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May 06, 2015

TV-Q and BBQ

Festival takes an intimate look at television with a side of Texas ribs

Christine Champagne

When Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson studied the festival schedule a few years ago, they realized there wasn't one event dedicated solely to television akin to the Sundance Film Festival - a gathering distant from the industry's coastal hubs.

"It was mind-boggling to us," McFarland says.

So the industrious pair, who had met while working as assistants in LA.'s film and television scene, decided to launch the ATX Television Festival in 2012 in Austin, Texas.

The plan came to fruition after the pair raised more than S27.000 on Kickstarter and sought advice from a board that included directors Betty Thomas (Netflix's Grace and Frankie) and Richard Linklater (Oscar winner Boyhood) and showrunners Kyle Killen (ABC's Mind Games) and Julie Plec (CW's The Vampire Diaries).

The goal was to launch an intimate event featuring screenings, Q&As and panel discussions on industry-related topics that could be enjoyed by television pros as well as fans of the art and craft of the medium. The festival - which this year will run June 4-7 — has remained true to that vision.

"This isn't about star power. It isn't about huge PR stunts," McFarland stresses. "This is actually about television."

The upcoming conclave will feature reunion panels from Queer As Folk and Gilmore Girls, and the writers of Dawson's Creek will also gather to reminisce. As in previous years, a pitch competition will give the winner a chance to sell a series to one of the festival's studio or network attendees.

Why Austin? "We are both born-and-raised Texans and always knew we wanted to end up back in Texas at some point," Gipson explains. "And there are a lot of events here, so the town knows how to handle them."

The vibrant music scene and mouthwatering BBQ are among the draws for attendees, who sometimes "get together and start new projects," McFarland notes.

Says Gipson: "It's like TV camp for grownups."

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