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ATX Television Festival 2017: Small Screen, Mighty Women

Girls ruled at the sixth year of the ATX TV Festival. 

ATX Television Festival 2017: Small Screen, Mighty Women

Photo Credit: Waytao Shing

There's a lot of reasons to love living in Austin, but at the top of the list, alongside queso and margaritas, sits the ATX Television Festival. Run by Emily Gipson and Caitlin McFarland, it's a weekend of screenings, panels, parties and hijinks, all in the name of celebrating our favorite shows. This sixth season of the fest was a blast, but it also felt extremely topical given the presence of a powerful array of women in TV--clearly a conscious decision by the two badass ladies in charge. Check out our recap of the totally tubular (too much?) extravaganza below!

Copyright 2017 Jack Plunkett


Panelists: Adam Scott, Craig Robinson, Tom Gormican (creator)
Moderator: Marisa Roffman (TV Guide)

I kicked off the festival with a pilot screening of a new series for which I was trying desperately to manage my expectations. When I saw the trailer for Ghosted, a mix of '80s buddy comedy and The X-Files, it seemed way too awesome of a premise to actually work. But shame on me for doubting Adam Scott and Craig Robinson, who pull off this zany show with hilarious flair. I can't wait to see where the series goes, because it can only get MORE bonkers, especially if Fox greenlights an idea that came from the audience Q&A: a crossover episode with The X-Files reboot. I want to believe... that can happen. - Posh

Copyright 2017 Maggie Boyd

Pretty Little Liars and Famous In Love 

Panelists: I. Marlene King (Creator), Lisa Cochran-Neilan (Executive Producer), Jennifer Gerstenblatt (Freeform VP), Cameron Dale (Costumer)
Moderator: Leanne Aguilera (Entertainment Tonight)

We screened episode 1x09 of Famous In Love, which seemed to have been chosen due to its numerous references to Austin. Sadly, this episode was not Paige’s (Bella Thorne) finest moment. There were some reveals that might not have landed as hoped, based on the audience laughter. But, to be fair, alcohol was served at this screening. Also, Jordan got a Golden Globes nomination? I may LOL forever.

We were shown a five minute clip from the penultimate episode of Pretty Little Liars, and Freeform gave audience members water bottles, and makeup bags. The panelists who worked on both shows talked about having a hard time separating the two, and constantly having to ask themselves, “which show is this?” when asked to make decisions. They feel like their production teams are families. They all agreed that fashion is a BIG part of how they show the characters’ personalities for both shows. And I. Marlene King shared that the Pretty Little Liars actresses insisted that the last scene they film be one together. That one might have made me a little teary. - Kandis

Copyright 2017 Waytao Shing

BFFs: A Look Into Creating and Establishing Friendships on TV

Panelists: Mara Brock Akil (Being Mary Jane), Kevin Falls (Franklin & Bash), Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (Sweet/Vicious), Jessica St. Clair (Playing House), Lennon Parham (Playing House)
Moderator: Jarett Wieselman (BuzzFeed)

Even if Jennifer Kaytin Robinson hadn't been on this panel, I would've made a point to be there, because who doesn't love talking about besties? But obviously, Jenn's presence was the big draw for me, and she did not disappoint. The Sweet/Vicious screening wasn't until the next day, yet she still gave us some scoop, including how she would have ultimately ended the series: "I wanted it to end with Ophelia going down for everything, to give Jules the life that was taken away from her." Maybe it's for the best that this series never reached that conclusion, because then our collective tears would've raised sea levels and drowned the Earth's population.

