[2024] Interlude 02

I’ve been in Austin, TX for a week primarily to attend the ATX Television festival but also just because I like Austin (and bbq, tacos and dive bars – of which Austin has plenty.)

The biggest challenge has been the weather – it has rarely dipped below the mid 30s but the humidity has been incredible – it is like walking through soup. There have been a couple of serious storms with lightning, rain and winds but it didn’t clear the air at all.

It is also my first trip away properly since my recent health issues – this has meant no beer (unheard of on one of my solo trips) and as the wine has been consistently shit and expensive I’ve been subsisting on bourbon and diet cola.

I’m staying in a brand new CitizenM – its only been open since February – but it somehow feels creakier than some of the older hotels in the chain I’ve stayed in (I know some people aren’t a fan of the hotels but I like the carbon copy little rooms and all the barely curated art). That said the rooftop bar with pool is lovely (when not swarming with Crypto Kids – there was a huge conference here Tuesday to Friday and it felt like I was the only non Blockchain Bro staying here – there was even an NFT event on the premises.)

Some highlights —>

Went to see Furiosa. Weird experience as had cinema to myself, staff didn’t event check my ticket or really acknowledge I was there and when I left nobody seemed to be there at all. That said I loved the movie – it was a real thrill ride…though I do think George Miller played a little bait and switch with Anya Taylor-Joy in a similar way as he did with Tom Hardy in Fury Road. It is less her movie than it is Chris Hemsworth’s – his performance is a lot of fun – but I really enjoyed it.

Got to see a restored 35mill version of The Godfather Part II at the beautiful Paramount Theatre to celebrate the movies 50th anniversary. It is such a special film but god it is LONG! They even had an intermission.

I went to four screenings with Q and As at the festival – only one for a show I’d usually watch. Interview with a Vampire really did look like a movie on the big screen, Industry is a show I had given up on during season one and the season three premiere didn’t convince me I was wrong. Pretty Little Liars was the most Gen Z thing I’ve ever encountered – it is like the show is written and edited to be experienced via TikTok clips – the cast were really sweet though. Hacks was great but watching the season 3 finale before I have seen any of that season was probably an error!

Friday I went all in on ‘insider’ panels including one about adapting books into TV shows, one about TV procedurals and a showrunner ‘summit’. These were all fantastic but I was especially taken by the parallels of the role of showrunner with being a Product Lead – the shift to worrying about things like recruitment, budgets and morale alongside the skills that got you there and the need to delegate and trust people if you are to succeed without burning out.
Also Graham Yost is definitely a man I’d listen to a lot more – especially with his Elmore Leonard stories.

Oh and I also went to another very ‘inside Baseball’ panel about the strikes which was quite an eye opener – especially the real issue of AI that is still looming in the creative industries.

Three sessions I went to ended up being actor duos being interviewed – I’d never heard of Vella Lovell and Grace Palmer or seen their show ‘Animal Control’ (because it isn’t available in the UK as far as I can tell) but they were really sweet, open and honest. Annabeth Gish and Constance Zimmer were a different kettle of fish – actors with amazing IMDb pages over many, many years who it turned out made a fab double act despite not much history. Zimmer was FUNNY and feisty while Gish was thoughtful and open – the pairing was extremely entertaining. The final double act was Adrianne Palicki (of Friday Night Lights and The Orville) and Austin Nichols (John from Cincinnati and Julian from One Tree Hill!). They are one week into filming a movie together in Austin so it was really great of them to be the ‘mystery guests’ and I enjoyed hearing their perspectives on a whole range of topics.

The main reason I attended was the Halt and Catch Fire reunion with a few of the cast and the creators plus the Suits reunion as well. Halt is one of my all time favourite shows so it was brilliant to hear from the folks on stage about how the show came together, what were their favourite memories and the legacy of the show. It would have been nice to have a couple more of the cast there for sure (was notable that there were zero Lee Pace anecdotes but endless ones about Mackenzie and Scooter.) but Kerry Bisho (Donna) was so passionate and insightful it was really quite moving. It was clear the show had meant as much to her as to the fans in attendance (though she was vocal about how it had ruined other TV work for her and now she gets more from a side hustle in science and tech communication!).

The Suits panel was PACKED – almost 700 people apparently! I gave up on season 3 so a lot of the references went over my head but Patrick J. Adams, Sarah Raffety and Dulce Hill (who I didn’t know was in it) were so charismatic and engaging it was impossible not to be drawn in. Nobody mentioned Meghan though!

Anyway I have 24 hours before I fly home (and I have the whole week to recover from the inevitable debilitating jet lag) but I have had a really fantastic time and am already thinking about coming back next year. It has also been nice to be away from the election chaos at home and some of my current professional existential crisis navel gazing.

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