Come to think of it, I was there for Sundance’s early years, too, when their showings were screened in tiny Salt Lake City venues like the The Blue Mouse Movie Theatre in Salt Lake City and the Tower Theatre, and the audience was a mix of film makers, film buffs, and high school and college students. From small beginnings….
This year’s first ever television festival was made up of a similar mix to those early Sundance crowds, with a few more families thrown in. We didn’t make it to the first day’s events, including a screening of the newest episode of “Royal Pains”, but we did go to the screening of local favorite “Friday Night Lights”, held in the parking lot between Jo’s Coffee and the San Jose Hotel on South Congress. About 300 people showed up with folding chairs and blankets to meet FNL cast members, snack on goodies from Sweet Leaf Iced Tea, Cornucopia Popcorn, and more, and then settle down to watch the show on the big screen. The crowd applauded as their favorite characters appeared on screen or local spots appeared (yes, as Austin newcomers, we were lost!)
On Sunday, we attended screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse, and met more members of the festival staff. The highlight for us was the screening of an episode of Firefly, and a chance to meet and talk with the writers Ben Edlund and Jose Molina. Geek heaven! There were also panels on Saturday and Sunday where industry pros and industry hopefuls could share information and ideas about televisions production, program development and scripting.
Festival creators Emily Gipson and Caitlin McFarland were on hand throughout the weekend. Emily told me that the festival was created as a way to offer the television industry a way to showcase their art form…one that often takes second place to big screen productions. It’s also planned as a way to allow fans a way to honor their favorite shows and performers.
Plans are already underway for next year’s event. “We’ll review the results of this year’s festival, and then start planning,” said Emily. “We plan to be back next year with even more.”