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ATX Television Festival brings stars, shows to Austin

Founders' first festival grew out of their passion for all things television

Gary Dinges
gdinges@statesman.com

Pick a show, any show, and the odds are good that Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson have watched.

They know the producers, the stars, where it was shot — everything. It's that love of all things TV that brought the two together right here in Austin where, after spending years working in the film and TV industry, they've put together the first-ever ATX Television Festival.

"We never had a dream to start a festival," Gipson said. "It just came about. It happened really fast — in about a week."

Now, after nearly a year of planning, the festival is just around the corner. Set to happen Friday through Sunday at several venues across town, it will feature a number of panels and screenings, as well as appearances by actors and behind-the-scenes folks who have worked on several cult favorites, including locally produced "Friday Night Lights."

Badges, starting at $120, are available at atxfestival.com.

"On things like this, you have to let yourself be a little naïve," McFarland said. "If you knew all the things that were going to go into it, you wouldn't do it. No way."

"This is 24/7 right now," Gipson said. "It has been like this for a few months now, too."

Their goal is a "smaller, more intimate festival" with about 1,000 attendees. Many who have already purchased tickets are from Austin and other Texas cities, though people from across the nation are expected.

"We're not trying to be Comic-Con or South by Southwest," McFarland said.

Even though the two have no track record producing festivals, they had no problem getting celebrities, industry executives and studios to sign on. They even talked toy-maker Hasbro and the Hub cable network into hosting a Saturday morning cartoon showcase — complete with pancakes from Austin-based Batter Blaster.

"I was always told to use your connections, and use them wisely," McFarland said. "We didn't have to convince people. Everyone was so excited about it, which we were, too."

"Austin wasn't a hard sell," Gipson said. "A lot of these people have been here before and want to be here again."

Highlights include opening-night screenings of the Season 1 finale of "Suits" and an episode from Season 3 of "Royal Pains," both airing on the USA network.

Also set to screen are "Austin City Limits," "Firefly," "Grimm," "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," "Lone Star," "Parenthood," "Teen Wolf," "True Blood," "Vampire Diaries" and more.

Actors who have committed to attend include Tom Cavanagh, Gaius Charles, Judy Greer, Adrianne Palicki, Jesse Plemons, Scott Porter, Jason Ritter and Alicia Witt.

The festival will, McFarland and Gipson hope, become an annual event. By this fall, they'd also like to create a "TV society" that regularly meets to discuss — and watch — shows.

"We want a place where we can come together," Gipson said. "When you meet someone who loves the same show you do, you're automatically friends."

Contact Gary Dinges at 912-5987 Twitter: @gdinges

ATX Television Festival