Interview with the Founders of the ATX Television Festival

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I will be attending the ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas June 6th – 9th. The Festival brings fans and the television industry together to celebrate television, through screenings and panels. And will celebrate current series, web series, classic television shows and even some TV pilots that never made it to air. I had the great pleasure of interviewing the co-creators of the festival, Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson.

Information and tickets can be purchased on the ATX Television Festival website: ATX Festival Website

Caitlin McFarland & Emily Gipson

Caitlin McFarland & Emily Gipson – Source: Annie Ray

Can you tell us what prompted you to come up with the idea behind the ATX Television Festival and what makes you so passionate about television?

McFarland:  It was prompted by wanting to go to one, and not finding anything close to what we wanted to attend. As members of the industry (having working in Film/TV for almost 10 years) we didn’t feel the conversations were being had beyond Upfronts and Comic Con. There was nothing in between. As fans, we also felt there wasn’t an outlet for our love of shows like “Parenthood.” There wasn’t a place to relive our favorite shows and reunite casts that loved making the show we loved watching.  So a television experience was born…Season 2!!

This festival originally was funded with a Kickstarter starter campaign. Are you surprised by the growth of crowd funded projects in the past year, like Rob Thomas’ “Veronica Mar Movie?”

Gipson: Not necessarily as surprised as I am awed by it. At the “Final Countdown” party that Rob Thomas threw in Austin, he made a comment about how in launching the campaign, he wasn’t sure if it was just going to be the 20 vocals fans out there demanding the movie that would donate, or if there was really $2 million dollars worth of people that wanted this badly enough to contribute. It was amazing to watch it happen and then double. I think we monitored this campaign almost as closely as our own.

Why did you pick Austin to be the home base of the Festival?

McFarland: We are both Texans and had been displaced in NY and LA for far too long. We needed to come back home. Austin was both a place we felt we could make home, and that would embrace a fledgling TV festival. There is growing Production here, the city knows how to function with festival activities…plus it isn’t hard to convince TV-makers to come spend a weekend in our lovely city.

Last year was so much fun, what new surprises are you planning on bringing to year two of the ATX Television Festival?

Gipson: We can’t tell you! Then they won’t be surprises. It will be very similar to last year, just a day longer (and more shows and panelists to fill that day). There might be a few special videos that  were made just for the Festival, and a surprise guest or two. The goal is for people to go to things because they’re a fan of a series or want to discover something new, the surprises are just an added  bonus!

Can you tell us about how you got some of the panelists involved in this year’s festival and which panels you are most excited about seeing and participating in?

McFarland: A lot of this year’s panelists started with invites from last year’s panelists.  Following the inaugural year, everyone was so excited they immediately told their friends, and approached us with ideas on what shows we could showcase, panel topics, and reunions….it wasn’t easy by any means, but the word of mouth made things a lot easier from year one.  As you can tell…our series and panelists have almost doubled…but we’ve only added 1 extra day! It’s going to be jam packed with TV goodness.

Your festival doesn’t concentrate on just one aspect of television shows.  You include panels on web series, cable and network shows – both current and past.  How do you pick the shows you are going to highlight?

Gipson: Last year was really about who we knew and could get invitations to. This year was more about the people that came last year inviting their friends. We do go after shows we love, but we also try to listen to our panelists about what they want to bring, and what our attendees want to see. The hope is that as we grow we can vary enough so there is something for everyone.

What shows are you most looking forward to showcase at this year’s festival?

McFarland:  Love our 90s reunions…”Boy Meets World,” “My So Called Life,” and “Party of Five” Reunion. I’m also really excited for our never picked up pilots…”Nomads,” “$5.15/Hr” and “Heat Vision and Jack.”   AND AMC’s New Series “Low Winter Sun.”  I’m excited about a lot. Not that I’ll get to go to any of it:-)

What are some television shows that you would like to feature in future festivals?

Gipson:  There are definitely reunions we want to eventually have. I’m a huge Buffy fan and Cait would show anything J.J. Abrams was part of. That being said, we really like to go after shows that don’t have a place to be celebrated anywhere else. For instance, “American Dreams” this year is huge, the amount of people coming with the show and the number of badgeholders are coming just for it. It’s really exciting and fun to see where people started their careers. Then of course, who wouldn’t want a “Friends” reunion?

What were your favorite shows from the past television season?

McFarland: “The Following,” “Scandal,” “Game of Thrones,” “Nashville,” “Hart of Dixie,” “Parenthood”… I watched a lot.

Gipson: “New Girl,” “The Mindy Project,” “Parks & Rec,” “Parenthood” and  “The Following.”

With all the Networks announcing their 2013 fall lineups this week, which shows are you excited to see on the Fall calendar and which shows are you disappointed with not making a return to the small screen in September?

Gipson: I’m really excited about Jason Katims doing “About a Boy.” It’s one of my favorite books, movies and show creators all wrapped up into one!  Also, we’re excited about showing “Enlisted” at the Festival this summer with Kevin Biegel (the creator) and most of the main cast coming with it. It’s great for us and will hopefully be a place to launch excitement about the show for this fall!

I’ll be covering the 2nd Annual ATX Television Festival. Stay tune for updates!

Information and tickets can be purchased on the ATX Television Festival website: ATX Festival Website

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