WEST DOVER -- If you favor Kardashians over creativity, style over substance and A-Lists over artistry by all means think twice about going to the Independent Television and Film Festival.
But if you’re like the rest of us, the Independent Television and Film Festival is worth tuning in to.
Celebrating a fresh start, the ITVFest is being held for the first time in Dover and Wilmington and features some five dozen independently produced comedies, dramas, documentaries and films just crying for wider distribution to the TV and web audiences.
Featuring the work of industry insiders flexing their creative muscles alongside gems from up-and-comers, the festival runs Thursday, Sept. 26, to Saturday, Sept. 28, screenings each day at five venues, live music and comedy, panel discussions, vendors and other family- and audience-friendly offerings.
It’s a chance to discover content and artistic voices that don’t yet have a mainstream audience, but should.
"The heart of ITV is based on the quality of work the independent artists produce. In the TV and web world, there is no avenue for new, provocative, edgy and high-quality work," said Executive Director Philip Gilpin Jr., who took the reins of an event that had lost its way and moved this year to Dover.
"This is a renaissance for the festival, and that was the reason for the move," said Gilpin, who used to work at HBO. "ITV is less about celebrity, less about having your picture taken and more about high-quality."
Pitched that way, Vermont is the perfect fit for a festival that needed to get back in touch with its organic, creative roots.
The catch is, those roots have a limited time to take hold in Vermont. The contract for the festival, which is now in its eighth year and had previously been held in Los Angeles, requires that ITV sell 1,000 passes (multi-day passes run for $79 and $59). If it doesn’t meet that goal, the festival board can choose to move ITV elsewhere. If it does, it can stay in Vermont.
Gilpin wants it to stay, and believes ITV can grow to become something like Sundance East, but with a uniquely Vermont flavor. He’s been working with officials in Dover and Wilmington and throughout the region and state, touting ITV as an unprecedented economic opportunity, as well as a cultural boon.
"I think next week’s going to be a love affair. People here are going to fall in love with ITV, and ITV is going to fall in love with them," said Gilpin, who urged local folks to come on up and cast their vote (by buying passes) for a chance to have economic opportunity and artistic integrity work together to create an important and lasting regional success story.
"You need to pitch in on this now," he said. "This is all or nothing."
Of course, a call to pitch in only works if you’re selling something worthwhile. Gilpin is banking that he is.
The festival is a showcase for independent TV and web creativity from a variety of voices. ITV received 176 submissions from 14 countries and selected 58 of them in varying subjects, styles and running times (one entry runs 90 seconds; the longest is a two-hour documentary).
Festival events take place in the heart of Dover Village and in Wilmington Village at the Dover Forge, the Hermitage, the Dover Theater, the Sawmill and Memorial Hall. Festival screenings run from noon to 8:30 p.m., all three days, with a special Awards Gala on Saturday evening.
The goal is to help these independent TV and web content creators connect with industry executives, who will be in attendance (and staying and shopping in the area). In its eight-year history, the festival has an established track record of doing so.
"This is a festival that draws people who are currently working in the industry and who have their own work to show, and people you have never heard of who will blow your mind," said Gilpin. "I’ve got 30 of those."
The goal, also, is to entertain festival-goers and celebrate the courageous creative voices who are producing high-quality independent work.
"The raw dirty secret of it is we look for things that have a quality of something we would feel confident walking into a pitch meeting with," he said. "We’re looking for that diamond in the rough."
At a time when broadcast TV, cable, internet content providers and other players are all jockeying for position in a changing landscape with billions of dollars at stake, ITV is positioning itself to be an important player in providing content for people who need it.
"I definitely see the ITV Fest as the town square for people to come and talk about what’s happening in the TV and web world," Gilpin said. "We don’t claim to be an oracle. ... We’re definitely giving that conversation a place to be had."
As part of the festival, there are a number of panel discussions planned in the Dover Forge tent, including "The Great Merging: Teleweb and Weblevision" on Saturday, Sept. 28, at 1 p.m.; "Independent Art in the 21st Century" on Friday, Sept. 27, at 6 p.m.; "The Business of Acting in the Digital Age" on Sept. 28 at 3 p.m.; "Being Funny to Pay the Bills" on Sept. 27 at 4 p.m.; and "Constructing the Final Image" on Sept. 27 at 2 p.m.
The list of panelists includes actors Dylan Bruno of "Numbers," "NCIS" and "Saving Private Ryan" fame; soap opera actor Michael Rodrick; and Rob Barnett, founder and CEO of My Damn Channel.
Other entertainment includes music and comedy beginning at noon all three days, featuring Colby Dix, The Peter Miles Band, Natalie Mishell and Co., I Love You, I Love You, Jeff Campbell and more.
Festival passes are $79 for all three days with access to all screenings, music stages and panel discussions; $59 for Friday and Saturday, with access to screenings, music stages and panel discussions; a Gala three-day pass for $159, which adds admission to the Awards Gala; and a $299 VIP Pass, which adds access to VIP parties.
For more information, visit www.itvfest.com.