In talking about favorite TV friendships, Jenn gained major points (as if she didn't have enough already) by bringing up The O.C.'s Ryan Atwood and Seth Cohen, who she later realized inspired the characters of Jules and Ophelia: "I made them women, so now they're better." PRETTY MUCH. - Posh

Copyright 2017 Maggie Boyd

Midnight, Texas 

Panelists: Monica Owusu-Breen (Writer), Cast: Arielle Kebbel, Peter Mensah
Moderator: Matt Fowler (IGN)

Confession: Despite being a huge Charlaine Harris fan, I did not finish reading Midnight Crossroads, because I don’t care that much for the character of Manfred. So, the Manfred show casting was a pleasant surprise. The pilot screening was super fun, and does a great job introducing the town and its wacky inhabitants. Hot Paul (Dylan Bruce)! I’ve missed you. There are lots of alumni of other genre shows, and everybody in this town is crazy hot. The locations are perfect, and I’m very into Olivia (Arielle Kebbel) and her anger issues.

The panelists were playful and obviously having a great time. They talked about how they’ve come to inhabit their characters, and that the story explores “what is the definition of family?” Yeah, I’m ready to move to Midnight! - Kandis

Copyright 2017 Waytao Shing

Complex, Not Complicated: A Look at a Woman's Character

Panelists: Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (Sweet/Vicious), Mara Brock Akil (Being Mary Jane), Liz Tigelaar (Casual), Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer), Taylor Dearden (Sweet/Vicious), Mary McDonnell (Battlestar Galactica)
Moderator: Sandra Gonzalez (CNN)

With a frank discussion of misogyny in the industry and feminists fighting the good fight, this panel got me ALL fired up in the best way possible. I mean, just look at that line-up of amazing women! Mary spoke about being sick and tired of emotional notes in scripts, which are typically only given to women because, of course, they need to be told how to act and feel. Kyra chimed in with stories about the numerous times on set she's been told to "tone it down" or "act smaller," while Liz talked about being treated like a little girl on a show that she created. But this panel wasn't just about expressing outrage, it was about feeling empowered to raise your voice and take control. In discussing role models like Lucille Ball, Katherine Hepburn and Carrie Fisher, these women spoke of qualities that I, in turn, see in them (and hopefully see in myself). By the end of a far too short 60 minutes, it was clear who run the world, and when Mary suggested that we lock the doors, order in some rosé and spend the rest of the day together, the answer was a resounding YASS KWEEN. 

So note for next time, ATX Fest: Schedule this panel for an entire afternoon, and make sure there's plenty of booze. -Posh

Copyright 2017 Waytao Shing

The Bold Type

Panelists: Sarah Watson (Executive Producer), Holly Whidden (Co-Executive Producer), Cast: Katie Stevens, Aisha Dee
Moderator: Leanne Aguilera (Entertainment Tonight)

Inspired by the life of former Cosmopolitan editor, Hearst Empress, Joanna Coles, The Bold Type is set in the office of the fictional Scarlet magazine. Think woke like Teen Vogue, but for the Cosmo demographic.

We screened the pilot, which airs next month on Freeform, and I LOVED it. It’s fresh, and glam, but not in a guilty pleasure way. And it definitely feels more grown-up than previous Freeform programming. Aisha Dee is stellar, always. (OMG, watch, and save Sweet/Vicious, already!) I loved the supportive friendship, especially in the magazine industry. This is not 13 Going on 30. These are well-drawn characters, with distinct ambitions. And Melora Hardin, isn’t the stereotypical bitchy magazine editor. She’s still tough as hell, but in a mentoring way.

The panelists revealed that they genuinely love hanging out together, especially in the magazine clothes closet that’s part of the set. Aisha Dee adorably confessed that she is obsessed with Melora Hardin (who isn’t?) because she was Jan on The Office. I hope you all tune in, because this show is destined to be a new fave. - Kandis

Copyright 2017 Waytao Shing


Panelists: Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (creator), Amanda Lasher (showrunner), Stacey Sher (executive producer), Taylor Dearden, Eliza Bennett, Aisha Dee
Moderator: Maureen Ryan (Variety)

For me, the Sweet/Vicious panel was the most important event of the entire festival. I got in line an hour early behind a girl with a homemade t-shirt featuring an (impressive!) illustration of Jules, Ophelia and Harris over the words, "We believe you," which made me tear up immediately. Suddenly, the wad of tissues in my bag didn't seem nearly big enough.

