Austin, Texas is known for live music, drinking on 6th street, The University of Texas (Hook ’em Horns!), and…television? Four year ago, Co-founders Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipso, both of the television industry, decided to create a festival that celebrated the short happy medium so many folks spend their time watching. Now in it’s 4th year (or Season as they say), ATX Television Festival gathered TV fans from across the United States of America for a long weekend of panel discussions, screenings, and local color.
Having traveled the convention circuit for many years (and still having nightmares about the crush of people at San Diego Comic Con International), I wasn’t sure what to expect from a convention deep in the heart of Texas. The majority of the panelists and badge holders are not native to Texas, although many residents of Austin made sure to attend.
The Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel served as base of operations for the festival, as well as one of the venues. The rest of the venues could be found in theaters such as two local locations of The Alamo Draft House Cinema and the Paramount and State Theater. All were within walking distance, and despite the muggy heat of a hot Austin weekend, the walks weren’t bad. That was important thanks to the difficulties of parking in Austin. Parking in Austin, like Los Angeles, is limited and will cost you. Some lots charged a low rate all day, and those quickly filled up, while others ended up being a steep $24 for 5 hours without the option of valet. Alamo Drafthouse helped numb the pain of parking with themed drinks, such as The Dusk, The Dawn and the Lorelai.
What sets ATX Television Festival apart from other festivals and conventions I’ve been to are the volunteers and the organization. In my experience, whenever I had a question, a volunteer had an answer. Registration was quick and painless, and when I questioned where a particular theater was I was not given a blank expression, but an answer. On top of all this, the volunteers were polite! Our badges said “Y’all” and panels were small enough to be intimate but not so small that they felt empty.
While there were many fan-favorite TV shows at the festival, no panel was more talked about than the Gilmore Girls 15th Anniversary Panel. Due to a glitch in the ATX fastpass system through PreKindle , tickets for this went quickly and the site crashed for other panels. Attendees included Amy Sherman Palladino, Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, Kelly Bishop, Scott Patterson, Keiko Agena, Liza Weil, Jared Padalecki, Matt Czuchry, Yanic Truesdale, Liz Torres, Jackson Douglas, Todd Lowe, John Cabrera, Danny Strong, Daniel Palladino, Milo Ventimiglia. Sadly, the first person to confirm his attendance, Edward Hermann passed away and was unable to attend. In his honor, his chair was left empty. The best “Rory” boyfriend was decided and fans received a chance to see what the actors are up to now. For those (like myself) who were unable to get in due to the line wrapped around the block for this panel, Entertainment Weekly has an edited version of panel footage here.
My two favorite panels were for the El Rey/Mirimax From Dusk Til Dawn: The Series and Hannibal. Hannibal was one of the second panels to fill up thanks to the fast pass system, due to the fact that show runner Bryan Fuller was in attendance.
The first and second episodes of Season 3 of Hannibal were played on the big screen. If you could handle gagging while watching a quick flashback of Hannibal and Gideon from Seasons 2, it was easy to fall in love with the con artist fairy tale that is unfolding with Bedelia (Gillian Anderson) and Hannibal (Mad Mikkelson) playing house in Italy under an elaborate ruse. The second episode began to answer many questions that fans had struggled with after the Season 2 finale, chiefly who is still alive after the Hannibal rampage. You will want to rewatch the end of Season 2 if you haven’t prepped for Season 3 yet. Bryan Fuller was funny, twisted and spoke passionately of his visual influences, such as The Hunger and
classic Universal Horror films. He also jokingly mentioned his desire to have David Bowie as a side character. Sadly, he did announce that the comic version of Pushing Daisies, one of his other better known shows, died when WildStorm was purchased by DC. The sound and visual quality of Hannibal is crucial, and Bryan Fuller certainly has the talent to bring both of these out, even when the screen is movie sized. Here’s hoping for another season when this one finished.
El Rey and Miramax’s From Dusk Til Dawn: The Series panel showed the premiere of Season 2, although it doesn’t air on
television until the end of August. Nearly the entire acting staff, including Robert Rodriguez, was in the audience for the screening and cheerfully answered questions from a moderator on stage. Sadly, Danny Trejo was not in appearance for the panel, but make sure to look out for him in Season 2. El Rey and Miramax also provided attendees with a gift bag including a t-shirt, a blood-juice pack and fake blood capsules to frighten your family and friends.
In all honesty, I wish most conventions and festivals could be like the ATX Television Festival. With polite staff, witty panelists and a wonderful array of show from Rick and Morty to The Gilmore Girls, the festival catered to a wide variety of TV show watchers. I will definitely be back for Season 5 of the festival.