TV and web collide for premiere Vt. film fest

The locations for leading film festivals sound familiar: Park City, Manhattan, Telluride, le sud-de-France. Southern Vermont? Not so much.

But this September, two nearby towns-Dover and Wilmington- are about to become host to a premiere festival all its own.

A West Coast transplant, the Eighth Annual Independent Film and Television Festival (ITVFest) celebrates the digital age’s merging of two mediums-television and web-to give independent filmmakers the opportunity to show their work for hundreds of viewers and rub shoulders with industry insiders, according to executive director Philip Gilpin Jr

“We are television and web based,” Gilpin said. “In that universe there aren’t many high-level, credible festivals for people to show their work at. I don’t know of any festival in the region with this level of talent outside of New York City.”

This year, ITVFest received over 170 television, web series and film submissions from over 14 countries that were selected by the festival’s panel. The confirmed guest list as of June 26 included the social media editor of ABC News and the head of production for the Michael Cera and Sarah Silverman web operation

The history of ITVFest, as recounted by Gilpin and the festival’s website, is a colorful one: Noticing a void in the festival world for independent television, actor, producer and writer A.J. Tesler (readers may remember him as playing the recurring role of Ron on ABC Family’s “The Gilmore Girls”) co-founded the festival in 2006 that was based in Los Angeles for the first four years. 

Past panelists have included writers and executives from major television networks and shows such as “The Sarah Silverman Show”, “Reno 911” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” according to an ITVFest press release. 

Though the festival has gone through several iterations over the years, including an ill-fated merging of ITVFest and a Comic-Con style  festival in 2011 (“That didn’t go well,” Gilpin said), the opportunity for a new venue and new management came up in 2012, allowing Gilpin to take the reins on the most recent incarnation. 

Despite its curious location, Gilpin said the move to Vermont is exactly what ITVFest needed, calling it “a breath of fresh air.”

“People are wondering if this has made the festival more or less exclusive,” he said. “But it’s still focused on trying to bring together the world’s leading artists. We think this setting is more conducive to that task, because this is the only thing happening in a half-hour drive versus a place like New York, where you may walk down the street and see another festival.”

While ITVFest has been around for almost a decade, the marriage of the Internet and television over the past year may have become culturally relevant to an unprecedented degree: House of Cards made history as being the only web-based series nominated for an Emmy and the creators of Arrested Development chose to stream the final series on Netflix. 

By last week, he said ticket sales for ITVFest were in the hundreds (the festival’s organizers are aiming to sell about 1,000 altogether), while VIP tickets had climbed to 170. 

In spite of ITVFest’s professional, exclusive atmosphere, Gilpin said festivals of this kind have been the jumping off point for many filmmakers and television writers’ careers– making it a must-attend event for UVM’s aspiring artists. 

“They should be here more than anyone else,” he said. 

The Independent Television and Film Festival will be held Sept. 26-28. Passes range from $59 to $299 for VIP. For more information, visit