DOVER- The ninth annual ITVFest opens Friday, September 26, at noon, and the festival’s second year in Vermont is already off to a good start, according to organizer Philip Gilpin.
This will be the break-out year,” Gilpin said. “We have new partners, the Boston chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Writers Guild of America, and Backstage Magazine, who are going to be here for the first time. I think they’re going to jump on board as bigtime sponsors.”
With more lucrative sponsorships, Gilpin says the festival can grow bigger, faster. “Ticket sales alone can’t do it.”
Thanks to the existing partnerships with sponsors, Gilpin says the festival’s marketing reach has been extended dramatically. “Last year we had a mailing list of a few thousand people,” Gilpin said. “This year, our sponsors have been sending out our daily email blasts to hundreds of thousands of people. We’ve been promoting the valley throughout the Boston, New York, and LA regions.”
Perhaps as a result of the marketing effort geared toward artists and film professionals, ticket sales have increased overall and sales of the more expensive all-inclusive passes have picked up considerably. “At this point, we’re way ahead of where we were last year,” said Gilpin. “We’re already 50% sold out in terms of seats. Last year 300 to 400 people showed up to buy their passes at the box office.”
In addition to the premium pass options, this year there are a number of lower cost options, including a $10 pass good for one screening only, a $49 one-day pass, and a $59 weekend pass for children 17 and under. The box office is located at Dover Forge this year.
For locals, Gilpin has offered a chance to help support the Deerfield Valley Community Cares heating fund through the purchase of passes online, by entering the promo code “local” during checkout. DVCC will receive 10% of the ticket price. Gilpin said that, as the festival grows, he’d like to see it give back to the community, and his partnership with DVCC is a first step.
As there was last year, there’s also local content at this year’s festival. At noon on Friday, Dover Elementary School students will help kick off the weekend with a presentation including two student-made films and a teaser from another student-made film to be shown at Dover Town Hall at 6 pm the same day.
Townshend resident Tim Lawrence, who attracted a lot of interest last year for his series on railroads called “Forgotten Rails,” is back again this year with a series called “Rail Trails of America.” In it, Lawrence and his companion, Aries the Siberian husky, introduce viewers to public recreational trails that were once railways.
There will also be a special screening of noted Walpole, NH, filmmaker Ken Burns’ latest documentary, “The Roosevelts,” on Saturday at 7 pm. Editor and associate producer Dan White, of Keene, NH, will be on hand for a question and answer session after the screening.
One of the biggest changes festival-goers will find this year is the consolidation of venues. Last year, the festival was spread out with locations in Dover, Wilmington Village, and the Hermitage. This year, every venue is located along “festival mile,” stretching from the Inn at Sawmill Farm, along the Valley Trail to MHCA’s Dover Theater at Mountain Park Plaza.
But the biggest change from the artists’ point of view may be the opportunity to connect with content buyers. Representatives from Starz, Frostbite Pictures, Omnivision Entertainment, and Streamin’ Garage will be at the festival actively looking for new content. Artists can also connect with potential projects for social entrepreneurs at the Scaling Change tent at the Dover Forge. “There are at least half a dozen people here with money in hand looking to buy shows,” Gilpin said. “That’s a huge step forward for us. Few festivals offer that opportunity.”
Much of the growth in interest from content buyers and artists is thanks to last year’s success, Gilpin says. Last year’s attendees went home and told their peers about the festival, and the valley. “That’s how we ended up with the Emmy partnership, the Backstage partnership, and the Daily Motion partnership,” Gilpin said. “People went back and said ‘We’ve got to get involved in this.’ Last year the weather was perfect, people relaxed, and caught the magic. It started a firestorm in the world of indy television.”
After this year, Gilpin says ITVFest will shed its image as a small event to become a big, professional, “must go” event for the television industry, that puts the Deerfield Valley on the map. “We have something special to be proud of here, and now we’re going to be home to a major international industry event. It’s something that’s going to grow.”