ATX Television Festival Season 6 wrapped up one week ago! I've been resisting writing up my recap, I think, because I don't want the feeling to end. This was a great weekend for me.
Look, people, I keep hours like an elderly retiree. I'm awake by 6am every day (weekends may roll into a lazy 7am... the decadence!), but I am also ready to crash no later than 11pm. This is consistent, this is my routine. I love it.
So, it is inconvenient, sometimes, when events need me to be sharp and social any later than that. For example, if one were to be on a Trivia Team the night before, and so you were up until 1ish in the morning wired on coffee, then the next day might start a hair-bit rough.
Friday morning, coffee ingested, I got a ride to downtown in time to see Television in a Trumped Up America, at the SFA ballroom. Julie Plec, Liz Tigelaar, Michael Rauch, Paul Garnes, Beau Willimon, and Javier Grillo-Marxuach held forth on dealing with the change in national tone post-election. Javier made a good point that the election fallout is less about changing your show, and more about managing your own stress so you can work. "It's a lot of stress-eating", he joked. This was immediately tweeted out by conservatives as "Liberal TV Writers Too Stressed By Trump to Work. Boo Hoo" which goes a long way to describe exactly what was discussed in the panel.
Paul Garnes spoke about the writer's room for 'Underground', and also 'Queen Sugar', the new show from Ava DuVernay. They were in the process of writing episodes when the election happened, and he said it certainly changed the atmosphere in both rooms. He felt the final speech from Harriet Tubman in 'Underground' was redirected into more of a call to action in response to November.
From a financial standpoint, Sinclair Media recently purchased WGN, which had greenlit and aired 'Queen Sugar' prior to that purchase in what Garnes described as an 'establishment of network identity'. Unfortunately, Sinclair Media is a conservative-leaning corporation, and so there is now worry in the staff from that standpoint (Garnes also noted that DuVernay hired women to direct all the season 1 episodes, and all those directors are now too busy to return for season 2). On 'Casual', Laurie's story was directly influenced by cast members wanting a political storyline after the election. For 'Vampire Diaries', the Trump Campaign fiascos changed the conversation for them on vampires and rape culture, and significantly altered a relationship on the show. Grillo-Marxuach felt that the 96% approval vote for a strike threat from the WGA (Writer's Guild of America) East union was the result of a constituency scared-but-fired-up in the face of Trump's win.
Beau Willimon made several incredible points, but the first that stood out to me was this: the tv creators on that stage were from hometowns all across the nation. Fox News is made in the same building as the Daily Show. We can't keep acting like all television with a liberal tone comes from some elitist place without roots. Television produces a product. A real product that can be purchased, one that has tremendous market value. Making this product employs union labor, good people, hard workers. These are jobs.
I liked the thought of television production as a blue-collar union job, which is never how it's described. But parts of it are like that: a weird union job dictated by your geographic location as to what kind of factory you run. Sometimes, you help make stories (usually graveyard shift).
Grillo-Marxuach, who was raised in Puerto Rico, had a stern warning to get ready for robber barons coming for our social safety nets. He recommended reading Naomi Klein's 'Shock Doctrine'. I can't argue with him there, it's a worthwhile read.
I walked from that guided meditation on political anxiety down to the press lounge, where I paced and fretted over my interview questions for Kulap Vilaysack, the creator and showrunner for 'Bajillion Dollar Propertie$' on SeeSo. She was to be my first interview, well... ever. I was nervous AF, y'all.
She was amazing. Charming, funny (shocking, I know) and very giving with her time and her answers. Could not have had a better opening salvo into celeb interviews. Considering I had Natalie Morales, Drew Tarver, Tawny Newsome, and Paul F. Tompkins to interview Saturday, I was incredibly fortunate it went well.
Interview in the bag, I headed over to the Ritz for the 'Black Donnellys' panel. This was one of the things I'd most wanted to see at the fest, and it didn't disappoint. The pilot aged well, and is still a shockingly powerful hour of television. I love that show. Jonathan Tucker and Billy Lush sat behind me, and the cast and creators were all misty-eyed when they took the panel stage after.
The show, which chronicles a set of Irish brothers who inadvertently find themselves in charge of criminal activity in their neighborhood, was based directly on creator Bobby Moresco's life and family. It's told through a brilliantly handled unreliable narrator, a device I adore in almost any context. Moresco mentioned that he has a sister, who was written out of the show (and mad about it). Sadly, the ratings would likely have been fine now, with streaming/DVR ratings factored in. Unfortunately, the show aired just before advertisers valued their streaming and DVR audience. Moresco dedicated the pilot to his brother and co-creator Paul Haggis' brother, both of whom had bit parts in the episode. Billy Lush was clearly distraught at the news of Moresco's brother. The intimacy of the panel was palpable. The love in the room for the cast, for the characters, for the creators was simply beautiful, and demonstrated exactly what I loved about ATX Television Fest.
(Afterward, I was lucky enough to catch Mr. Moresco and his daughter Amanda, who created and wrote on the show with her father. We had a friendly few-minute exchange about characterization and writing. Seriously, buy a Season 7 badge now. But be cool. Don't ruin this magical place.)
I wrapped my day by getting a temporary Petunia tattoo from the real Pete and Pete, and we saw a tiny horse at the 'Parks and Rec' episode screening on South Congress. I was tired (see above) and went home. I don't drink enough to be swayed by free bar, and passed on the Day 5 party from Rooster Teeth (I regret this decision).
Onward to Saturday.
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