ITVFest expands focus
DOVER >> In five months, the Valley Trail will look like a red carpet rolled out for filmmakers, network executives, actors and actresses at the 11th Annual Independent Television and Film Festival.
Attendees can expect even more this year.
"We're going to create an entire virtual reality world experience this year," festival Executive Director Phil Gilpin Jr. said. "We'll have new toys and devices people can come and play with."
Just like years before, projects will be shown on screens in tents at the Dover Forge, the movie theater known as Memorial Hall for the Center of the Arts and other places along the paved trail on Route 100 in West Dover. But more than screenings and awards will be available to attendees.
One of the sponsors, IndieGogo, will be offering seminars on crowdsource funding. Other talks will focus on social entrepreneurship.
"It's going to be a business and networking industry conference. In the mornings, we're going to be having a writers' retreat where you get to work with former television show writers," Gilpin said. "The scope of the festival is expanding into more of a round-the-clock convention this year. It's going to be bringing in a lot of people."
More parties are also being planned. And more days were packed into the festival's schedule. The event has now been moved to October after some scheduling conflicts involving the Emmys award show and the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah. Previously, it had been held in September.
ITVFest is slated for Oct. 5 to 9.
"I know it's impossible for people on the ground in Vermont to feel it and realize it, but out here in the independent television world ITVFest has consolidated a lot of the artists and the executives and networks," said Gilpin. "I know of no other festivals in Vermont or New England where artists and networks come together and make these levels of connections."
"Whatever Linda," the ITVFest winner for Best Web Drama in 2015, was picked up by The Mark Gordon Company with "Orphan Black" co-creator Graeme Manson set to serve as executive producer. This marks the first time ITVFest has had a show purchased by a major producer since the festival moved to Vermont in 2013.
"Unlike in the film world where a film gets picked up and goes to video on demand or film, television and web is different," said Gilpin. "That show's going to be in development, however long it takes."
The rights to the show are now owned by a major producer. A network has not yet purchased it. This is the goal of any independent television creator, Gilpin told the Reformer.
The deal did not happen just because of the festival accolade. The show's creator Hannah Cheesman was working with people from the production company for a long time, Gilpin said.
"It just shows the quality of shows. Winning awards at ITVFest helped them get notoriety and gain some steam," said Gilpin.
According to Gilpin, four projects are currently slated to be purchased by production companies or their creators have had meetings with networks. He looks at the festival and the other events tied to it as a pipeline within the industry.
Monthly screening events and seminars have promoted the festival in New York City, Boston and Los Angeles. On June 3, HBO Vice President of Programming Alex Fumero will be answering questions at a forum in New York.
"There is a good little group that's starting to break through," Gilpin said. "In the history of television, there has never ever been an independent television show that has been picked up as is and put on network television. That doesn't happen yet. There's always a development process."
He pointed to HBO's signing on as a cash sponsor this year as evidence of the pipeline being built.
The network visited the festival last year.
"They checked it out and loved it," said Gilpin. "They will be back this year with more executives. It means we have a closer relationship with them now."
Gilpin, who previously worked for HBO in business affairs, said his history with the network did not help establish the relationship with the festival at first. But when he ran into executives at a conference in 2013, they remembered him.
"I still had to go and earn it," he said.
Another festival sponsor, Akyumen, is set to launch publicly in July. The technology company produces tablets with built-in television projectors.
Their sponsorship has been "a huge boost," said Gilpin.
"In the months of February and March, we raised as much sponsorship cash revenue as we did in nearly all of 2015 combined," he said. "The acceleration of sponsorships coming in with the success of the last few years is definitely picking up pace."
The National Academy of Arts and Sciences of Boston and New England is partnering with the festival again. Gilpin said the academy has added a new web category to its Emmy awards and the group is now looking to come up with a special prize for ITVFest. And with its connection to the colleges and universities in the region, he added, the academy is assisting the festival with an ability to reach a lot of professionals in New England.
By the end of July, Gilpin expects to announce other big sponsors.
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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