Television is finally getting its due respect, thanks to the first ever ATX Television Festival in Austin. But before I tell you more about the festival, I need to tell you about the very best part of it… My Geek View of the Event
Thanks to this festival, I got to meet two of the writers of Firefly. No, I am not a groupie or even particularly impressed by celebrity. But I am a geek. So meeting a couple of the people who created some amazing geek entertainment … that’s a big deal!
The venue was the Alamo Drafthouse. The event was a screening of the episode “Trash” from Firefly’s first season. We watched the episode (it looked great on the big screen!) and then got to engage in a casual Q&A with two of the writers Ben Edlund and Jose Molina, and then some face-to-face chat time. We were even privy to some back-story about the series and the episode (like the fact that when Nathan Fillion (Mal) turns back towards the camera in the last scene of “Trash”, he had a cut-out face of creator Joss Whedon taped over his, er, um man-parts!
Despite my geek-focus, there was a lot more to this event than just a chance to meet a couple of TV writers. The three day festival included a wide array of screenings, from episodes of Parenthood (the most popular screening) to a first night preview of the newest episode of Royal Pains. The screenings included panels with writers, directors, producers and actors, taking each show from just something seen to a work of visual art the audience better understood.
The Festival’s premier event was the Saturday night screening of the pilot and final episodes of Friday Night Lights. Over 300 people with folding chairs and blankets filled the parking lot between Jo’s Coffee and the San Jose Hotel where we got to meet FNL cast members, sample treats from sponsors and enjoy the shows. Once the episodes started, the audience cheered whenever a familiar local landmark appeared on the screen and applauded when favorite characters entered a scene.
This kind of engagement was exactly what Festival founders Emily Gipson and Caitlin McFarland were hoping for when they planned the weekend.
“This Festival is a chance for television to take its place,” Emily said. “Actors are recognized for their movies, but what they do on TV is often overlooked. We want to change that.”
The Festival, which is planned to return to Austin next year, offers television writers, producers, directors and actors a chance to share their craft with each other, as well as with television hopefuls and TV series fans.
“There are lots of film festivals,” said Monica, a sponsor and friend of the creators. “But this is the first festival to honor television. ”
And judging from the speaker and audience response at the screenings and panels, that recognition is long overdue.