When people think of SXSW, they don't immediately think of television. They think of movie screenings, revolutionary tech panels, crowded concerts, and smoky barbecue. But television has its place in Austin during the annual festival. The transitive nature of TV is such that you can see the influences of it in the interactive, film, and music sessions.
Last Saturday, Bravo held the Top Chef Transmedia Panel. This season, hosted in Texas, included an exclusive online series called Last Chance Kitchen that added an element of suspense because the winner of the web series would get a chance to return to the competition. A respectable one quarter of viewers followed the webisodes. This success will lead to further online interactions, such as a facebook game correlating with the new season of The Real Housewives of New York. . Other panels include "Integrating Brands into Social Televsion" and "Web Originals: Television's New Guinea Pigs." The latter highlights the success of Web Therapy (Lisa Kudrow's on the panel) and Adult Swim's Children's Hospital. James Poniewozik of Time participated in a panel that discussed television criticism, both for better and worse, through the medium of twitter. The growing number of interactive TV outlets will no doubt lead to future panels discussing what this means for viewers and for the stories
The relationship between television and movies is hard to ignore, as writers and directors move between one and the other. Lena Dunham, who got her big break with 2010's Tiny Furniture winning the Best Narrative Feature award, returns to Austin with her new HBO series, Girls. This Judd Apatow-produced vehicle should give Lena an opportunity to explore her introspective take on twenty-something issues. And what better place to introduce the show than at the mecca for soul-searching twenty-somethings? Coming from the opposite direction (from television to movies) is Joss Whedon, who debuted his long-awaited movie The Cabin in the Woods to rave reviews. Joss himself is an experienced movie writer, though most of his movies have been associated with his shows.
SXSW is also a chance for small-screen comedians to strut their stuff. Marc Maron's WTF Podcast will host Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development) during the festival. The cast of Bob's Burgers performed last Sunday. Lots of other popular guest stars on your favorite sitcoms are headlining the show, such as John Hodgman, Kristen Schaal, Amy Schumer, Reggie Watts, and Kumail Nanjiani. Park and Rec's Aubrey Plaza is also in attendance, promoting her new movie Safety Not Guaranteed.
In June, Austin will be home to ATX: A TV Festival. Since this is more television-centric, it's bringing in writers (Jane Espenson) and actors (Tom Cavanagh) that have their roots set in TV. This is the festival's first year and I'm excited to see what comes of it in the years to come.
Keep an eye on the SXSW news during this week to see how television comes into play. Perhaps someday TV will get its own badge at the festival.