Make room, SXSW. You've got a little sister joining you on the festival circuit in Austin.
The ATX Festival, the first festival of its kind devoted to the past, present and future of television, is buzzing in to vivid life on June 1. The three-day festival will function like the movie festivals that abound in our great city, but its focus will be entirely on the small screen: its stars, writers, unaired pilots and shows canceled too soon. Think of it as your favorite nostalgic friends back for one more romp in your living room.
"Television has changed so much over the years, and now there are so many options available to young and creative television writers and directors," says one of ATX Festival's creators, Caitlin McFarland. "We realized a festival would be the perfect atmosphere to welcome people back into the lives of the characters they love and hear directly from the creators of these communities."
ATX Festival is the brainchild of McFarland and her fellow Texan and TV junkie, Emily Gipson. McFarland was raised in Houston and Gipson in Wichita Falls, both dreaming of working behind the scenes of their television screens. After college, McFarland worked for directors like Nora Ephron and Mira Nair and worked extensively on film festivals such as Sundance, Tribeca and Doha Tribeca. Gipson meanwhile learned the studio side of the industry over at Fox, TLC and the Discovery Channel.
Together, McFarland and Gipson assembled an advisory board of writers, directors, producers and executives who are helping the duo guide their ship and fill their programming panels with big names like directors Betty Thomas and Richard Linklater. The festival will keep its scope broad in its first year, says McFarland, inviting representatives from serials like Life Unexpected, reality shows like Austin City Limits, sitcoms and even web series.
"We also realize how all-encompassing television is for entertainment, including music, food, travel and lifestyle," adds McFarland. "So we're excited to announce partnerships with a number of Austin sponsors who are helping us with food programming and after-parties as well. We'll even have bands that were featured as guests in episodes of your favorite TV shows."
Three key sponsors were integral to the launch of ATX Fest happening in 2012. First, the Alamo Drafthouse will be hosting each of the screenings and artist Q&As at their South Lamar location. The Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel will host the industry panels and meet-ups. And the Hotel San Jose will host special ATX Fest/Drafthouse Rolling Roadshow screenings of popular favorites that you will not want to miss.
"The idea was to really spotlight the Austin area," explains McFarland. "We plan to be national in scope, but after visiting Austin for 15 years and after moving here, I know this city and the people working here." That is why the ATX Fest sponsors are local, and connections to organizations like the Austin Film Commission and Austin Studios abound.
According to McFarland, the programming for ATX Fest is still being negotiated; industry artists are waiting for legal clearance before being announced on the website. In the meanwhile, a Kickstarter campaign launches Wednesday to get ATX Fest on its feet. Smartly, pledges on the campaign will double as pre-sales of badges to the festival in June. Badges range from $45.00 for a basic Screening badge to $195.00 for an all-access Industry badge. Further sponsorship includes VIP packages for further perks during the festival weekend.