Like the annual Sundance Film Festival in Utah, the itvfest will offer an opportunity for film and television fans to see what’s new in independent television and film making. And in addition to the actors, directors, and producers who have a vested interest in the event, Gilpin thinks it’s going to attract people from around the Northeast, including local residents. “We’ve been aggressively marketing the festival,” Gilpin says, “from local media in Vermont, Boston, and New York, social media sites, and sites like Groupon and Living Social. It’s one of the biggest advertising campaigns to feature Dover and Wilmington – second to the campaign after Tropical Storm Irene.”
In addition to the public marketing campaign, Gilpin says he’s also targeted people in entertainment and related business. He was recently invited to speak to a crowd of about 1,000 film industry insiders about the festival. And he and his staff are contacting every theater group, art school, and university on the East Coast, and issuing press releases to every publication in the Northeast. “If there’s an opportunity, we’ve been jumping on it,” Gilpin says. “It’s a major push.”
Gilpin, who owns Green Mountain Marketing Group, met with valley business owners at Memorial Hall Monday evening to discuss the upcoming festival and its impact on the valley. This year the festival will celebrate its eighth anniversary, and its first time on the East Coast.
The festival was launched in 2006 by Gilpin’s friends, television producer Adam Tesler and his wife Jenny Tesler, in Los Angeles. Initially, it included television, film, and web content. “It was launched at the same time as YouTube,” Gilpin noted. “Nobody knew what to expect from the web at that time.”
The festival grew, and eventually the Teslers contracted production of the festival out to a company that refocused it as more of a pop culture celebration, Gilpin said, and interest from artists and producers waned. The last year of the contract was 2012, and Gilpin saw a chance to revive the festival’s original character, and bring it to Vermont.
“One of the big questions was, in moving it from Hollywood to Vermont, is that going to kill the festival?” Gilpin said. “They were making about 40 to 50 selections (for screenings during the festival) and getting a few thousand people. Last year, the festival in Los Angeles got about 11,000 people per day.”
Gilpin isn’t expecting 11,000 people to show up for the first year in Vermont, but he says the move has been well received, even by people on the West Coast. “People are excited to be coming here, they’re already asking where to stay, where to eat, will there be foliage when we’re there. People are even more interested in the valley than I expected them to be. Some people have told us they’re glad we moved it to the mountains of Vermont because they’ll get a vacation from the city.”
Gilpin said this year’s festival has also attracted more project submissions from Europe, which he attributes to the new location. “They usually get two or three European projects,” he said. “We picked up 14.”
Overall, the number of project submissions is down from the 200 to 300 that the Los Angeles festival received. But Gilpin said the 176 submissions he received indicated to him that the festival, which is one of only two independent television festivals in the United States, still held the attention of people in the industry. And, he said, the quality of the submissions was so high, this year’s festival will offer 60 screenings to festivalgoers, more than previous festivals.
But the festival includes more than television and film screenings at various venues around the valley. The festival also includes discussions with actors, directors, and producers; vendors; specials at local restaurants; and music. Gilpin says the main action will be along Route 100 in West Dover, or “festival mile,” as he calls it.
“People coming into Dover along festival mile are going to see huge tents at Layla’s Riverside Lodge and Dover Forge, vendor booths, and the movie theater. It will be a little like the Blueberry Festival.”
In addition to “festival mile,” there will be a tent at the Cooper Hill Inn for screenings, and other screenings will be held at Memorial Hall in Wilmington. Each of the screening tents will have a tiered, solid floor and be large enough to seat about 300 people. Each tent will also have a bar, and ticket holders can hang out in the screening tent to listen and participate in discussions with producers, directors, and actors. But Gilpin says he expects festivalgoers will spend plenty of time visiting local bars and restaurants, as well.
“People are going to come into town, and figure out where they want to go to see this drama or that comedy, and maybe they’ll go next door to eat. A lot of the restaurants will have acoustic acts or standup comedy in the evening. Some people may want to watch a couple hours of screenings, then go hike Haystack. People attending screenings at Memorial Hall may have lunch at Jezebel’s and shop in the village. We’re going to encourage people to get out and see the area.”
Festival passes are already on sale, available at www.itvfest.com. There are four pass categories, ranging from a two-day $59 weekend pass to a $299 VIP pass with access to all events, including VIP parties and red carpet events. And for locals, Gilpin has teamed up with the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce to offer a $60 dual pass for admission to itvfest as well as the Vermont Life Wine and Harvest Festival (www.theVermontFestival.com) on September 20 – 22.
“We don’t want people to think that, because Hollywood types are coming in, they have to hide for three days. Just the opposite, there’s going to be a lot for everyone to see and do,” Gilpin said.