By Grady Craig
This may be your first time at ITVFest in no-Man’s-land-chester, Vermont – where you’re more likely to run into a moose than a cell tower. For frequent festival-goers, the remoteness may be a deterrent, but ITVFest vets embrace this with enthusiasm. It’s an escape, an excuse, and an invitation to enjoy the shared love of film, collaboration, and creation, all in an atmosphere where honest human connection is celebrated. This is the magic of Manchester.
2017 was the first time I experienced ITVFest. I was a graduating senior who found out my university offered a 1-credit course to attend the event. I could skip class, drink booze, and talk about movies… for a grade. Easy A.
Not so simple. I was one of the few around me without a job lined up and no real clue where exactly that diploma would take me. Then, Mary Conroy and Philip Gilpin came along, touting the romantic allure of Hollywood showbiz.
Mary was the professor of the class and a program coordinator for ITVFest. She invited Mr. Gilpin, ITVFest’s executive director, to preface the event. Philip showcased everything the festival had to offer, from clips of award-winning pilots to Google Mapping the best bars to attend (last year it was Seasons). I admired his passion for the festival and the hope he instilled for anyone remotely interested in entertainment. That was the nudge I needed. I invested all my effort into heeding Mary’s advice.
These are the steps I took that led me out of Boston and into Los Angeles with an ITVFest connection and a job (thank you Steven Adams at Buffalo 8).
Study the Presenters Page
The best piece of advice for anyone planning to attend is to study the ITVFest Presenters Page. I suggest making flashcards with everyone’s headshot and including a brief note: their name, their job, and something unique about them. Nine times out of ten, you’ll be able to spot somebody you recognize and approach them with ease.
Don’t limit yourself to studying only a select few. Whether you’re a producer seeking funding or an actor seeking representation, you don’t want to find yourself whistling at the bar between a lawyer and a literary agent wondering where you went wrong. You never know who you’re going to see or where they’re going to be, so be prepared.
Double Down on Your Favorite Attendees
Choose one-to-five presenters who you think have the most interesting jobs, backgrounds, or stories. Then, dig into their company websites, their news appearances, and their IMDb pages. Learn about the films or series they worked on – both the successful and the maybe not so successful. These are the projects that are most often unknown to the public. It will come as a delightful surprise when a stranger recognizes talents or efforts that went otherwise unnoticed. Just be sure to approach the subject delicately!
Tuck Away the Business Cards
Spewing contact information is commonplace in LA. That sort of nonsense is frowned upon in Manchester, Vermont. ITVFest offers attendees an opportunity to relieve themselves of the duplicity, egocentricity, and shackles of technology that contaminate the entertainment industry. The best connections form when discussions digress from the professional level… and getting there takes time. If you meet “high-interest” attendees on Thursday, you still have until Sunday to bump into them and keep the conversation going. The first conversation you have shouldn’t be your last. Don’t spoil it by requesting a card or shoving one forward.
Just because the festival ends doesn’t mean the legwork does too. You’ve studied the presenters, you’ve mustered up the courage to approach them, and you’ve ended up sharing memories, drinks, and phone numbers with your new friends. Now, you need to stay in touch. Make a list of the people you spoke to and anything about them you want to remember (phone number, email, upcoming projects, mutual connections, etc.) Don’t seem too eager, but don’t seem too laxed. Wait a few days, let everyone return to their routine, and then your follow-up email will be a charming reminder of where they were a week prior. If all goes well, you will have successfully secured a connection, a friend, and a potential employer in Hollywood.
Good luck and see you at Seasons!
Grady Craig is an analyst at BondIt Media Capital in Los Angeles.