What is the ATX Television Festival Like? An insiders guide! (Read before attending ATX Season 3, 2014!)| June 23, 2013 at 5:56 PM EDT
I was lucky enough to attend ATX Television Festival: Season 2 a little over a week ago, and as a thank you to the festival organizers and the panelists, and in honor of the event as a whole, I wanted to share some of my personal highlights from the weekend.
Having attended the inaugural year of this festival in 2012, I sort of knew what to expect going into Year 2, but at the same time, I had my concerns. Would the settings of the panels and screenings be as intimate and fulfilling as they were the first time around? Would I leave Year 2 feeling that two times attending was more than enough?
Unsurprisingly, my doubts were easily nullified. Let me just say that at last year’s festival, I met and took a photo with my Friday Night Lights favorite, Luke Cafferty a.k.a. Matt Lauria, so the stakes this year were extremely high. No funny business. But Year 2 did not disappoint. In fact, I would venture to say that it was even better than the first year. Here’s why:
Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Believe Coach & Tami Taylor Showed Up
I consider Friday Night Lights to be basis of ATX Festival, which is hardly a bad thing. After all, the news of a cast reunion last year is what initially introduced me to the festival. This year, the festival outdid itself in its attempt to honor what has become such a cherished show for many.
At the outdoor screening, the season one finale of FNL was projected onto a giant screen, as fans of all ages – many of which were dressed in Panthers and Lions attire – watched from their lawn chairs and blankets. Seeing the opening credits play, and hearing “Friday Night Lights Theme” for the millionth time, while you sit amongst a crowd of people who feel the same intense emotional connection that you do with a show is cathartic and wonderful.
Day 2 of the festival followed with an extra-special Friday Night Lights panel, which included none other than the surprise appearance of Connie Britton, Connie Britton’s hair, and Kyle Chandler. I’m still crossing my fingers that the panel room was dark enough that no one saw me literally jumping up and down, shrieking, and clapping when they graced everyone with their presence. That was the appropriate reaction for me to have, though, let’s be honest.
I loved how the festival set up the panel this year. It was longer than most of the other panels and they showed clips from various seasons of the show, some hilarious and some somber, to facilitate discussion between certain actors. The entire panel was fabulous, but my three favorite parts were a) Kyle and Connie recounting the filming of the “they had a blanket” scene, b) Matt Lauria and Connie talking about one of the few scenes that they had together (where Tami tells Luke that he’s being switched to East Dillon), and of course, c) Mae Whitman being the first person to shoot her hand up into the air when questions were opened up to the audience.
Living the American Dream
As soon as Brittany Snow was a confirmed panelist for this year’s festival, I knew that the American Dreams panel would be my favorite. And it was. Such a large number of cast members, writers, and producers showed up that there were, if I’m remembering correctly, a grand total of 14 chairs crammed up on the stage.
I’ve gone to a good amount of panels during my career as a television fan, many of them in my two years at ATX Festival. However, never have I seen a group of people so excited to be together again, discussing their show that has long since passed through the mainstream entertainment circuit, with such ease and appreciation as the American Dreams panelists. From hearing Sarah Ramos and Ethan Dampf talk about special moments on set that they experienced as little kids, to watching Brittany Snow and Vanessa Lengies laugh together as they remembered the Meg and Roxanne friendship, to hearing the Jonathan Prince and the writers discuss all of the elements that made American Dreams such an impactful series – everything was magical.
Adding to the excitement, in true ATX Festival fashion, the organizers actually set up an impromptu meet and greet after the panel ended, which allowed fans to briefly talk to and take pictures with the entire cast. Seeing as this happened on Sunday, it was the perfect ending to my festival experience.
So Much More
The events surrounding American Dreams and Friday Night Lights made this festival really special for me personally, but I also attended a bunch of other panels and screenings that definitely added to my resounding “This is the best!!!” attitude throughout the entire weekend.
Some of you may remember that I used to write weekly Caroline Forbes Focus recaps here at Small Screen Scoop. Seeing Candice Accola portray Caroline Forbes on the big screen during the Vampire Diaries screening of the Season 4 finale was definitely a major moment. (She hugged Matt Donovan. And smiled a lot. And was generally fabulous. On a theatre-sized screen. I mean. !!!)
Last year, I went into the Parenthood panel without knowing anything about it, and I loved the cast and the screened episode so much that I actually ended up marathoning the entire show when I got back home, so it was super fun to attend that panel this year as a fan of the series. Plus, I got to witness Mae Whitman receive her surprise Tim Riggins birthday cake while the room sang “Happy Birthday” to her. That alone was worth my ticket.
Another one of my favorites this year was Party of Five. I was kind of young when the show aired, but I still remember watching it with my sister and my parents, so I was still happy to have the opportunity to attend its screening and panel at this year’s festival. Like with many of the American Dreams cast members, it was interesting to hear Lacey Chabert talk about working as a young kid on a popular television show. I loved hearing her talk with Scott Wolf about filming scenes together, and which ones were the most memorable for them. It was obvious that they and the rest of the cast developed a long-lasting friendship and important connection from working closely on the show together for so many years.
It’s always nice when a cast can come together and have a positive discussion about a show that they’ve all worked on, and it’s even nicer when you can tell that they really mean what they say when they talk about a familial vibe behind the scenes. This is something that I feel this festival strives to encompass year after year, and so far they’ve succeeded.
ATX Television Festival is truly a unique experience for fans, and it has an authentic, intimate, oftentimes nostalgic feel about it that is irreplaceable. I’m so pleased that I’ve been able to attend the first two years and witness the beginning of something this incredible.
If you haven’t already, visit the ATX Television Festival website for more information about the festival. Tickets for Year 3 (Weekend Badges only) are already on sale and they’re selling out fast. You can also follow @ATXFestival on Twitter for updates about Year 3’s progress.
Written by Maddie Coe.