And the festival may stay in Dover for many years to come. After 2017, as long as attendance numbers do not decline over two consecutive years, the deal automatically renews in perpetuity. But even if attendance numbers happen to decline over a two-year period, it doesn’t automatically mean the festival will leave Dover – the festival board may decide to keep the event in Dover. “If attendance plateaus in 2018 or 2019, that’s okay,” Gilpin says. “I just like the fact that we’re talking about 2018 or 2019.”
The two-year stipulation means Gilpin and the valley won’t lose the festival because of low attendance thanks to a one-time occurrence like a rainy weekend – or worse.
The festival was initially slated to return only if ticket sales reached a goal of 1,000 passes sold. Although the ticket sales and revenue fell short of the goal, the festival’s board of directors immediately signed on for another year in Dover based on the level of excitement from industry attendees and spectators. “When people came here, they really got it,” Gilpin said. “They saw that it fit.”
In the festival’s release on the agreement, founder AJ Tesler is quoted from an interview at the awards gala at the Hermitage Inn praising the move to Dover. “It makes the entire festival about the work, the art and the effort – and that’s the spirit of the festival.”
In October, the Dover Selectboard also signaled their ongoing support for the event, approving Gilpin’s request for funding just a few weeks after the first festival.
Gilpin says the latest five-year-plus agreement gives him some leverage to negotiate sponsorships and deals on a long-term rather than year-to-year basis.
Farrell Distributing, of Burlington, recently signed a three-year sponsorship agreement with ITVFest. “As soon as we signed the deal to keep the festival here until 2017, the conversation with Farrell turned from next year to the next three years. This gives me time to really create partnerships that will last for years.”
In a release, Farrell Distributing’s marketing director Ryan Chaffin said the company is “thrilled about the opportunity and looking forward to watching this wonderful event grow year after year.”
Backed by sponsorships and with much of the legwork already established for last year’s event, Gilpin says he can focus on growing the event. “There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work like finding tent companies, shuttle buses, and bathrooms – that’s already done. Now I can spend the year marketing and advertising in New York, Los Angeles, London, and Europe, as opposed to worrying about where the tents are going to come from.”
But for 2014, at least, Gilpin won’t spend as much time or as many marketing dollars to go after Deerfield Valley attendees. The number of local festival-goers in 2013 was disappointingly low, particularly after Gilpin put in an effort to get the word out to locals through print and radio interviews and advertising, direct mail, public meetings, and door-to-door contact with business owners. “It just didn’t return dividends,” Gilpin says. “I chose to focus on the local aspect because I live here, work here, have friends here, and I’m invested in the local economy. I wanted locals to appreciate this as something that genuinely wants to become part of the community.”
Already Gilpin has turned his attention to urban areas along the East Coast, as well as the West Coast home of the entertainment industry, Los Angeles. “We’re going to get a better response from places like Boston and LA, and that’s where the energy is going to be spent,” he said. “And there isn’t anybody in the valley who doesn’t know about it. And now that they’ve seen and experienced the festival, they don’t have to take my word anymore.”
Gilpin has already spoken to students and professors at his alma mater, Boston College. “They’re going to use ITVFest as an opening retreat for film students every year, they’ll bring up busloads at a time. A radio DJ from Boston is talking about bringing their social club up here.”
For Dover and the Deerfield Valley, the festival’s benefits may extend well beyond the weekend of the event itself. Gilpin says the festival is a year-round business that has the potential to grow into a significant economic driver in the valley.
He compares the potential impact to that of Sundance on Park City, UT, or the Telluride Film Festival on Telluride, CO. Both are internationally-known destinations thanks to their film festivals.
“People go to Telluride because they’ve heard of it,” Gilpin says. “This (ITVFest) is something the valley can be known for 365 days a year. This isn’t just something that comes into town and goes away, we have an office here and hire people here. It’s exciting to have ITVFest as a permanent economic development cornerstone for the valley.”
For information visit www.itvfest.com.