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ATX Television Festival 2016: A True Television Experience

The fifth year of the ATX Television Festival was filled with 100 hours of awesome.

ATX Television Festival 2016: A True Television Experience

If you were in Austin June 9–12, you might have seen a lot of motorcycle enthusiasts riding their tricked out hogs* around the downtown streets. You might have also seen a bunch of TV fans celebrating the fifth year of the ATX Television Festival through panels, screenings, and parties. Not unexpectedly, several FYAers took the latter route, and it was a weekend filled with everything we love about the small screen. Read on for our recap of the festival’s season five!

*I’m obviously extremely hip, guys.

Copyright 2016 Waytao Shing

Fandom Rising: The Impact of Fan Culture in the Age of Social Media (Kandis)

Panelists: Dan Amboyer (Younger), Hart Hanson (Bones), Gus Sorola (Co-Founder, Rooster Teeth), Javier Grillo-Marxuach (The 100), Carina MacKenzie (The Originals)
Moderator: Laura Felschow (UT Austin)

Fandom Rising panelists discussed what it’s like to make television in an age when fans have so much more access to engage with creators, via social media. Gus Sorola of Rooster Teeth Productions talked about how he’s been able to crowdfund projects via online donation buttons. Carina MacKenzie, story editor for The Originals, and Javier Grillo-Marxuach, writer and producer for The 100, discussed dealing with the minefield that is Twitter when fans have intense reactions to character deaths. Hart Hanson, creator of Bones, in agreement that evoking an emotional reaction is kind of the point of many TV writing decisions, admitted that “fans on social media don’t like to hear that we’re manipulating their emotions.”

The entire panel almost came to a screeching halt when it was revealed that Adam Levine used to be Hanson’s personal assistant. Or, as Grillo-Marxuach put it, “The Sexiest Man Alive used to bring you sandwiches?” I mean, that’s really is all I want to talk about now.

Dan Ambroyer, who plays Thad on Younger, talked about having very few followers on social media when he first joined the show, but how he later ended up embroiled in a Twitter war and had to block a very famous celebrity after that person’s followers started attacking him. Y’all watch out for William Shatner out there.

Copyright 2016 Waytao Shing

Critic Tweets: Land of Hot Takes, Screener Privilege, and Subtweets (Kandis)

Panelists: Tim Goodman (The Hollywood Reporter), Dan Fienberg (The Hollywood Reporter), Todd VanDerWerff (Vox), Libby Hill (LA Times), Alan Sepinwall (HitFix)

In Critic Tweets, panelists, who were barely able to refrain from live-tweeting the panel, talked about how much time television critics spend online, while also referring to Twitter as “a Game of Thrones spoiler delivery system.” Husband and wife critics Todd VanDerWerff and Libby Hill disagreed on the How I Met Your Mother finale and how many shepherds he follows on Twitter. Alan Sepinwall told a story about the time his being a stickler for details cost Henry Winkler an Emmy.

All of the critics on the panel shared a common distinction: If they’ve ever written anything remotely negative about Josh Charles, he has found it, and tweeted them about it. (Case in point, when I jokingly tweeted that I’d be up for a Critics on Josh Charles panel, this happened:



Copyright 2016 Tammy Perez

What is YA TV? Exploring the Difference Between Subject and Audience (Posh)

Panelists: Anna Fricke (Being Human), Liz Tigelaar (Life Unexpected), Carter Covington (Faking It), Rebecca Serle (Famous in Love)
Moderators: Carina MacKenzie, Jarett Wieselman (BuzzFeed)

Obviously, there was no way I was gonna miss this panel, because #YA and #MyGirlRebeccaSerle. The discussion included TV inspirations, which meant we got to hear Liz Tigelaar talk about the time she crashed a 90210 reunion and Luke Perry actually spoke to her (he said, "Nice pig shirt," because she was wearing a pig shirt, but whatever, LUKE PERRY SPOKE TO HER). And Rebecca talked about Dawson's Creek, natch, prompting one of the moderators, Carina MacKenzie, to say, "Rebecca still talks about Pacey and Joey like it's happening now." The panelists also discussed sex on TV, a topic that elicited a great quote from Anna Fricke on how they handled sex scenes on Dawson's Creek: "Pan to the fire. Pan to the fire." Jack McPhee was hailed as an inspirational gay figure, while Carter Covington spoke about the social media frenzy over Amy Raudenfeld's sexual orientation and addressed the importance of listening to fans while not seeking validation from them. (Side note: I really need to check out Faking It.) Carter mentioned a term he coined, "comma," which means a half hour comedy drama, and yeah, everyone needs to add that to their vocab like yesterday.  One of the last questions was about dream adaptations, and as soon as Rebecca called dibs on I'll Give You the Sun and The Sky Is Everywhere, I tweeted it, because YASSSSS, and then Jandy Nelson approved and Julie Plec got involved and basically, if either of those shows happen, YOU'RE WELCOME.

