ITVFest Brings Hollywood To Vermont

This year marks the third year The Independent Television and Film Festival will be held in Dover. For seven years the festival took place in Hollywood, but the executive director decided to move it out of the busy city to a Vermont mountain town.

In its third year here it's seeing more submissions and getting more support from the growing industry. The festival attracts all kinds of hopeful producers looking to get their big break, including independent web TV producers that show their work to representatives from HBO, CBS, Starz and Indiewire. The festival runs Sept. 24-27.

When executive director Phil Gilpin first pitched the festival organizers about the idea of moving the Hollywood event to Vermont, their response was: “Where’s Vermont?”

Gilpin jokes that he explained to them the location was only three and half hours north of New York.

“They just didn't believe that it was going to work, because the town only has one movie theater and the festival takes a minimum of three screens in order to operate, as we have to be showing so many shows simultaneously.”

Hollywood comes to Dover

Gilpin says the solution was to build theaters in tents in Dover.

“We're sitting inside them you'd never know you were just sitting on a tennis court in the middle of Vermont somewhere,” he says.

Even with the logistics and the infrastructure taken care of, Gilpin says raising the money hasn’t been easy. The first few years he financed the expense out of pocket.

“With Hollywood you can't go small. I couldn't just do a one-screen festival and invite major networks to it.”

Gilpin says submissions for the festival have increased in recent years.

“Every artist that comes here has their own goal, whether what they want is to be able to find a financer or studio or a network,” says Gilpin. “So for example maybe a network likes a director from a show but they don't necessarily like the show itself … they may think the director would be great for another show.”

The perks of Vermont

Gilpin says small-town Vermont has advantages over big city festivals. In places like Manhattan and Hollywood, the executives and artists get pulled in many directions, and are often booked with other meetings.

But in Dover, he says “every artist, every network, every producer that's here, they know that when they're walking around town they're crossing paths with like-minded people. So it acts as not just a destination festival, but also as an industry retreat.”

Gilpin says attendees end up making better relationships and forming better professional contacts from casual conversations around coffee shops.

Plus, he adds that the festival is purposely held in the fall to highlight one of Vermont's most beautiful times of the year. Gilpin says the festival is drawing a new young artistic crowd that otherwise wouldn’t come to Vermont.

“Some people have even decided to stay and purchase summer homes or condos or they come back to the area to ski in the winter, so it's been an excellent marketing tool for southern Vermont," he says.

Gilpin says the festival has put the town on the map among entertainment festivals. Dover was recently listed as a top festival for web television alongside big city festivals in London, New York, Vancouver, and Los Angeles.

ITVFest to launch new online network

Beyond the four-day event, Gilpin says he’s working on launching a new ITVFest network online. He says it would showcase the work of high quality independent web television creators who are creating content “that it rivals anything that you see on TV currently.”

“They just haven't reached your cable box yet and they're sitting in this independent world. It is sometimes difficult to find online because there are so many thousands of individual projects out there,” says Gilpin.

The four-day ITVFest runs Sept. 24-27, and is open to the public. A one-person day pass costs $49 and gives the ticket holder access to all the screenings that day.