When thinking of a festival, television doesn’t immediately come to mind, but Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson are trying to change that. The duo co-founded the ATX Television Festival last year, gathering an esteemed advisory board of showrunners, actors, and journalists — including The Vampire Diaries’ head honcho Julie Plec — to help them make their dreams into reality.
After a second successful Kickstarter campaign, the dynamic duo launched a bigger, badder "Season 2" of ATX, and the party kicks off tonight (June 6-9)! Wetpaint Entertainment chatted with Caitlin and Emily ahead of the festival to find out what’s in store, including what fans of TVD, Once Upon a Time, Revenge, and yes, Boy Meets World, can expect. And better yet? We’ll be in the thick of it throughout the fest, bringing you exclusive content with your favorite showrunners and stars, ranging from nostalgic glimpses at Friday Night Lights to the Scandalous exploits of TV’s leading ladies.
Read on for a few highlights and tidbits, and then head over to ATXFestival.com to purchase your day passes ($75). Plus, there are also a number of free events, including the Boy Meets World and Friday Night Lights reunions and two AMC screenings (Low Winter Sun and Hell on Wheels), so you might as well book your plane ticket now.
Surprise guests at screenings. Even though Nina and Ian aren’t listed for The Vampire Diaries screening and panel — Julie Plec and Arielle Kebbel are headlining the Q&A — it doesn’t mean they won’t show up. “There are a couple special guests who might show up at screenings,” Caitlin dished. “We are trying for Vampire Diaries cast members, but it will probably just be someone who shows up if they are able to on that day.” With that said, none of the Once Upon a Time cast is listed, but with co-creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis and writer Jane Espenson (also with her web series Husbands) hosting screenings and Q&As, at least one could pop in.
Have a beer with your favorite star or showrunner. The “community” feel of the festival makes it easier to chat with your favorite EP or actor, although we’re not guaranteeing personal one-on-one time with your favorite stars. Emily explains that it’s a weekend of open opportunities to ask questions, share your feelings, and perhaps even have a beer with the cast and crew of the TV shows involved — that happened last year, at least once. Instead of standing in line to meet someone, shake hands, and leave, she says it’s more encouraged to just go up to someone and say, “Oh my gosh, your show means so much to me!”
Nostalgia alert! Given that some of the main events are with the reunited casts of Boy Meets World, Friday Night Lights, My So-Called Life, Party of Five, Veronica Mars, and American Dreams, there’s going to be plenty of TV nostalgia at the fest. There won’t be any additional surprise reunions, but the pair is already looking ahead to “Season 3” and beyond, noting that they have a running list of shows they love and want to bring to ATX. “The West Wing, Felicity, Friends...” Caitlin suggested, but noted that they’ll only reunite casts that “really want to be reunited” and “don’t hate each other.”
Seeing shows in a whole different way. What separates ATX from the pack is that it’s a place for people who love a show to talk about it with fellow fans — or as Caitlin puts it, to “revel in the show you love” and “understand and experience them differently.” So this probably means Julie Plec isn’t going to reveal Stefan’s fate in Season 5, but maybe she will dish some behind-the-scenes scoop from the finale! Plus, fans can watch an old episode on a big screen, then ask the showrunner or stars questions about it directly after. For some shows, it’s the most recent finale, while for others, it’s an episode from the archives. Caitlin adds that it will give fans some “closure … and a few answers,” especially for TVD (and The Originals) and OUAT.
Shonda Rhimes to appear? Just as they have a list of shows they’d love to bring to ATX, Emily and Caitlin have a dream list of people, too. At the top is Shonda Rhimes, whose series Scandal makes an appearance this year with a handful of cast members. “We would love for Shonda to come and talk about her series,” Emily exclaimed. “The showrunners and creators are usually our biggest supporters in the sense that these shows are their children and they get so excited to come and talk about them.” Fingers crossed for a Grey’s Anatomy/Private Practice/Scandal panel next year!
Are you heading to the ATX Television Festival? Tell us below, and either way, feel free to leave your questions for any of the shows involved in the comments. We’ll get to as many as we can!
Alyse Whitney is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @AlyseWhitney.