“We went into things being naïve,” Caitlin McFarland tells Free Press Houston in a phone interview. McFarland and Emily Gipson are the founders of the ATX Television Festival, a kind of media festival celebrating television that unwinds in its inaugural year this weekend in Austin.
Starting Friday June 1 and running through the 3rd ATX “celebrates the past, current and future of television,” notes Caitlin. Adds Emily “This allows the experience to expand outside the living room to watching shows with strangers in a theater.” The events include over 15 shows like True Blood (ep. #412, And When I Die), Friday Night Lights (pilot and season finale), Firefly, Awake, Austin City Limits, The Vampire Diaries (ep. #108, 162 Candles) and many more.
Guest speakers include Judy Greer, Arielle Kebbel, Tom Cavanaugh, Matt Lauria, Alicia Witt, Jason Ritter along with several others. Additionally writers, directors, and producers attending include Betty Thomas, Peter Billingsly, Ben Edlund and over a dozen others. A crew and cast seminar for Friday Night Lights shines a light on that successful show, which is lensed in Austin. Caitlin mentions that FNL star Taylor Kitsch whose career has taken off through recent movies (John Carter, Battleship) was unable to commit due to previous engagements although he does live in Austin and sent best wishes.
A complete schedule of shows and seminars can be found on the ATX website along with availability of festival badges. “It wasn’t easy at first to get sponsors,” says Emily. “We’ve been planning for a year, seeing who was on the festival circuit as well as recruiting local organizations like the Texas Film Commission as well as companies like USA Network and HBO.” Caitlin advises anyone who wants to start any kind of festival to “start with a strong advisory board.”
Venues include the Austin Alamo Drafthouse Lamar, the State Theater and the Stephen Austin Hotel, with shuttle service also available. One highlight will easily be a screening of Firefly episodes, a popular show from the mind of Joss Whedon that although it was cancelled from the start celebrates its 10th anniversary as a cult show this year.
Needless to say, the term show runners will take on new and informative meaning with the introduction of the ATX Television Festival to the many great events that take place statewide annually.
– Michael Bergeron
– photo credit: Caitlin McFarland (left), Emily Gipson (right) by Annie Ray