To say that this was a once in a life time experience is an understatement. Watching this group of women simply be together on stage and listening to them share what the show means to them, and what it has meant to viewers, was incredibly powerful. "We were able to reach through the television and say to survivors, ‘you f*cking matter',” Jenn said at one point, and there was not a dry eye in the house. Eliza shared about how several friends, after seeing the show, confided in her about their own stories of assault, which she never knew about. After a particularly emotional moment, she pulled off a callback to the pilot episode by grabbing her cell phone and pretending to get a call in order to escape the conversation. "HELLO, THIS IS JULES!" We all got the joke, and we all laughed through our sobs, and in that moment, the entire room felt like family.

It's obvious that the show's cast and staff love each other immensely; I was especially enraptured by Taylor and Eliza holding hands, the former gently reaching over to wipe a tear from the latter's face. Y'all, they really are besties! Later in the discussion, Stacey said, “I’ve been doing this for thirty years, and I’ve never had an experience where everybody on staff was a woman. It was an extraordinary, incomparable experience.” As was this panel. Thank you, ATX TV, for such an amazing gift. #SaveSweetVicious! -Posh

Copyright 2017 Michelle Maurin

The Women of Grace and Frankie

Panelists: Marta Kauffman (Creator), Robbie Rowe Tollin (Executive Producer), Hanna K.S. Canter (Associate Producer), Rebecca Asher (Director), Cast: June Diane Raphael, Brooklyn Decker
Moderator: Jarett Wieselman (Buzzfeed)

This panel was a conversation with the on and off-screen women that create Grace and Frankie. Moderator Jarett Wieselman (one of the consistently best moderators of the festival) said “People always ask, are you a Grace or a Frankie. I’m a Brianna.” And I could not agree more. June Diane Raphael is a genuine goddess, and she talked about what a thrill it to get to do comedy with Lily Tomlin. She also said that a lot of the insight into her character that she’s obtained, is from watching Jane Fonda’s performance as her mother. She and co-star, Brooklyn Decker, have given an enormous amount of thought into who their characters are, based on who Grace (Fonda) and Robert (Martin Sheen) are. June is predictably hilarious and fantastic.

The mission statement of the show is “We are serious joymakers.” They have made such a commitment to representation in front of and behind the camera that they have made their offices more accessible for elderly actors and crew members. And they also strive to make their set a warm and welcoming space for guest stars. I loved this show before the panel, but learning all of that, makes me love them even more. - Kandis

Copyright 2017 Waytao Shing


Panelists: Nico Tortorella, Darren Starr (creator), Molly Bernard, Miriam Shor, Alison Brown (writer), Peter Hermann
Moderator: Jessica Shaw (Entertainment Weekly)

Yes, that outfit (?) is what Nico Tortorella chose to wear to this screening of the Season 4 premiere. At least he wasn't wearing those godforsaken sandals from last year! But who cares about Nico, we all know that Peter Hermann is WHERE IT'S AT. The cast sat in front of us for the screening, so I got to see Peter pull out his glasses so he could see the screen, because he is adorable. Fortunately for the audience, he kept them on for the Q&A and slayed us all with his handsomeness:

Copyright 2017 Waytao Shing

I could go on about this dreamboat (Team Charles!) but I should probably talk about the premiere itself, right? Without getting into spoiler territory, I will say that I am digging how the writers handled Kelsey's (Hilary Duff) reaction to Liza's (Sutton Foster) confession, and that Kristin Chenoweth, in a role most definitely inspired by Kellyanne Conway, is the best guest star the show has ever had. 