Copyright 2016 Waytao Shing

Younger (Posh)

Panelists: Darren Star (Creator/Writer/EP); Cast: Sutton Foster, Debi Mazar, Miriam Shor, Nico Tortorella, Molly Bernard, Peter Hermann, Dan Amboyer
Moderator: Elizabeth Wagmeister (Variety)

You know how, sometimes, when you see actors in real life, you truly comprehend the magic of lighting and make-up and soft focus? Well, when the cast of Younger waltzed across the stage, I was HYPNOTIZED BY THEIR BEAUTY. This is a foxy group of actors, y'all, and the good news is that they've got the brains to go along with their looks.* While I missed Hilary Duff, I have to admit, I didn't think much about her once Debi Mazar and Miriam Shor opened their mouths because these dames are the SHIZZ. Debi told a story about the time she faked being a stylist and ended up cutting Andy Warhol's hair (which was actually a wig), WHAT, then she mentioned her desire to see an encounter between Maggie and Diana (Miriam Shor), and I about LOST IT. After the subpar moderator asked the cast who they think Liza should confess her age to next, Miriam voted for her character and said, "Then Diana can reveal that she's only 27." She continued to be a freaking GENIUS after the audience made their status as Team Charles very, very clear. "It's 2016. Why does she have to choose?" So true, girl. But also? TEAM CHARLES.

*With the exception of one person, whom I will not name. But let's just say, this actor was most definitely typecast.

Copyright 2016 Jack Plunkett

Friday Night Lights Tailgate & Pep Rally Reunion (Kandis)

This year was the fifth and final Friday Night Lights tailgate at the festival. I won’t miss the sweaty hours spent baking on camp chairs, waiting for the sun to go down; but I will definitely miss getting to see so many of the cast show up every year, grateful to celebrate the Dillon Panthers with the fans. And most of all, I’ll miss tearing up over our favorite episodes, surrounded by my friends, under the Texas stars.

For more details about this year’s event—including locker rooms, boots, and bras—check out my full write-up at Birth.Movies.Death.

Copyright 2016 Tammy Perez

Bury Your Tropes presented by GLAAD (Mandy C.)

Panelists: Javier Grillo-Marxuach (The 100), Carina MacKenzie (The Originals), Krista Vernoff (Grey’s Anatomy), Carter Covington (Faking It), Megan Townsend (GLAAD)
Moderator: Lesley Goldberg (THR)

To be honest, after seeing what happened post-Lexa’s death this past season on The 100, I was a bit nervous about what was going to happen on this panel. Overall, I think the panelists made some good points, but they also made a lot of excuses, and sort of avoided the reason we were all there.

Many of the panelists weren’t familiar with the Bury Your Gays trope until they were asked to sign the Lexa Pledge. And although they said they totally understood the need for such a thing, many couldn’t sign it, stating that many of the final decisions made about shows are beyond their control. But Carina MacKenzie, who’s a story editor for The Originals, seemed to speak for all panelists when she said, “When you look at the larger picture, there’s no way to deny the trend, there’s no way to deny the problem.”

Megan Townsend, an entertainment media strategist at GLAAD, made great points during the discussion and was quite educational as well. She said that the trope goes way back to a time when Hollywood had strict rules about “immortality.” If there was an LGBTQ character on a show, they couldn’t—because of the rules—have any sort of happy ending.

Specifically talking about Lexa’s death, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, who was a writer on The 100 and who did know about the trope beforehand, said that the failure was not recognizing what level of impact her death would have outside of the show. Carter Covington, creator of Faking It, worried that the backlash will lead to networks wanting fewer LGBTQ characters in shows across the board. He also asserted that TV’s come a long way with regards to representation. “We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there,” he said.

Townsend added, “The more people can see themselves in characters, the better it will be.”

Copyright 2016 Jack Plunkett

The West Wing Administration (Mandy C.)

