I have attended the ATX TV Festival since the first season, and every year they have shows I love attending the festival. The festival always has multiple panels and screenings going on at the same time at different venues, which causes me (and everyone else) to only pick a few to see. In the past seasons, I’ve been lucky most of what I wanted to see weren’t a conflict. Very few times I had to make a difficult decision on which one to go to and which one I had to miss out on.
However, this is the first year ATX TV Festival only had two shows/panels I wanted to see, NBC’s This Is Us and MTV’s ‘The Evolution of Reality Television’ panel. So that meant trying new shows and panels. I had never been on this side of the boat before. I’ve always had multiple shows I liked to pick from. I was worried this would be the first year I might not actually have a good time, but as soon as I attended the first panel on Day 2, I was reminded why I love this festival.
The BFFs: A Look Into Creating and Establishing Friendships on TV panel is exactly what it sounds like. Show creators and writers discussed about the friendships they’ve created on their show, their process and character development, and what inspired them to write their friendships. The panel was moderated by BuzzFeed’s Jarett Wieselman and panelists included Mara Brock Akil (Girlfriends, Being Mary, The Game), Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (Sweet/Vicious), Kevin Falls (Franklin & Bash, PITCH), Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair (Playing House and Best Friends Forever).
The panel started off each panelist sharing their favorite tv friendships. Some of their answers included The OC‘s Seth and Ryan, Friends, The Sopranos, A Different World, Golden Girls, Designing Women, Laverne and Shirley, Gilmore Girls‘ Lorelei and Rory, and Parks & Rec‘s Leslie and Ron. The crowd agreed with these iconic tv friendships.
What I loved about this panel is how in depth the panelists go into creating friendships on their show. Although these panelists’ shows are completely different from one another, they almost agreed on what each of them had to say about the process. It all starts with writing the script. Then, the casting process begins. Once they’ve found their actors and/or actresses, the writers see the actors, not only doing a good job with their roles, but also trusting the script to ask the writers if they can add something to bring their characters more alive and relatable. Kevin Falls mentioned he saw that between Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckinridge Meyer on Franklin & Bash. They made it easier for Falls and the writers to write the scripts because of their dynamic and chemistry with each other.
Furthermore, the panelists talked about the pressure of creating the perfect friendship that is genuine and relatable. It’s not easy to do that, but they’re all lucky to have a writers’ room where other writers help relieve the pressure of where the friendship should go, what they should do next, and how to develop the relationship with their thoughts and opinions. The writers mentioned examples of what they wanted by showing their writing team scenes from other shows. For example, Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair shared they used Carrie and Samantha’s big fight about going to Paris from The Sex and The City as an example of what they wanted for their characters’ argument to be like. It was that breaking point essence Parham and St. Clair wanted to portray on their show.
My favorite part of the panel was listening to Parham and St. Clair talk about how they became real-life best friends while working on Best Friends Forever. From there, their friendship grew into something beautiful. They shared a bunch of stories like when St. Clair was diagnosed with cancer. Parham was there every step of the way, including helping St. Clair picking out her implants because she knew what sizes her boobs were and her husband didn’t. They talked about the kiss they shared and explained that their friendship has no boundaries, ha! But the most adorable part is their daughters are best friends too.
What stood out to me was how those two women said best friends are like a love story/relationship. You meet, you fall in love while spending time with each other, have stupid fights, and then you make up. Regardless of what your best friends is going through, you’ll still be there for them, even if you don’t understand what they’re going through. Women are just built to take care of one another, and you see that in a true friendship. Everything comes from a place of love. It’s why when they’re writing for their show, it feels more vulnerable because it’s their story and real life experience being told with the characters they created.
Overall, this was a great panel that had me laughing non-stop. I’m glad I decided to attend this panel. As I writer, I learned some things that I hope to use someday in my writing and that’s one of the beautiful outcomes of coming to this festival.
Photo Credit: Waytao Shing