ITVFest down in the valley
DOVER -- From Memorial Hall to the Hermitage Club, people gathered in tents, restaurants and hotels for events related to the Independent Television and Film Festival, which was held throughout the weekend.
"I was thrilled," said ITVFest organizer Phil Gilpin Jr. "I think it was a huge success."
He said that as people arrived in the Deerfield Valley, from places such as Los Angeles, New York, London and Denmark, they were likening the location to the Sundance and Teleride film festivals. It was the most rewarding part for Gilpin.
"The weather cooperated and there was the foliage. The quality of the content was amazing," he added. "All in all, I thought it was a success."
The 8th Annual ITVFest was held from Sept. 26 to 28 in Dover and Wilmington. It was the first time that the festival was held in Vermont. Many of its attendees were hopeful that it would return to the valley next year.
On Thursday night, elementary school students and their families met in the Dover Forge tent to watch the Civil War anthology, which last year's Dover School fourth-graders put together along with their teacher Michael Degnon and technology specialist Greg Montgomery.
When Degnon introduced the film he made note of the students' collaborative efforts and how they had been included in each step of production.
Throughout the weekend, live music was performed on a stage at Layla's on Route 100 in Dover. Local musician Colby Dix played solo sets. Vermont band I Love, I Love You" played as well as the Peter Miles Band.
Comedians, such as Willa Noonan, Peter Martin and Ryan Doone performed at the West Dover Inn.
The Dover Theater, which had been a vacant movie theater, opened up one of its rooms as a screening venue for ITVFest.
One attendee commented on how other venues had been colder on Friday afternoon. The following day, the sun was out, providing more warmth for the screening venues that were outdoors, such as the tents at the Dover Forge and Sawmill Farms.
Founder of the Hermitage Club Jim Barnes took to the ITVFest Awards Gala's red carpet, where interviews were held at the Hermitage Inn. He said it felt great to be part of such an event that spans the two towns and showcases the different parts of the valley.
The inn had been used as a screening venue throughout the festival as well as the location for the gala, which was being filmed for a live stream on ITVFest.com.
Several filmmakers commented on the scenery that accompanies the Deerfield Valley.
"We're having a great time," said Jennifer Weedon, who came up with the idea for a web series that she also stars in called "Slummy Mummy."
Weedon discussed making the independent web series on a very small budget, which was a theme of the festival. She said being an actress with a musician husband living in Gramercy Park in New York City had provided her with enough material to begin writing a script.
Filmmakers on the red carpet generally agreed that southern Vermont was a great place to have ITVFest.
"I had people asking me where to get real estate brochures," said Gilpin. "People loved how friendly everyone in town was. I had a friend in the industry who said it was one of the best festival experiences."
Gilpin said there was a connectivity between the valley and the filmmakers, partly because there was only one festival of its kind in the area.
With Los Angeles and New York, there are similar events happening at any point of time. People from those cities, Gilpin said, felt that this new location made for a mutual playing field between the creators from both coasts.
One thing Gilpin had miscalculated was the participation outside of the valley.
"We had more people show up from Boston and Connecticut and elsewhere. I drastically overestimated the local attendance. We barely had 100 locals turn out from Dover, Wilmington, Bennington and Brattleboro. That was where the gap was," he said. "There was a very strong local contingent but it was small. The volunteers and supporters were amazing."
Gilpin likened the experience between the locals who participated and the filmmakers to that of a first date.
"Sparks were flying everywhere," he said. "The locals that did turn out loved being able to see the actors and directors in person doing the questions and answers. And all the actors and directors loved having a local general audience that wasn't all industry folks. People really cared about the stories and work they were doing."
As Gilpin walked around the festival, he thought the valley was the right location for ITVFest.
"We got a winner here," he said. "My heart is set on bringing it back here."
Although the 1,000 tickets needed to bring the event back to the valley were not sold, the festival's founder, A.J. Tesler mentioned in a tweet that the festival had been restored to what it was back in 2008. That was when Tesler last ran ITVFest. He told Gilpin that it was about the artists again.
Submissions for next year's ITVFest will be accepted starting in November. The festival may or may not return to the Deerfield Valley but it will live on, Gilpin said.
"There's a couple of difficult but legitimate questions to ask. Do we risk hosting it in an area that did not come out and support it the way it needed or do we move it? Now that it's got its credibility back, do we fight the fight here, just to get local participation or do we take it to another place?" he said.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.
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