conference, limits it's television selections to genre shows.

Last year was a pretty good year for genre shows. They were network darlings. Until they weren't. This year I have little idea what to expect with regard to SDCC because the genre shows are losing their luster. The old favorites will still be there; Supernatural, one last hurrah for Fringe, and we should see some representation from Grimm, Haven, Lost Girl, and Teen Wolf among others. Of course, the animated series will be there.

Shiri Appleby, Scott Porter, MC, Arielle Kebbel, Matt Lauria
The ATX Festival was a Television festival. There were no limitations on what genre of television attended, only that they be on television or a series on the web. That opened up a lot of options, including those that I hope take advantage of the festival next year.

Opening night was for USA Network and Suits and the 4th Season Premiere of Royal Pains - the creators and Reshma Shetty made an appearance for questions and answers.
Mae Whitman and Jason Ritter

Jason Katims, known for his indelible Austin work on Friday Night Lights was an ATX staple. He was everywhere, as were the actors on his shows, both FNL and Parenthood. The aforementioned Jason Ritter and Matt Lauria were joined by Mae Whitman, Michael B Jordan, Gaius Charles, Jesse Plemmons, Dax Shephard, Dora Madison Burge, Alicia Witt and Landon Pigg. Many of whom not only hung out the entire weekend, but provided entertainment with their own bands and graciously took photos with adoring fans.

One Tree Hill, Life Unexpected and Adult Swim's Children's Hospital as well as the Bill Lawrence Traveling Power Hour were also there, bringing along James Lafferty, Lindsay McKeon, Britt Robertson, Shiri Appleby, Arielle Kebbel, Judy Greer, Erinn Hayes, Ken Marino, Ian Gomez...the list goes and goes. Visit ATX Festival for all the information.
Ben Edlund and Jose Molina

For me, the real dream came in terms of writers, producers and creators. Ben Edlund, Jose Molina, Julie Plec, Jane Espenson, Bill Lawrence, Jason Katims, Jeff Davis, Richard Hatem, Kyle Killen, Noah Hawley, Liz Tigleaar. Not only were they there, they were accessible. I had actual conversations with them. This is not the norm on the festival circuit and to have been a part of it was magical.

I backed the festival through Kickstarter and had an Industry Badge. I would pay oodles of money for the same access next year. Oodles. The venue was intimate. The Stephen F. Austin Intercontinental Hotel was lovely and accommodating. When I checked in, I knew I hit the right place. In front of and beside me stood Jason Ritter, Ken Marino, Matt Lauria, Lindsay McKeon and I'm sure a few others I'm forgetting. That's just checking in. 

Guess how many people I recognized checking into my hotel at Comic Con last year? Zero.

Riding up and down the elevator itself became a cause celeb. Saying good morning or good night was easy and not intimidating.

My wish for next year is that more television shows will take the bait and join us. Hello Alloy Entertainment!! The Lying Game films in Austin. I would have thought that would have been a no-brainer. Your average every day television junkie doesn't get experiences like this. Most of them are reserved for critics panels or festivals that cost upwards of thousands of dollars. I'd love to see ATX take off and give us what we've all so been craving. This year was off to a fantastic start.

I know, I know. Shut the hell up already. I will do just that. But not before giving you some one offs that others may or may not have heard. Whether I learned them in panels or one on one conversations you'll have to decide for yourselves.

A special pic for a friend from
Mae Whitman!

  • Kyle Killen's favorite cheesy movie is Cliffhanger.
  • You have to watch the coffers when Jane Espenson is around. She's the reason we didn't get one final episode of Caprica. She spent the money!
  • Mae Whitman pays attention to Tweets that mention her name.
  • Jeff Davis is known to jump right onto the Teen Wolf set with scissors to trim hair or a paint brush for a touch up. Even this creator doesn't have the budget to leave the work to others!
  • Jason Ritter was only allowed to watch Three's Company until a magical age when all the jokes had meaning and Mr. John Ritter said "no more!" He's also extremely envious of Peter Krause and hopes to find a love like he shares with Lauren Graham.
  • To all of you aspiring actors out there, according to Shiri Appleby, pasties can get you a callback.
  • Scott Porter once thought he would change the world with his beat boxing. 
  • Ben Edlund imagines Sam and Dean as demi-gods who have to deal with the last 7 seasons as a completely new way to envision a television series. 
  • Children's Hospital's Erinn Hayes enjoyed working on Worst Week as much as I liked watching it. A LOT.
  • Someone asked Ken Marino if he's always as strange as he was during the Children's Hospital marathon or if he was wasted the entire time. 

Thank you Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson for creating and pulling off the first annual ATX Festival!!!

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