Festival organizer Philip Gilpin said ticket sales, at about 700, fell short of the level that would have guaranteed the festival’s future in the valley under his contract with ITVFest, but the event’s board of directors – as well as the attendees – loved the new digs.
“A love affair happened,” Gilpin said. “When people from LA, New York, Denmark, London got here, the comparisons with Sundance and Telluride were the first things out of their mouths. They liked that it was on neutral ground – not LA or New York. They liked the focus from new people – when they go to a festival in LA they get industry people. Locals were engaged and interested in what was on the screen. During the Q and A after the screenings, there was mutual engagement.”
Gilpin notes that the ITVFest Twitter feed was full of complimentary tweets, with nary a negative note posted.
Of the 700 tickets sold, Gilpin says about 100 were sold to valley residents, 200 were sold to second-home owners, and 400 were sold to visitors. But, based on the level of excitement from both viewers and filmmakers at the festival, Gilpin is confident that the number of attendees will continue to grow. “Now we know the floor is 700 people,” Gilpin said. “Now people know what it’s all about. Next year we’ll assume it will grow by a couple hundred people, and we’ll plan for that. If, by spring, presale tickets are flying out of here, we can expand it again.”
But there may be some venue changes in store for the festival. This year, the festival venues were designed to accommodate up to 1,300 people, and were spread out from Wilmington Village to the Center for the Arts theater in Mountain Park Plaza. For next year, Gilpin envisions a contracted event.
The “festival mile,” which followed the Valley Trail from the Sawmill venue to Mountain Park Plaza proved to be popular with festival-goers, and some participants said traveling to the outlying venues in time for screenings was tricky. Next year the festival will be concentrated along the Valley Trail.
“I want to make it more walkable,” Gilpin said, “so people won’t have to jump in a car and rush somewhere for a screening. I want to have more local vendors, more comedy shows, and more music – more pieces to it.”
As the festival grows, however, Gilpin said the Hermitage, Memorial Hall, and other venues could be added back into the mix.
Reducing the size will also help reduce the cost, and Gilpin says this year’s festival came in about $40,000 short of the $200,000 needed to break even. As a result, he even spent some of his own savings to keep the festival going – an act he doesn’t seem to regret. Some of this year’s costs were one-time expenditures for things like signage and banners. Subtracting the one-time costs and figuring in a reduction in cost for consolidating the festival, Gilpin says he’s confident next year’s festival will meet or exceed its revenue goals. In the meantime, however, a gap in this year’s funding remains. “I’m confident I can get sponsors and more buy-in for next year, but that revenue may not start coming in until March or April. The bills for this festival come due in October.”
As far as the content of the festival goes, Gilpin said this year’s enthusiasm will bring in more top-quality productions. “The artists who came to the festival, some spent their last dime on their productions, and they found their trip worthwhile,” Gilpin said. “They’ll be going back home and telling their friends about how much fun they had.”
And Gilpin says a few deals were made over the weekend – at least three that he knows about.
Townshend filmmaker Tim Lawrence, producer and host of “Forgotten Rails,” a series that looks at historic railroads, had a successful screening at Memorial Hall. After the screening, Lawrence said he was approached by someone interested in talking about the series.
Next year’s festival is scheduled for Friday, September 26, through Sunday, September 28.