It’s time for one of the best weekends of the year! Each June, Hollywood packs up and comes to Austin for a little vacation. Die-hard television lovers like myself come from all over the country for a weekend of queso, Shiner beer and a whole bunch of television. Consider it like a TV camp for grown-ups. It may seem like it, but it’s not Christmas. It’s ATX Festival!
What’s that you say? It’s your first ATX Festival, and you don’t know what to expect? Don’t worry, I got you. This will be my fifth fest- so I thought I’d share some pro-tips to help make your weekend memorable:
1. Do NOT come for just one event
You’re only shortchanging yourself if you come all the way to Austin for just one show or actor. Doing this might even be considered risky. The event could be cancelled, or the actor or actors you are coming to see could have a last minute schedule conflict. Whether you have purchased a badge or single-day wristband, go to that one event, but make the most of your time and attend other screenings and panels, too. You’d be surprised as to what you might find.
2. Throw your diet out the window
Start detoxing your system now- because the typical ATX Festival diet consists of Tex Mex, barbecue, Royal Blue Grocery (more about that later), Shiner beer and iced coffee from Jo’s (you’ll learn all about this if you have a panel or two at Google Fiber). This rule is optional if you’re a native Texan, but MANDATORY if you are not. It’s double mandatory (yeah, we just made that a thing) if you’re a non-native AND it’s your first Fest. Austin is a foodie’s heaven. Enjoy yourself; you can eat all the kale you want when you return home!
You’re gonna be on-the-go for about 75% of the Festival. If you don’t want to take time out of your day to sit down at a restaurant, take advantage of Royal Blue Grocery, or the menu at Alamo Drafthouse. Royal Blue is good for grabbing fresh, quality food that you can eat while in line, while Alamo allows you to refuel during your panel in the A/C.
3. You can sleep when you’re dead
Late nights and early mornings are how you know you’re doing ATX right. Sure, it’s all panels and screenings during the day, but nighttime is when you and your new friends gather around to drink and talk TV some more. The patio at the Stephen F. Austin has a gorgeous view of Congress that you don’t want to miss, so unless you like dealing with FOMO, don’t bank on getting eight hours until Sunday night.
4. Carry water everywhere you go
During the Texas summer, local meteorologists give up predicting actual temperatures and just type HOT across the screen. Walking from venue to venue and waiting in line before panels means that you will spend a lot more time outside than you think. Use the bag you receive at registration and stock it with water and snacks.
5. Balance your schedule
Use the app! Take a moment right now to download the ATX Festival app. Seriously, don’t wait, because it contains every piece of information you need- including the entire weekend schedule. You can browse and bookmark exactly what you want to attend to compile your very own, personalized agenda. There is so much going on during the Festival that the occasional detail WILL slip your mind; let the app take one thing off your plate and help you know where to be when.
One key to a successful weekend is time management. Leave at least ONE HOUR between each event; if you leave any less time, you will be at the back of the line when you arrive, and potentially not get in.
There is so much variety at ATX Festival that you’d be foolish not to take advantage of it. When devising your schedule, aim for a mix of existing shows, new shows and panels. I leave every year having discovered an existing show to binge and a new pilot to gush about. Do not miss the panels, either, because any topic or issue prevalent to the industry- even the most controversial- is fair game for discussion. This brings me to my next tip:
6. Keep an open mind
Everybody has a different story, and what makes television so special is that it provides a space to tell those stories. You will hear different viewpoints and opinions on various topics throughout the weekend- listen and be open to those perspectives. Whether it’s a panel or a screening for a show you wouldn’t ordinarily watch, the opportunity to learn something is there.
7. Don’t be shy!
Whether you’re in line, at the bar or even tweeting your heart out, strike up that conversation and be social. Sometimes, it’s as simple as asking someone what panel they just came from and then asking how it was.
You’ll be surprised at the quality friends you make throughout the weekend. That common bond of a certain television show, actor or actress will only strengthen as Fall TV starts up, and then the next thing you know you will have a solid group friends all over the country who you would die without. I speak from experience; I have a badass squad of about ten friends from past Festivals whom I cannot wait to see. Look up from your phone just this once and get out there and mingle. You’ll be so glad you did.
8. Think before you ask that question.
BE MINDFUL. Panelists have said in past years that one of their favorite things about ATX Festival is the quality of questions asked. The question game is STRONG within your peers; you’re amongst fellow diehards, after all, so keep all of these things in mind before you raise your hand.
You’re also in a room of industry professionals, so let’s be real. Nobody wants the memory of meeting the creator of their favorite show to be an embarrassing one. Go into your panel or screening knowing exactly what you want to ask, and then run it by a friend or two if you are able.
9. Just… be cool.
ATX Festival is a festival- NOT a convention. It’s a no-fangirl zone where people who are passionate about television join people who work in television to celebrate the medium together. ATX is unlike any other festival in that the actors and actresses we love are not hidden away from the festival-goers. To put it very bluntly: don’t mess that up.
Treat everyone with the same decency and respect you’d treat anyone else with. A better way to say this would be to act normal. You wouldn’t run up to a person you’ve never met with a photo of them begging them to sign it, would you?
If you are lucky enough to find yourself in the same place at the same time with say, Milo Ventimiglia or Alycia Debnam Carey, think before your feels kick in. Read the room (are they in a hurry? Are they talking to someone else?), and then instead of immediately asking for that autograph, just talk to them. All of the industry people I have ever worked up the nerve to talk to have been happy to nerd out about characters and theories with me. Then, maybe, after you’ve had a meaningful conversation with someone you’ve only ever dreamt of talking to, ask for that autograph or photo you’ve been dying for. There are no “celebrities” present at ATX Festival. It’s all people who have a deep love for television in common.
10. Let your hair down and HAVE FUN!
ATX Festival is a one of a kind experience. The whole weekend is a fast-moving blur, but you’ll go home with memories you won’t forget. Take a ton of pictures, nerd out and make the most of it- because you’ll have to wait something like fifty-two weekends until the next one.
ATX Festival goes down in Austin, TX from June 8-11, 2017. Badges and wristbands are still available at http://www.atxfestival.com. See you there!