Panelists: Aaron Sorkin (Writer/Creator/EP), Thomas Schlamme (Director/EP); Cast: Bradley Whitford, Dulé Hill, Janel Moloney, Joshua Malina, Richard Schiff, Melissa Fitzgerald
Moderator: Lawrence O’Donnell (MSNBC)

Cast and crew of one of TV’s most iconic shows met for a West Wing reunion, where they chatted about what went into the show’s creation, how much like family everyone involved were, and how much everyone dislikes Joshua Malina. (I think they were joking on that front? There was an awful lot of giving him a hard time going on ... )

Ribbing at Malina aside, watching the members of cast interact was an absolute delight. Richard Schiff, who played Toby Ziegler, spoke about how finding his place in the “ensemble” is always important to him when starting a new role; he always thought that Toby was the oboe in the orchestra. In keeping with the musical theme, Dulé Hill, who played Charlie Young (and who is, in real life, a tap dancer) said that he heard, and loved, the rhythm of the show.

Aaron Sorkin, the show’s creator, spoke about the delay in getting the pilot episode on film—just as he finished writing the script, the Monica Lewinsky scandal was revealed, and it became maybe not the best time for a show about a presidential administration. But a year or so later, he tried again, but the pilot didn’t test that well. In order to sell the show, Warner Brothers invented new demographics: households who make more than $75,000 a year, households with at least one college graduate, households that subscribe to the New York Times, and households that had the Internet. (Apparently, people who fit in those demographics really liked the show, considering.)

Sorkin also spoke about how the actors and their portrayals of their characters really informed his writing, and that he got a tremendous amount of support from all of them, and the crew.

Copyright 2016 Waytao Shing

Dead of Summer (Mandy C.)

Panelists: Adam Horowitz (Writer/Creator/EP), Edward Kitsis (Writer/Creator/EP), Ian Goldberg (Writer/Creator/EP); Cast: Mark Indelicato, Elizabeth Lail
Moderator: Natalie Abrams (EW)

Dead of Summer is a new show on Freeform (the series premiere is June 28; watch the trailer here) about a sinister summer camp and the young counselors who work there—counselors who might have secrets of their own. We got to watch the pilot episode, which both made me laugh at the major amounts of cheese and piqued my interest.

After the episode, the creators of the series—Adam Horowitz, Eddy Kitsis (Once Upon a Time), and Ian Goldberg—and a couple of cast members—Mark Indelicato (Ugly Betty) and Elizabeth Lail (Once Upon a Time) discussed the show, which they described as less slasher, more supernatural. The show, which is set in the 1980s, was somewhat inspired by the Satanic Panic of the decade; future seasons (if there are any) will be set in different years. It’s also about identity, and the characters finding out who they really are. “Part of identity is being brave enough to be who you want to be,” Kitsis said.

The cast all became fast friends, thanks to filming outside of Vancouver at an actual camp; it was built over three weeks from the ground up. (They had planned on filming at an already-built summer camp, but the owner said no way after reading the script.) And after dealing with serious and dark storylines, the cast all found their own ways of cutting the tension, including Lail’s frequently renditions of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”

BIG Script Reading presented with Dead Pilots Society (Posh)

Cast: Ana Ortiz, Ben Feldman, Mae Whitman, Patrick J. Adams, Angelique Cabral, Michael Ian Black, Colton Dunn
Moderators: Kevin Biegel, Mike Royce

When I attended the Dawson's Creek script reading last year, I discovered my favorite festival format: a random assembly of actors playing gender-swapped roles and dancing/stumbling through a pilot script. It's a blast to watch people reenact an episode that we all know by heart, but, as I found out with Big, it's fascinating to see a never-aired pilot brought to life on stage. Honestly, my happiness was guaranteed because Mae Whitman, but the premise of the show (inspired by the movie, Big, so YES PLZ) and the dynamic spirit of the cast resulted in me wishing fervently that this series hadn't ended up in a network trashcan. The dialogue was snappy, including a wink-wink-nudge-nudge reference to a magical black man, a ton of man-child jokes and the following exchange:

"How am I supposed to sound like an adult?"
"I don't know, talk about wine and spreadsheets and how great The Wire is!"

I also got a kick out of the deviations from the movie. The Tom Hanks character has a guy bestie and a girl bestie, and both of them also make wishes from the Zoltar machine. The guy (played hilariously by Colton Dunn) blows his request on cake pops (I can't blame him, cake pops are delicious), while the girl (Mae Whitman, THE BEST) doesn't reveal the fact that she made three wishes (because she's smart!), one of which is to be big, meaning this series was paving a great path to explore. Wish there was a Zoltar around so I could make this show a reality!

