ATX TV Festival looks on the bright side of the small screen: For its Season 10 online, the festival is doing what it does best, virtually
Small Ax, one of the shows featured at this year’s ATX TV festival (by Parisa Taghizedeh / Amazon Prime Video)
Last year’s ATX TV Festival was a test of crisis management. This year’s virtual festival is a wish list come true.
After abruptly converting her Season 9 to a scheduled person on ATX digital TV… From the Couch, co-founders Emily Gipson and Caitlin McFarland were ready for a season 10 on the small screen, June 11-20: Now With Enough Time to create 10 days of virtual programming with guests they’ve been looking for for years. This year’s roster features previously unreachable reserved and busy actors like the cast of HBO’s groundbreaking prison drama ounce for a reunion and cast of the emotionally ruthless Canadian teen drama, Degrassi: the next generation. “Who wants to come to Austin, but for some reason didn’t? Let’s invite them,” McFarland explained. “And then we tell them on Zoom when we meet them that we’re taking them to Austin in 2022.”
“The pitch of the first festival is what it still is today. … The thing that has evolved is television. – Caitlin McFarland, co-founder of the ATX TV festival
As the post-pandemic door slowly opens in 2021, the last thing people understandably want to do is stare at their screens for four straight days. To explain this state of limbo, Gipson had the “maybe brilliant, maybe terrible” idea of extending season 10 beyond its usual four days: 10 days for 10 seasons. But for Gipson and McFarland, the programming extended far beyond that. “We’re actually in the middle of a month-long festival,” McFarland joked. They spent the last few weeks pre-recording some panels, and the couple were giddy talking about conversations they’d already listened to, including ATX Award in Television eXcellence recipient Michael J. Fox’s conversation with Denis. Leary, and a closing nightly livestream and panel with the cast and creator of HBO’s upcoming social satire The white lotus. The latter marks a return to live programming, something they weren’t able to do last year due to time and technology constraints. This year’s festival features live-only events, daily viewing windows, and a “watch anytime” library. “There are sort of three ways to look at programming, and part of it is that unique nature, because it’s a festival,” McFarland said. “If you didn’t walk into this theater, you missed it.”
In nine years, 10 seasons and a pandemic, Gipson and McFarland have rolled with the punches, keen to keep the festival’s community relaxed, and this year is no exception. “Obviously our outlook has changed so much over the past two seasons, just because we’ve had to change so much physically,” said McFarland. “But I think what I’m really proud of is that the pitch of the first festival is what it is today thanks to the virtual.” With programming like the breathtaking episode of Steve McQueen, guest of season 10 Small Ax films, “What has evolved is television.”
Last year’s virtual experience opened up new avenues for community building beyond the June event with the ATX TV membership program. However, said McFarland, as conversations and events online last year round, “the festival is mecca,”
As the state of television and real-world disasters swirl around us, ATX remains where it always has been: ready to explore the past, present and future of television with superfans. and people in the industry, exercising a distinct love for the medium that elevates the pleasure of it all. Even online, organizers are committed to the festival’s long-standing summer camp feel. “We wanted it to be more of a gathering moment,” Gipson added, “where our community and badge holders would come together, come together, experience something – even from their own sofas – but feel like they were a part of it. . “
ATX TV Festival Season 10, June 11-20. Tickets, information and content on atxfestival.com.