Cannes, Sundance, Tribeca...and Dover
Philip Gilpin Jr. is the executive director of the Independent Television and Film Festival (ITVFest), which celebrates its second year in Dover and begins Sept. 26.

Cannes, Sundance, Tribeca...and Dover

ITVFest returns to Deerfield Valley

DOVER — If Philip Gilpin Jr. gets his way, filmmakers will soon brag about being invited to Windham County much as they do about the Cannes, Sundance, and Tribeca film festivals.

Gilpin, executive director of the non-profit Independent Television and Film Festival (ITVFest) since 2012, has been involved from the start.

Established in 2006 in Los Angeles, the annual festival celebrates its second consecutive showing in Dover, Sept. 26 to 28.

Created by television producers Jenny and Adam Tesler “for and about the creators of quality content - regardless of industry status,” ITVFest touts itself as the premier festival for showcasing, celebrating, and distinguishing the world's best, independently produced television shows, Web series, multimedia content, and short films.

With the advent of the Internet and social media, and with increased public access to film production via the decreasing cost of the required technology and equipment, the majority of today's visual content is created outside the major networks and studios, the fest's organizers say.

ITVFest ( honors “independent artists becom[ing] a central force within the entertainment industry, generating their own revenue streams and fan bases solely on the merits of their outstanding talent and engaging content.”

While the genesis of these artists' works is far removed from the dominant film and television industry, the fest provides a chance for these filmmakers to achieve recognition - and a steady paycheck - from that industry.

Many major studios send scouts and celebrity panelists to ITVFest to pluck fresh talent. For example, NBC and Comedy Central bought pilots and pilot scripts, “The Colbert Report” hired staff writers, and Sony signed several Web series.

Still, ITVFest retains an independent vibe. Gilpin describes it as “South by Southwest before it went corporate.”

South by Southwest, or SXSW, is the yearly Austin, Texas music, film, and interactive conference that, in 1987, its first year, attracted 700 attendees.

This year, estimates show, SXSW brought $315 million to Austin's economy.

This isn't to suggest ITVFest's organizers reject the growth, or sponsorship, necessary for survival. But moving the festival from Los Angeles, and, as Gilpin describes, “away from the hustle and bustle of the city” to Dover, where there exists an “incredible vibe,” was deliberate.

Gilpin says that in big cities such as New York and Los Angeles, “everything else going on there” easily distracts attendees, and the event doesn't feel special.

In contrast, in Dover, “for three days the only thing that's happening is the ITVFest,” he says.

He says southeastern Vermont's quiet beauty contributes to the experience: “Everybody is relaxed and more open than in Los Angeles. People make friends [and] projects are pitched.”

Gilpin explains he left Los Angeles for Windham County in 2008 to be nearer his family, which owns West Dover Inn. On arrival, he says, his first instinct was to move the festival here.

Although this is only the second year Vermont has hosted the ITVFest, Gilpin says word has gotten out worldwide to filmmakers. Entries are coming in from as far away as Tel Aviv and Hong Kong.

The number of projects submitted nearly doubled from last year, with 150 entries. This year, 288 films were submitted and 57 were chosen for screening.

Gilpin says the quality of the productions has also noticeably increased, as have ticket sales: up 41 percent over last year.

“It's word of mouth. Friends are bringing friends this year,” says Gilpin.

He characterizes most of last year's attendees as having been amazed by Windham County's beauty. “I flew in to Boston, drove 2{1/2} hours to get here, and my jaw just dropped,” he paraphrased.

The location also creates what he calls “a natural barrier” against “those filler people” who might fail to take the festival seriously enough: “It weeds out those people who think driving two hours is too much.”

Building on a good thing

Since last year's event, festival organizers developed strategic partnerships to further the art of filmmaking and to promote social justice.

One of the new sponsors of the festival is the Boston/New England division of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS), which describes itself as “the premier and most recognized non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of excellence in television.”

NATAS is the organization behind the peer-judged Emmy Awards. Its logo, featuring the familiar statuette depicting a golden, winged woman holding an atom, will appear on the backdrop at the festival's Sept. 28 Red Carpet Awards Gala.

That'll be right next to the Dover, Vt. emblem, shoring up the pipeline to the film industry the festival is bringing to southern Vermont, says Gilpin.

Locally, ITVFest has partnered with Scaling Change, founded in part by Brattleboro's Jim Verzino, which works to gather “changemakers and filmmakers” for the greater good.

Scaling Change says on its website that it enables social entrepreneurs to turn ideas and practices for the good of humanity into successful businesses. Gilpin says he hopes that social entrepreneurs will tell their stories through films and videos and use ITVFest to affect more than filmmakers:

“Their projects can change the world.”

Gilpin also expresses confidence the ITVFest can change Windham County. His experience here points to a general consensus that the arts are good for the area - as is tourism.

He predicts that of all the new, independent television shows and movies being produced this year, the best ones will be shown in Windham County:

“This quality of event is not happening in New York or L.A. It's happening here. A major cultural event ... is happening in your backyard. It's that simple. If you want artists - international artists - and economic growth, well, here it is.”

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