I finally did it — I went to ATX Television Festival in Austin.
I had wanted to attend the festival for years after hearing about it for the first time in 2013, but I was fresh out of high school and was preparing to head to college that fall. In other words, it wasn’t the right time. I figured that this year, as a recent college graduate, could not be a better time to make the plunge. Not only would I finally get to meet more people like me who geek out about television the way that I do, but I would also get to hang out with fellow Talk Nerdy With Us writers Rachel and Gina, who have become two of my very close friends.
As a newbie camper, I wasn’t quite sure what it would be like, even though I had gotten tons of advice from Rachel and Gina — who between the two of them have basically attended them all. They told me things like: expect to stand it lines, Austin is hot in the summer, and wear comfy clothes. But there were a lot of other things that I knew they could not explain to me and I would just have to experience for myself.
Now that the festival is over, all I can say is boy, am I glad that I finally got attend this year; I had an absolute blast and I honestly feel that I have returned to the nation’s capital with a deeper appreciation and understanding of television. Here are some of my main takeaways from ATX, both about the festival specifically and television in general.
A good moderator can make or break a panel. I enjoyed every single panel that I attended this weekend, all eleven of them. But after awhile, I started realize that the best moderators were the ones who clearly had done their research, asked the right questions that led to important discussions, and included a little bit of fangirling. The best example of this I saw was Buzzfeed’s Jarett Wieselman. Wieselman was engaging and hysterical but also intelligent and thought-provoking. I know it is not humanly possible but I wish he could host all of the panels at ATX.
The context of what’s happening in the real world affects and impacts television shows more than you might think. The whole theme of the “Television in a Trumped Up America” panel was how television has been and will be affected in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. One thing that stands out from that panel is a story that Julie Plec, the creator of The Vampire Diaries and The Originals, told. She said that after the election, she and the rest of her writers abandoned a storyline that featured a female character getting beaten up by a male character that fans would have wanted. The script came in the day after the election. “We killed the love story that day,” she said. “Your conscience can’t advocate that kind of violence and lean into that.” However, this idea was not solely brought up in this particular panel; I heard similar discussions taking in place in panels like “Power(ful) TV” and “Younger.” I think it just confirmed to me how important television is as a medium for storytelling, how profound the impact of what people see on television can be, and how politics is not only overtly, or subtly, discussed on political television shows.
The relaxed environment of ATX is truly unlike any other. This is something Rachel and Gina had told me over and over again, but having experienced it for myself, I believe it now more than ever. The actors, panelists, and any other industry people are not hidden away from us festival goers. They mingle among us, and, as long as you don’t outwardly fangirl over them, they’ll even chat with you for a while. I will forever cherish the drinks I shared with people whose work I love and admire, a chance I would never get at a convention.
There is so much content out there that I feel like I’m always missing out on something. It is no secret that the list of television shows I want to watch is extremely long, but I’m pretty sure it grew tenfold after spending a weekend with people who love television just as much as I do. I learned about shows from the schedule of ATX, from the panelists talking about their own projects, from the people I interviewed and everywhere else in between. My #firstworldproblem is that I don’t where to begin. Do I binge the older shows so that I know how the current content has been influenced and what patterns and tropes they may follow? Or do I binge the current shows so that I can participate in the timely discussions that are taking place around me? Either way, I always feel like I’m missing out somewhere on something. There really aren’t enough hours in a day to enjoy all of the great content, both past and present, that exists.
Like-minded, television-obsessed friends make talking about television much more enjoyable. This one is kind of obvious, but after ATX, I realize that casually talking about television with my friends on an everyday basis won’t be the same. When you find and make friends with people who obsess over every little part of television, both as a medium and an industry, like you do, the conversations are just so interesting and engaging. I love that I now have a close group of friends now that I can text about anything and everything regarding television.
Over the course of the next few weeks, Talk Nerdy With Us will have lots of interviews and posts from ATX. Keep checking back so that you don’t miss a single thing!