The panel was a blast, mostly because Miriam Shor is divine (and looked FABULOUS in spite of shooting until 3am the night before and then flying in from NYC) and, as I mentioned, Peter Hermann is a well-spoken man with a well-proportioned face. Darren Starr was practically shooting lasers from his eyes in order to prevent secrets from spilling out, but we did learn that there will be an episode filmed in Ireland, which means the characters have to travel there, which means they have to use passports, and passports contain dates of birth so... yeah. Liza's in trouble! -Posh

Copyright 2017 Waytao Shing

The Guest Book 

Panelists: Greg Garcia (Creator), Cast: Garret Dillahunt, Carly Jibson
Moderator: Ben Travers (Indiewire)

Full disclosure: I have been a Garret Dillahunt fan since Deadwood, and I will NOT shut up about it. Also? He’s pretty easy on the eyes. We screened the seventh episode of this new TBS show. It’s super offbeat, with wacky characters,, which you’d expect from the creator of My Name Is Earl, and Raising Hope.

The show is based on the crazy stories Garcia would make up to freak people out for the guest book of the Big Bear cabin he frequently visited. There are new guest stars every week, playing the cabin visitors, and the regular cast are the townspeople. Dillahunt admitted that he also visited the cabin and spent time writing in the guest book. The show features lots of recognizable faces, and plenty of inclusive casting. Carly Jibson is hilarious, and a certified scene stealer. Garcia said that the show hasn’t yet been renewed (or aired) but he’s still writing in the guest book, essentially writing fanfic of his own show. - Kandis

Copyright 2017 Maggie Boyd

Life After (TV) High School

Panelists: Rebecca Serle (Famous in Love), Amanda Lasher (Sweet/Vicious), Julie Plec (Dawson's Creek)
Moderator: Jarett Wieselman (BuzzFeed)

You know I can't miss a panel with "High School" in the title! And Rebecca Serle on the roster! 

The discussion began with everyone talking about their favorite teen shows, with My So-Called Life, Freaks & Geeks, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Beverly Hills 90210 all making the list (as they should). Amanda and Julie both gushed about their crush on Jordan Catalano, the OG MLD, and how they each lost their shizz when they finally met Jared Leto. Julie described him walking by her desk and doing that long slow stare that made every girl in the '90s weak in the knees. LUCKY DUCK. 

It was particularly fun to see Rebecca talk about her love for Dawson's Creek and Gossip Girl with people who worked on them (Julie and Amanda respectively). For both shows, the trappings of high school--lockers, homework, teachers--were minimized in order to focus on storylines that couldn't be contained by classroom walls. Julie bemoaned the fact that nowadays, teen shows have to "have a zombie or a vampire," in them to get made, though she pointed to 13 Reasons Why as an example of a powerful high school show without a supernatural element.

When an audience member asked if these writers ever saw themselves in their shows, Julie admitted that she's a total Caroline, while Amanda confessed that Cyrus Rose (Wallace Shawn) was basically her mouthpiece. Hey, there are way worse characters to be on Gossip Girl! (I'm looking at you, Chuck.) - Posh

Copyright 2017 Waytao Shing

An (Independent) Pilot Showcase With Paul Scheer

Panelist: Paul Scheer
Moderator: Bill Keith

This event featured a compilation of rarely seen, never-picked-up-pilots that Paul Scheer has starred in and produced. My favorite, Playdates (also starring Carla Gallo), premiered at Sundance, and sadly never found a network. It shares a lot of similarities with HBO’s Togetherness, which may have been the reason. But I thought it was actually funnier, and more relatable. Another funny pilot was based on a George R.R. Martin-type character (starring Chris Parnell), having writer’s block, and powering through with a little help from cocaine. Another favorite, was Grand Marquis, a pilot about a famous rapper, and life ten years after his big break.

Scheer included lots of fun insider gossip from making shows in Hollywood. One valuable tip: People who buy huge, awesome houses they can’t afford, will let you shoot there for very cheap. Some gossip we had to swear not to repeat. Scheer’s panel ran so far over time, the moderator had to catch a plane, and Paul handled the Q&A himself, willing to answer any industry questions the audience had. Then he hung out in the theater lobby afterwards, to meet folks and take photos. If you ever see that Paul Scheer has a new show coming, you should definitely check it out. It’s destined to be creative and funny. - Kandis

Badges are already on sale for season seven, so get yours now and make a plan to join us in 2018!

Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).