Copyright 2016 Michelle Maurin

UnREAL (Kandis)

Panelists: Sarah Gertrude Shapiro (Writer/Creator/EP), Stacy Rukeyser (Writer/EP)
Moderator: Jarett Wieselman (BuzzFeed)

At the UnREAL panel, we were treated to the second episode of the season (which has since aired), along with a discussion of the show featuring creator/writer/producer Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, executive producer Stacy Rukeyser, and cast members Jeffrey Bower-Chapman (Jay) and Genevieve Buechner (Madison). The panel was moderated by Jarrett Wieselman, who's obviously a fan (Adam fans unite!) and just a general delight.

The panelists talked about the importance of raising the stakes for season two of this batshit insane show, and also about how this season, Rachel and Quinn have vowed to act like men and not buy the crack they’re selling. Both cast members in attendance were obviously grateful to be part of the ensemble and to be given such juicy storylines. Bower-Chapman is especially adorable, and so very heartfelt in his gratitude about getting to play a gay man, and how important it is to see people like him on screen. Shapiro, a real-life vet of The Bachelor world, spoke in such bizarrely dark visuals and foul-mouthed soundbites and made it easy to see where Quinn and Rachel get their control room temperaments from. I’m SO excited for this new season!

Copyright 2016 Jack Plunkett

Ugly Betty 10-Year Reunion presented with Entertainment Weekly (Mandy C.)

Panelists: Silvio Horta (Writer/Co-Creator/EP); Cast: America Ferrera, Michael Urie, Tony Plana, Eric Mabius, Ana Ortiz, Vanessa Williams, Mark Indelicato, Rebecca Romijn, Ashley Jensen, Judith Light
Moderator: Jessica Shaw (EW)

As a fan of the show, it was absolutely amazing to see so many members of the cast of Ugly Betty back for this reunion. And, according to festival co-founder Emily Gipson, they were all totally ready to get back together; it took less than an hour for them to answer star America Ferrera's email asking them to all sign on.

Ferrera said that her casting as the show’s lead came about in an unusual manner. She ran into Salma Hayek at a hotel (oh, LA living) and Hayek exclaimed, “you’re my Ugly Betty!” Ferrera said that she’d be willing to be Hayek’s whatever, but was immediately entranced by the character, who turns everyone beautiful from the inside out. “I knew right away that the show had to exist,” Fererra said.

When asked what it felt like to play an “ugly” character, Fererra responded with passion. “We never ask men what it’s like to play an ugly character,” she said. “It’s sad when you’re a woman and the bravest thing you can do is be ugly.” Mark Indelicato (Justin) spoke about how the entire cast helped each other and guided each other along the way, and also revealed that he didn’t at first know his character was gay. Michael Urie (Mark) said that he appreciated that the writers of the show never did the easy story; they always told the truth. And Rebecca Romjin (Alexis) said how honored she was to have played the first trans character on network TV.

The entire crew shared hilarious stories about—and impressions of—Patricia Field, who led the show’s costuming and styling. They spoke about her unexpected genius, and how they all just learned to go along with whatever she said, because it would always turn out to be fabulous. Fererra revealed that when she and Field were looking for Betty’s glasses, after trying on hundreds of pairs, Field took off her own glasses and voilà.

Of course, it wouldn’t have been a true Ugly Betty reunion without some fierce words of advice from Wilhelmina Slater herself, Vanessa Williams. When asked about what she learned from the show and the cast, she talked about how everyone was a professional, and offered what is now my new life motto: “Show up on time, and know your shit.”

(Want to join the movement to bring Ugly Betty back? Tweet #hulubringbackuglybetty!)

Copyright 2016 Waytao Shing

Fantasy TV: Creating the Believable in an Unbelievable World (Mandy C.)

Panelists: John Wirth (V), Krista Vernoff (Charmed), Joanna Klein (SVP Scripted Development, The CW)
Moderator: Emily Moss Wilson

Going into this panel, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew that I wanted to know more about the behind-the-scenes nature of fantasy shows. And I was pleasantly surprised at how informative the discussion turned out to be. The panelists—Joanna Klein, Senior Vice President of Scripted Development at The CW (how do I get her job?!), John Wirth, who wrote for The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Krista Vernoff, who wrote for Charmed and Wonderfalls—spent much of the panel discussing “the rules” of fantasy shows, of which there can be a lot, and a lot of time is spent on explaining them to viewers. Vernoff said that sometimes the magic actually happens when the rules are broken, but you have to earn that. Both she and Wirth agreed that time travel is one of the hardest ideas to write. “Time travel is a hell hole no one wants to go down,” Wirth said.

Vernoff spoke briefly on how streaming services and the ability for viewers to rewatch shows has changed the conversation in the writers’ room. Wirth agreed, saying that it’s a bit of trap, “sometimes we want to tell people what they already know.”

