Television fans, unite! The ATX Television Festival is set to take over Austin, Texas, June 6-9. Going into its second year, the festival brings fans and the industry together for a few days of geek-ing out over the past, present and future of television.
ATX co-founders Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson chatted with the International Business Times about year two of the festival and what fans can expect this year from the four-day event.
The festival began in 2012, getting some of its footing from McFarland and Gipson’s supportive network of friends and family. The pair, who have both worked in different areas of the entertainment industry, made their own Kickstarter for the event, asking backers to pledge $25,000 between January and February 2012, and ended up raising more than $27,000.
“We didn’t see it coming,” Gipson said on the success of not one but two Kickstarter campaigns. Their second Kickstarter helped the pair “gear up for year two.” But this time, the majority of backers weren’t in their network.
“The majority of that money was people who had come to the festival or hadn’t come but wanted to come the next year,” McFarland continued. “It was clear with that second campaign that we had broken past our actual personal network of people. So that was really exciting.”
For those that didn’t have the opportunity to attend ATX last year, it’s not like your big conventions. (Think the opposite of Comic-Con.) The co-founders explained that the festival is half fans and half industry.
“Ultimately, we like to say that in some ways it’s 100 percent fans in the sense that for all industry that have come out we make it very clear who we are and what we are doing -- this sort of grassroots, community, organic, accessible sort of experience.”
“We want them to want to come,” they said of industry panelists. “We don’t want it to be an obligation that their network is sending them. ... The industry that comes to [our festival] are fans of their own shows, fans of other people’s shows. They are fans of the past of television. They are excited about where it’s going and legitimately want to talk about it; they want to talk to each other and interact with their fans.”
McFarland and Gipson claim that 2012’s ATX Television Festival was luck, but they obviously did something right with the amount of fans and insiders that want to return for year two. So, what can festival attendees expect?
According to Gipson, fans won’t be in a room with 1,500 other people; instead, it’s an intimate community of TV lovers. With a reservation system (described as a sort of fast pass), attendees won’t miss an event due to crowds; rather, they can get guaranteed access into at least three panels that they really want to go to.
This year, the festival also added a day, which the co-founders excitedly say is “a big thing.” With the same venues and hotel as 2012, ATX won’t be growing just because of the extra day, but because each day will be fuller. “We want to keep the size and accessibility,” they explained. “But have it be a little fuller, because everyone likes a full room.” As for how full of a room, think more like 75 to 300 people, not 1,500 to 15,000.
One thing attendees can look forward to is an “American Dreams” reunion -- and, the way McFarland explained it, it sounds like the cast and crew are beyond excited about getting back together to relive the series.
ATX board member Liz Tigelaar, who worked as a writer for the three-season run of “American Dreams,” approached the co-creators last year about a potential reunion. “She sent out an email to writers, cast members, the producer and creator, and, within the span of 15 minutes, there were 20 people that were confirmed to come and paying their own way and didn’t really care what happened,” McFarland said. “All of a sudden, this thing was born.”
Both McFarland and Gipson promised that they have some surprises up their sleeves for ATX festival-goers but stayed mum on the subject. However, they are really excited about the addition of a couple of new networks for 2013.
AMC, which is new to ATX, will be debuting “Low Winter Sun” two months ahead of its scheduled premiere date. The new original series features “The Walking Dead” star Lennie James and “Zero Dark Thirty” star Mark Strong.
HBO is also joining the festival this year, airing their original documentary “Love, Marilyn” on the closing night of ATX.
Other series attending ATX this year include “Boy Meets World,” “Hart Of Dixie,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Falling Skies,” “Hell On Wheels,” “Husbands,” “New Girl,” “Party Of Five,” “My So-Called Life” and “Once Upon A Time.”
Can’t make ATX? Check back on IBTimes.com for coverage June 6-9.
Amanda Remling studied journalism at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ.
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