Tuesday, May 7, 2013

One Month to ATX Television Festival and a Major Moment for Me...

Where was the ATX Television Festival when I was growing up?

With panels on everything from "Directing in a Writer's World," to "Casting Deconstructed," to "Pitch...Pilot...Pick Up" the ATX Television Festival, in only its second "season" this year, seems to be everything teenage me wanted to get a candid behind-the-scenes look at the industry, learn a few things, have some fun, and meet the people that I would hopefully one day work alongside. If it had been around fifteen years ago, I would have convinced my mother to take me to Austin, Texas once a year for a weekend of convention-style fun with my favorite television stars, rather than Los Angeles. If it had been around fifteen years ago, I would have kick-started every summer writing or creating short films simply to not lose the momentum of inspiration I would have undoubtedly returned home with after a weekend of panels and parties. Obviously, that was not an option back then, but I'm thrilled to be even a small part of the ATX Television Festival now, and I hope to walk away from it with a renewed sense of energy and excitement around the industry with which I once fell in love but have recently woken up to realize I'm completely disenchanted. 
There's a lot of pressure on the ATX Television Festival this "season" (as everyone on Twitter seems to have taken to calling it). I am one of ten finalists in the Pitch Competition, where I will be presenting a few minutes on my one-hour drama pilot The It Couple and hoping to win over the judges with its potential and the audience with its story. That's nerve-wracking in and of itself for me because though I have pitched in a professional setting before, it has been a few years, and I have never had to deliver it on a stage, to an audience. That's just not how it's done in this business, and public speaking and I have never been great friends. It will be a new experience, for sure, and I welcome it for the challenge and the chance to network with other writers and hear how their creative ideas can change the medium for the better. No matter what happens with the results of that Pitch Competition, though, the real test will be how I respond to the rest of the events.

Recently I have come to the conclusion that while I gave this industry a real shot, it might be time to acknowledge it isn't truly for me professionally. It hasn't granted me the success I wanted; it hasn't granted me the happiness I've wanted; and in many ways, it has actually stripped some of the enjoyment out of film and television and even writing-- my three biggest outlets and passions growing up. That is unacceptable to me.

So I plan to sit in on many of the events during the ATX Television Festival to see if it can spark something-- to see if simply spending time among fans who unabashedly, unashamedly, and unjadedly love television will rub back off on me. Even the thought of attending a convention as a fan (the organizers were kind enough to give all Pitch Finalists a Weekend Badge)-- something I haven't done since I was a teenager-- has been a strong step in the right direction. Looking at the list of panelists and the early panel schedule has only increased that. In addition to all the business secrets people like Liz Tigelaar, Kyle Killen, Bill Lawrence, Julie Plec, Dan Bucatinsky, and Dan Harmon will be spilling, there's tons of chances to celebrate television separately from learning what really goes on and how things really want. But if you're saving for film school, maybe put the funds toward a trip here instead. I think you'll get much more out of it; networking is infinitely more important than sitting in a lecture hall.

An outdoor screening of Friday Night Lights with the cast and crew? That's so much better than tailgating at a high school football game! A Saturday morning PJs and cartoons party? My nostalgia-loving brain can't handle it! Current favorite shows like Scandal, Raising Hope, and Parenthood will be represented? Yes, please! I can't wait to get there and share the experience with so many like-minded people.

And even if I never return to the festival because a show I created has a panel there, I just know attending is going to end up becoming an annual tradition. #TexasForever, right!?


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