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.
Remember that thing I wrote about my sleep habits? Turns out skipping the 'Day 5' Cocktail Party, while socially regrettable, was completely the right decision for my body. I woke up Saturday ready to kick some festival ass. It was a big day: 'The Middleman' panel, but more than that, my second and third EVER professional interviews. Drew Tarver, Tawny Newsome, and Paul F. Tompkins at 1pm, then Natalie Morales at 6p.
Showered and ready, I got dropped downtown in plenty of time to catch my first panel - “The Unknown and the Unexpected” with Beau Willimon. Moderated by Beau Willimon. Description? To be written following event. I’m not kidding, that’s what it said in the fest app. Now, I’m not going to recount the hour-long anecdote that Willimon regaled us with at the Ritz on Saturday morning. It dealt with the assignation of meaning to events, with the selection of events to relate in a story in order to create a purposeful theme... also a good deal of cocaine and several horrendously bad life-decisions. I don’t know how Beau Willimon survived his 20s, but he did, and he came out of it a hell of a storyteller. So if you have a chance to hear him speak extemporaneously for an hour, just sit the fuck down.
From that delicious hour of weirdness, I strolled to the press lounge and got a bite, then settled in at the SFA Ballroom for "A Network Identity". The panel featured Karey Burke (Freeform), Grant Gish (Marvel), and Kathleen McCaffrey (HBO). Moderator Dan Fienberg lead a lively discussion with a minimal amount of Netflix-bashing (it was noted that they drop like, a million shows a week, and that’s hard to deal with). Karey Burke dominated most of the conversations, since Freeform had undergone an identity change recently from ABC Family. The decision was in place before Burke came on board, but it was still her new Freeform ship to steer. In an interesting exchange, she revealed that Freeform had lost '13 Reasons Why' to Netflix, who made a different show. A good show. The implication seemed to be that sometimes things end up where they should be, and that isn’t always your channel. Her candor was typical of the kind of panel discussion that makes ATX Fest so impressive. There was a very honest demeanor to the talk between all the panelists. Freeform fought for 'Cloak and Dagger' and 'New Warriors' after being laughed at and told to up their budgets by Jeph Loeb at Marvel. The stories weren’t all flattering, and the panel was enlightening.
Also, the 'Greek' television movie is alive.
Next up, I did my interview with Tarver, Newsome, and Tompkins. I was over-caffeinated and flubbed the name of Newsome’s character in hysterical fashion. It broke the ice better than I could have planned, and the interview flowed beautifully. The trick, I think, is to interview funny people who want to talk about things. I’m going to try and stay with that formula.
I had received a text just before my group interview that Natalie Morales would not be available at 6p for our interview, and could we do 1:15p, just after the group. I said sure, happy to consolidate all my nerve-wracking experiences into one exhilarating half-hour.
After the group was done (the interview wrapped when Paul Scheer, Kulap Vilaysack, Scott Aukerman, and Jason Mantzoukas wandered past and crashed it), I found a seat in the lobby again and I checked my phone. My heart sank. The Morales interview was off.
I loved 'The Middleman', and have had a minor-league crush on Wendy Watson, Morales’ character on the show. Anyway, I had been really looking forward to this from a fanboy angle, which I had managed to bury thus far in the interest of not being completely weird during the interview. In the lobby with my phone in that moment, though, I was nothing short of the saddest fan.
A voice in front of me, one I recognized from Friday, said my name. I looked up to see Natalie Morales and her publicist. There were a few minutes, right now, in which I could do an interview. Or, I could take the chance on getting a longer phone interview later. We sat down and I turned on the recorder for a wonderful 6 minutes of chat with one of my favorite actresses.
From there, I went to 'The Middleman' panel. It was amazing. That little inner-child fanboy I mentioned? He was thrilled, and we didn’t take any notes. I will say that Javier Grillo-Marxuach is very approachable, and after the panel I was able to chat with him for a while. If you haven’t seen 'The Middleman' yet, find a way. It isn’t streaming. You’ll need to work for it.
I finished the night at 'Bajillion Dollar Propertie$' at the State Theater. We watched the Season 3 premiere and then Tompkins, Newsome, and Tarver were joined by Dan Adhoot for an hour of improv comedy. It was hysterical, and I’m not going to kill the jokes by describing them here. See those guys live if you can, or cough up the $4 for SeeSo.
I ran into a friend in the SFA lobby after the show and finished a beer chatting with him. Natalie Morales and her publicist walked through and waved hello. I’m a small, petty man, and so it nearly burst my ego.
I floated home, ready to rock Sunday.
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