Every June a select group of awesome people converge upon Austin, Texas, the BBQ capital of the world, watch television, and eat lots of queso. Then after four days, they leave in a puff of smoke, only to return under the same mysterious cloud one year later. That’s right, I’m talking about the best weekend of the year: the ATX TV Festival!
Surviving such weekend is not for the weak. 1,200 other like-minded people have spent years perfecting the perfect ATX Festival weekend. I really like lists and it helps me remember things, so enjoy this survival guide!
Don’t Come For One Show/Person/BBQ Restaurant
This fest is spread out over half a dozen locations for four days. Most likely, there’s one thing in particular that the fest but while there you’ll be drawn into something unexpected. Just like life, don’t be afraid. That panel about female friendships sounds really cool and I guarantee you there will be space for you, so just like my cat, weasel your way in and experience it. Also, sometimes Javi Grillo Marxuach will pass out Voodoo Donuts to those in line who are still upset about Lexa. By limiting your time to just one thing, you miss out on the experiences and the wonderful humans you’ll meet.
Wear Comfortable Shoes
Like I said before, this festival is spread out over a couple of different locations. I know that Austin is “trendy” and it’s cool to be uncomfortable, but just trust me you guys. Wear them comfortable shoes. Running up and down Congress to make it to your next panel is hell on your shins if you’re wearing heels. Just wear what makes you happy and know that you’ll be in a hurry. But if you’re wearing heels they are super cute and please just tell me where you got them because OMG they make your legs look killer.
As a native Texan this heat is not a joke. It’s humid and muggy and and it will probably rain. I’m going to turn on my mom voice and loudly tell you all that I know you’re on vacation and in Austin but just drink the water. I always have water on me so come see me and I’ll take care of you. I’m also a mom so I’ll most likely have snacks and baby wipes and either TNMT Uno cards or Slamwich in my bag to stave off boredom. You’re going to get a super cute tote bag when you register so I recommend just filling it up with water and putting a straw in there. It’s inevitable that you’ll be standing in lines waiting for the next panel to start so be prepared. A few years ago people literally passed out because they thought they were in too much of a hurry to get water. Nothing wrong with getting in line for something a few minutes later because you had to make a pit stop.
Be Cool, Y’all, Bradley Whitford Just Made Eye Contact With Me
This actually happened to me! I was on my way to I dunno where and Bradley Whitford was hustling back to the Stephen F. Austin hotel. If y’all know anything about me you’ll know that he’s my number one fave and it took everything in me to not stop him, ask for a picture, and fangirl around him. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but he was obviously in a hurry so I stood my ground. We made eye contact, did the little nod to each other, and I guarantee you he’s telling this story to his internet friends right now. The point in all of this is to just be cool. Yes, you’re going to be surrounded by your faves and it’s a small festival. Unless someone is just deliberately avoiding meeting attendees you’re bound to run into someone you’ve been looking forward to meeting over the course of the weekend. After a panel one time Jane Espenson, my future wife, was just hanging out near the wall so I went up to her and we had like a ten minute conversation about an episode of Battlestar Galactica she wrote. My friend Gina somehow always manages to chat with Nick Wechsler. I got to talk to Bryan Fuller about Hannibal a few years ago and you tell that he was genuinely touched that I enjoyed his macabre program so much. One cool thing that happened last year is that we were all hanging out at Panther field and Billy Riggins himself told us that they filmed the scenes at East Dillon just on the other side of the Panther locker room. They just painted it red to make it look like a different location.But please note that this festival is not a comic con-type setting, so there are no guaranteed photo or autograph booths around. Sometimes your faves will just vanish after a panel or screening and there’s nothing you can do about it. Yet just another reason not to come for just one thing. If you see someone fancy in the wild, just be cool and maybe give them the good ole’ Bradley Whitford nod. Yes, Connie Britton and her hair are just as beautiful in person as you’d expect, but cool it, y’all. Be kind and respectful above all. (That’s also just general good life advice, you guys.)
I married a man who collects Star Wars toys and video games so this one is like a personal favorite of mine. The best part about this festival is getting to nerd out on some very specific television shows and the minute details we all obsess over online. But the cool part is that we get to do it in person! Also, bonus: you already have something in common with the people you’re standing in line with, so no more icebreakers! Every year I go to the festival I leave with more friendships in place and it’s just so cool. I’ve met many great people through this fest and the memories of our time together will forever stay with me. So don’t be afraid to nerd out on that show you like and that ship you’re too afraid to talk about online. You’re in a safe place with a bunch of other weirdos you’re going to fall in love with.
Dont’ Forget To Eat
A simple way to do this is to just make sure you have at least one screening at the Alamo Drafthouse and you’ll be covered. But seriously, it’s a fast-paced environment so don’t forget to take care of yourself.
There’s The Perfect Amount of People!
I’ve lived in small towns (1,200 people), graduated from a small high school (five, including me, in my graduating class), and went to a small university (less than 2,000 people) so I’m comfortable with small crowds. I like small crowds. I could never do SDCC or SXSW because the sheer amount of people there just frightens me. A perfect day to me is one where I don’t have to leave my house. But this festival has just the right amount of people attending. No panel feels too big or intimidating. You’re probably not going to feel overwhelmed. It’s quite awesome. Even the biggest venue holds less than a thousand people. Pretty much everyone hangs out at the SFA hotel lobby and bar during breaks. As the festival grows in name, they still sell the same amount of tickets each year so that it doesn’t become another SXSW for which I am thankful. It’s cool to see the same faces around year after year, too.
Be Okay With Scheduling Changes
Before I get to ATX I have it in my mind exactly what I want to see and do. I use their handy app to create my calendar and just know that I’m going to do it all. I don’t. It never happens. The lack of sleep catches up on you or you just need some time to breathe. Either way, take care of yourself. If that means skipping out on something you really wanted to see because you need to go to your hotel room and just get out of the heat that is totally fine. They film everything anyway so even if you didn’t get to catch it live you can still relive it at a later date. Don’t worry about not doing it all. Yes, this is a fun weekend but it shouldn’t add stress to your life. Breathe, relax, and just enjoy your time.
On Sunday everything is over. I have a six hour drive and have to be at work on Monday morning, so I’m one of the ones who has to sneak out a little early. Plus, like, I miss my family and don’t like being away from them for longer than necessary. Come Sunday everything runs a little slower and there’s an almost somber feel over the fest. Most likely you’ll be returning next year, so instead of goodbye you’ll do a little “see ya later” and you start the trek out of Austin. The best thing about the festival is definitely the people. Whether you’re a first timer or an oldie, you’ll never have a better experience with a better group of people. I still tells stories from my first time at the festival and it never fails that someone else will join in and remember the exact same experience.From one fellow television fanatic to another — this is certainly a not to be missed weekend. Come for the television, but stay for the people. Also, the food’s pretty good, too.