A glimpse of ITVFest: Practice pitches, conversation starters and audience laughter

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DOVER — Feedback, inspiration and talk of future collaboration flowed freely this weekend at the Independent Television and Film Festival.

"Make it simple, make it easy," said entertainment lawyer Vinca Jarrett, who is also president of FilmPro Finance, a financial consulting service for investors and producers for funding one-off films and building film slates.

When going for financing, she suggested content creators develop short descriptions about their project or episodes with relevant social media data and information. Producer Sal Tassone stressed the importance of conducting research before sending proposals to companies. Jarrett and Tassone both spoke of states providing grants for using their locations as a backdrop. Tax credits are also available.

The television drama "Sanitarium" was pitched to Jarrett and Tassone's panel Saturday evening as a practice exercise. The original series begins each episode with Dr. Stenson, played by Malcolm McDowell of "A Clockwork Orange" fame, and ends with him commenting on the arrival of the next patient whose story will be told next episode. The show is a nod to "Tales from the Crypt" and "The Twilight Zone." Each episode is budgeted to cost $300,000.

"You should be tax credit funding for sure," Jarrett advised. "You can do a non-recourse loan. Now, you cannot fund a whole picture with this. The IRS (Internal Revenue Service) frowns upon it. And you cannot treat it like it's an investment."

Producer Mike Rotman wondered whether McDowell was attached for future episodes, and the actor was. He had agreed to a negotiable 10-episode deal.

"Always make sure you have attached talent," Rotman said. "You want to try to attach a budget. Very difficult. His agent will probably never allow it. But it's not bad to try and sneak it in if you can. And I don't say sneak it in like you don't throw it in there without him knowing. You talk to him and try to negotiate something."

A comedic web series filmed on an iPhone, "LadyTips: Tips for Ladies," was also pitched to the panel. Fourteen episodes were released on YouTube, the most popular one having approximately 3,000 views.

"I think it needs it desperately," Rotman said of the creator's poking fun at fashion vloggers, or video bloggers. "You're just having a hard time building it up? It's really hard. Everybody thinks they're going to put something up on YouTube and get millions of views. 'How come I didn't get it?'"

The idea was applauded by the panel, which suggested the creators continue on with branding in mind. Making friends with other YouTube channels with more viewers was recommended.

"February" is the first film for Jessi Shuttleworth, who graduated from the Burlington-based St. Michael's College. The idea came from a 1996 incident in her hometown of Mose's Lake, Wash.

"One of the first middle school shootings happened there," Shuttleworth said. "My brother, who was 13 at the time, was in the adjacent classroom. When the first shots rang out, he was the only student self-possessed enough in the horror at that moment to help his teacher barricade the room."

Even though 18 years have passed, Shuttleworth told the Reformer, her brother remains "very much affected" by the tragic sights and sounds. When these types of events happen, she has noticed the public's focus tends to be on who did it. She wants to shift that focus onto those affected.

Her short film was included in several other festivals including one in Austria, where it was premiered internationally. Four more festivals are coming up.

"I'm very happy that people are receptive to having this conversation and to the film," said Shuttleworth, who lives in New York City and has another short film going into pre-production. "I think that's why you go into film, writing or acting, to share something bigger than yourself. And I hope we did that with this film."

Web drama "Anamnesis" examines a murder and the concept of reality as a man learns to dream lucidly. Another web drama, "403 Forbidden," shows what constant surveillance in a 24-hour live stream could do to a willing participant.

"This is so weird," the main character says after first looking at comments pertaining to his live feed.

"Everything I do or say is out there for everyone," he says later after anguish ensues.

Other short films at ITVFest included comedies "Platform Fever" and "The Jennies." The former takes on social media marketing and can be compared to the popular television show, "The Office." The latter, reminiscent of "Saturday Night Live" skits, features two clueless women as they volunteer at a soup kitchen. Both received plenty of laughs in a screening tent Friday afternoon.

Documentaries and reality web series also were screened during the four-day festival. A Sunday gala saw a red carpet photo shoot before awards went out.

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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