ATX Fest

A few weeks ago I noticed a tweet that mentioned a television festival in Austin. Being the huge TV nerd that I am, I was immediately on their website trying to find out all the information about it that I could. Being a poor college student working two unpaid internships I couldn’t exactly justify spending the money on a badge, but I DID sign up to volunteer during the festival so I could get a volunteer badge to use on my day off.

My first shift was from 9 – 6 working registration on Friday, so I donned my stylish volunteer t-shirt and headed downtown with my friend Liz to the Stephen F. Austin hotel where the festival was based.

At registration I was in charge of printing the tickets people attending the festival had reserved for screenings and panels, which was a pretty cool job. I got to hanging out with a couple people from Prekindle, who were in charge of ticketing for the festival. There was never really a time where we had a big rush of people demanding badges and tickets; both days I worked registration there was a trickle of people here and there. Which was kind of a bummer, because it didn’t make those long shifts go by any faster.

Luckily, I found a way to entertain myself on Friday by using my second floor balcony seat to stealthily keep an eye on people arriving at the hotel to check in. Here is an artistic stalker-y shot of Ken Marino and Rob Huebel (a.k.a. the grey blob and the red plaid blob):

Obviously I played it very cool.

Basically my day was spent helping people, and then in between casually glancing over my shoulder to look for people I recognized/worshiped (this TV addiction should not be coming as a surprise to you guys at this point, honestly).

I also had a great twitter exchange with Mae Whitman, who was the person I was most excited to see of everyone attending ATX. (Just ignore the fact that she assumed I was one of the people who met her at the airport instead of someone trying not to stare too adoringly from the balcony in the hotel.)

Saturday was a lot more of the same, though I had to be there at 7:30 instead of 9. I stayed at registration and kept my job printing tickets, and I spent a lot of the time helping people with questions (about 40% of the time I just kind of had to improvise answers  that sounded right). I did have a couple exciting moments, like having Ian Gomez from Cougar Town come over to me and ask for help with his schedule for the day (my brain kind of went “zxcknzcaslkfjsdf” for a second, but then I reigned it in and made myself useful). A little later Ken Marino (who stars in some of my ALL-TIME FAVORITE comedies like Party Down and Wet Hot American Summer) came over to ask where the green room was and said good morning to me. This all sounds kind of lame now that I type it out but it was a BIG DEAL at the time. JUST LET ME HAVE THIS.

I got off shift at 3:40 and ran around the corner to a panel called “Bill Lawrence and Friends.” Bill is the creator of Scrubs and Cougar Town (among others), and he was joined by a fellow writer as well as a handful of cast members from both shows. Here is a high-quality photograph my phone’s camera took:

After the panel I snapped a couple of pictures with Robert Maschio, who played Todd on Scrubs and Neil Flynn, who played The Janitor on Scrubs and is currently playing Mike Heck on The Middle.

Sunday I had the whole day to attend screenings and panels, and I started it off with “A Conversation with Jason Katims,”  who has written and produced shows like Friday Night Lights (which I still haven’t watched yet, I know, I know) and Parenthood (which I do watch and am in LOVE with). Most of the panel was Jason talking about his career and how he got to be as successful as he is today, but he was also joined by Parenthood stars Mae Whitman and Jason RitterRoswell star Shiri Appleby and moderator Jordan Levin.

from left to right: Whitman, Ritter, Katims, Appleby and Levin.

At one point the alarm system in the hotel started going off, and it ended up being something no one could stop laughing about. The hotel reassured us there there was no fire or need for evacuation, but it took them a few minutes to deactivate the alarm, so there was about a 3 minute period of everyone trying to talk over the siren and ignore the blinding strobe light that left everyone (including me) nearly in tears. At one point a manager came over the PA, and mumbled something unclear about being “sorry for the inconvenience.” Jason (Ritter) immediately quipped, “Did he just say ‘I apologize for the convenience? ‘Sorry for making this really easy.'”

The panel wrapped up before too long after the interruption, and I took the opportunity to take a photo with Jason, who I’ve pretty much had a crush on since I was 14 and watching Joan of Arcadia.

I drove over to the Alamo on S. Lamar and sat in on the Criminal Minds screening and Q&A to kill time until the Parenthood screening and panel later in the afternoon. I’d honestly never seen an episode of Criminal Minds in my life, but I was entertained. Honestly I wish I could watch TV in movie theaters at all times.

After Criminal Minds it was time for Parenthood, and they screened one of my FAVORITE episodes from the season and perhaps my favorite scene from the show period

 Before the episode screened they showed a music video that members of the cast decided to make essentially for the hell of it, and it was such a great representation of the  closeness of everyone who works on the show.

After the screening (which had me crying in public, I might add. Parenthood has me at least tearing up, if not all-out sobbing, at some point in every episode) the panel began.

Left to right: Showrunner Jason Katims, music supervisor Liza Richardson, ‘Crosby’ actor Dax Shepard, ‘Amber’ actress Mae Whitman, moderator Meg Masters, ‘Mark’ actor Jason Ritter and musician Landon Pigg

(CHECK OUT HOW GREAT MY SEAT WAS)

The entire panel was incredible. Dax was hilarious the entire time, ribbing Jason about needing to get his own show so Dax could be the charming one again, telling Landon that his “guitarlele” was just a small guitar – “Don’t you enable this! Just because you’re cute and talented doesn’t mean you can rename instruments!” One thing that was made abundantly clear during the panel was how much everyone loves working on the show – every single panel member raved more than once about the quality of the writing, the work environment, the crew, the rest of the cast. Dax said they’re was planning on staying on the show “well into our nineties,” and Mae said it’s undoubtedly the best job she has ever had. Jason (Ritter) also had a great story about how nervous he was to meet Lauren Graham for the first time, comparing it to a first date. Later, he said, he would point out “there’s the school where we first met! I gave you Eclipse gum – no wait, that’s wrong, she gave me gum.” He also talked about experiencing jealous of the other people Sarah dated on Parenthood while his character was away, and the moderator chimed in and said, “Just now as we were watching the end of the episode he was shaking his head at Seth and saying, ‘That guy needs to go.'” After Jason talked about his on-screen jealousy Mae brought up feeling jealous over relationships fellow “Bravermans” have with people they’ve worked with previously, joking, “Lauren will mention she had lunch with Alexis Bledel and I’ll be like, ‘Oh really? How’s she?'”

The panel wrapped up with a couple of songs from Landon and Mae. I snapped a few shots, and then immediately realized I needed to get it on video instead.

After the panel I took a couple photos with Mae, Jason and Dax, and talked with them for a couple minutes. EVERYONE I met this weekend was so nice and sweet to me and the other fans who approached them and I cannot say enough nice things about any of them. ATX was an amazing experience and I hope that it continues to get bigger and better every year. I’m definitely going to be a repeat-attender.

(I like this picture because I’m not in the middle and I can just pretend we’re all just bros hanging out.)

The moral of this blog post is that volunteering pays, kids!

Footnote:

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2 comments
  1. oh my god your seat was AMAZING also i have a huge crush on mae siiiigh

  2. karen nielsen said:

    JEALOUS!

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