Klein, who came to her job out of a love of reading, discussed how The CW thinks of their shows as worlds, and all shows on the network starts from the character or characters who will be the main players in those worlds. “It’s what at the center of it all that makes it work,” she said. “At the end of the day, we’re there for who the main characters are.

Copyright 2016 Waytao Shing

Terriers (Kandis)

Panelists: Ted Griffin (Creator), Shawn Ryan (EP), Marney Hochman (EP), Tim Minear (Writer/EP); Cast: Donal Logue
Moderator: Alan Sepinwall (HitFix)

Terriers, a noir comedy with dark and seedy undertones à la Veronica Mars premiered in 2010 on the FX network and lasted only one season. Since then, it’s garnered a larger following and is fairly popular among Netflix streaming users. After screening an episode, stars Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James (the latter joining via hilariously informal Skype session) sat down with creator Ted Griffin, writers Shawn Ryan and Tim Minear, and producer Marney Hochman, to reminisce about how much they enjoyed the process of making the show, and how it remains one of their most rewarding creative experiences. Logue and Raymond-James shared stories about how they lived together (against network advice) during the filming of the show, in a one bedroom house with an inexplicably large shower.

If you’ve never seen the show, I urge you to run to Netflix right now and amend that.

Copyright 2016 Waytao Shing

Preacher (Kandis)

Panelists: Sam Catlin (Writer/Creator/EP); Cast: Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga, Anatol Yusef
Moderator: Eric Goldman (IGN)

Attendees of the Preacher screening were treated to the third episode of the crazypants paranormal show; the episode solidified it as one of my new faves.

The gorgeous cast, Dominic Cooper (like whoa), Ruth Negga, and Anatol Yusef, along with creator Sam Catlin, talked about the challenges of adapting a comic into a show, how they got involved with the project, and how they go about fleshing out their characters. Cooper admitted that, when he was pitched the show by executive producers Seth Rogen and Adam Goldberg, he couldn’t decipher anything they were talking about, but they did it with such enthusiasm that he knew he wanted to be part of it.

The luminous Negga talked about how she loves getting to play the type of badass woman that isn’t afraid to suck all of the air out of the room. If you haven’t had a chance to watch yet, check your On Demand listings. Negga’s Tulip is EVERYTHING.

The O.C. Creatives + Script Reading (Posh)

Panelists: Josh Schwartz (Creator), Stephanie Savage, Leila Gerstein, Alexandra Patsavas (Music Supervisor)
Moderator: Alan Sepinwall (HitFix)

Out of everything at this year's ATX TV Fest, The O.C. panel was my most anticipated event. This is mainly due to last year's Dawson's Creek Script Reading, where I learned that gender-swapping can only enhance a pilot and that Mae Whitman should be on every panel.

During the first segment, we heard from creator Josh Schwartz, executive producer Stephanie Savage, writer Leila Gerstein and music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas on the development and evolution of the show. A few fun facts:
- Josh got his introduction to O.C. culture when he met a water polo player at USC.
- The Cohens were originally named the Needlemans.
- Peter Gallagher was the first person cast.
- Arcade Fire was one of the few bands who denied The O.C.'s request to use their music on the show.
- Josh and the writers got reeeeeally into "The Valley," and now I think we should start a petition to spin it into a series.
- In retrospect, the writers still talk about the potential of an Anna + Luke relationship.

Then, it was time for the script reading!

Tate Donovan as Jimmy Cooper (!!!!)
Mae Whitman as Seth Cohen
Arielle Kebbel as Ryan Atwood
Patrick J. Adams as Marissa Cooper
Anson Mount as Kristen Cohen
Ashley Williams as Sandy Cohen
Matt Lauria as Summer Roberts
Nick Wechsler as Luke Ward
Creator Josh Schwartz: scene descriptions/directions

Everything about this reading was THE BEST, but I particularly enjoyed hearing Josh's script notes and his reactions to the words he wrote over thirteen years ago. From his realization that, "OMG, I'm the same age as Dawn Atwood now," to his shame over certain lines (for example, this description of Ryan's reaction to Marissa: "He's never smelled a girl like this before"), his investment in the show was both inspiring and endearing. I also got a kick out of hearing about scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor, including Summer doing coke at the fashion show (!) and Ryan echoing Sandy's Ricky Ricardo impression as he walks into his mom's house. ("I got a lot of splainin' to do!") Then there was the moment when Tate Donovan, as Jimmy, said, "You look beautiful, kiddo," and Josh exclaimed, "That gives me the feels!" You said it, dude.

Badges are already on sale for season six, so get yours now and make a plan to join us in 2017!

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.