Written by: Super User

Submission Trends

As all of you know, we’ve just recently announced the selections for the 2016 ITVFest. This year, we received more than 460 submissions – the most ever! After watching all of the submissions several times, I wanted to share with you some of the things that stood out.

Year after year, I continue to be amazed by the quality of the shows being submitted.  For those that think you have to spend millions to create excellent episodic television - it’s just not true.  Easily five percent of the shows submitted this year could be broadcast worldwide immediately by any existing network. Another 15% really stood out because of the quality of the production.  The advent of high-quality, low-cost technology has leveled the playing field. Today, we are seeing TV pilots produced on $15,000 that are more entertaining and engaging than multi-million dollar shows on everyday TV.

After watching hundreds of indie pilots each year, certain trends begin to emerge among the content produced and submitted from all across the world. These trends often follow successful shows on network TV. For example, a year after the Walking Dead aired on AMC, there was an uptick in zombie shows submitted to the festival.

I would caution filmmakers to remember networks don’t want what they already have, they are looking for the next great thing.  Selfishly, the most exciting part to me is being one of the first to discover a new show, something that no one else has seen before. 

This year, the trend was "dry comedies" set in apartments.  This led to a surge in submissions in the TV Short Comedy category this year. This category always receives the greatest number of submissions, probably because it is the simplest and cheapest to write and produce. This year, we received even more submissions. With only a certain number of screening slots available in that category, the competition for a slot was tough.  We received fewer submissions in the TV Drama category but the quality of the shows was superb. 

My biggest takeaway from this year’s submission process is how much independent TV is growing. There are many similarities to the way the indie film movement exploded in the 1960s and 1970s. We are seeing great growth in both the quality and quantity of shows coming in.  Yet, similar to the indie film movement, TV creators are finding difficulty in breaking through the existing studio system. It’s leading to increased focus on self-distribution methods such as

YouTube, Vimeo, Snapchat, and others.  And the audience is following.  As of today, more than 50,000,000 viewers having watched a small fraction of the shows that have come through ITVFest. That's a lot of eyeballs choosing to watch indie TV.

To Independent Content Creators

Eleven years ago when the first video was broadcast on YouTube, a radical power shift occurred in our industry: we could now self-distribute our stories directly to viewers around the world. It forever changed the art of storytelling in the digital age.

It also led to our greatest challenge: monetization.

We know in our hearts how important our work is but making a sustainable living from it remains elusive. There have been a few financial successes, however, thousands of independent series find no viable financial path – even some with millions of views! This frustration is shared among new and veteran Content Creators alike.

The solution: a community of overwhelming force.

Money flows to where the people are. The overwhelming force of comic fans drove big money into comic based properties. It is now our turn to prove that there exists an overwhelming force of fans in love with our stories, so ITVFest has created a time and a place for powerful buyers to see our community in action.

Content is in demand today like never before and I believe that creating a sustainable financial model for independent episodic content is the artistic cause of our time.

ITVFest is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, so this is not about ticket sales. This is about winning the cause of creating respect and livable wages for independent Content Creators.

Join us in the beautiful Vermont mountains this October to have your presence counted and prove that our creative community is an overwhelming force worth investing in, much the same way that a renegade group of independent filmmakers did in the mountains of Utah over 40 years ago.

See you in Vermont!

Philip Gilpin, Jr

Executive Director

Mary Elaine Ramsey

Mary Elaine Ramsey

Actress - Los Angeles

For Mary Elaine Ramsey, acting has always been a passion. By starting her career in New York City, she has been able to make a number of meaningful relationships in the industry. Her work on various projects in film and television while in the Big Apple have lead to where she is today. But, it wasn’t until attending an event as part of the Creative Network with ITVFest that she made what has proven to be the most influential relationship of all.

The purpose of the Creative Network is to continue the momentum of networking opportunities and camaraderie that the week-long festival in Vermont is known for - and to continue it all year long. Events have been held throughout the country over the course of the past year, including one-on-one workshops with casting directors, film screenings, and get-togethers for interested creatives, and executives alike.

“I just moved to LA, and I absolutely love it. I just feel like I fit here," said Mary.

It didn’t take long before she made contact with the ITVFest community out West, and her lead role in the independent pilot, Trouble (which was awarded Best TV Drama at ITVFest) lead her to an event with the film’s director, Sean Skelton, shortly after her arrival in LA.

“I feel like I was able to get the kinks out in New York. Having the experience that I did there has definitely helped me adapt to a new city.”

She mentioned going into the Creative Network event just like any other - she wanted to have fun, and keep an open mind.

“I was thrilled to have an opportunity to meet and mingle directly with TV and film people in LA. The timing was perfect. I had just arrived, and really needed to start getting out there. My managers had been New York based, so it was time for something new. The Creative Network event was a blast. People responded really well to it. I didn’t meet Spencer that night, but Matt handed me his business card afterward and suggested I contact him. I am excited and grateful to say that I officially signed with Stewart this month.”

And that’s the nature of these events. In an industry that most days seems hard to crack, ITVFest and the Creative Network is paving the way to engage more content creators, actors, and executives on a personal level. Just like the Festival, the community feel at these events is tangible, and it’s a space for conversations to flow. Industry execs become approachable, and projects are screened, which opens new doors for all those involved.

Stewart Talent represents a number of stars, many of which Mary Elaine admires.

“They represe nt one of the leads on the show You are the Worst, and they also represent Carol Kane, who I’ve always looked up to.”

Her accolades include roles on The Blacklist, Public Morals, Master of None, and Momsters, among a number of independent projects.

Currently, she is auditioning in LA, and collaborating with a partner on a new comedic web-series - in addition to a dramatic feature film. “Both ideas are really exciting and energizing to me.”

She also commented on the impact that being a part of the ITVFest community has had on her personal growth, and Mary is not alone in her sentiments. Everyone you talk to about the Festival has the same thing to say. It is important. It is impactful. And, it is a must for anyone looking to further themselves in the booming industry that is web television and film.

“Getting signed with Stewart Talent was a direct result of my experience and involvement with ITVFest - and as an actor, I am truly grateful for that.” 

Interview and blog by: Morgan Healey

Walter Masterson

Walter Masterson
Actor, Producer, Director

New York, New York

Perhaps one of the most unique concepts I’ve ever discussed with an artist, the creation that is Llama Cop is one for the books ­and definitely one that stands out in the world of web TV. Walter Masterson, actor, writer and producer, created the web series alongside Maxamilian Clark in 2014. “It started on YouTube...we worked on trying to sell it at first.”

Flashback to 2013, Walter represented his original webseries, The Working Dead, at ITVFest. “As I’m sure everyone does, I love Vermont in the Fall. I feel like if I can take one major lesson or one major feeling away from ITVFest, it would be that the best relationships to form are with other creatives, no matter their title.”

Through this incredible network, Walter began mingling with individuals from Starz Digital, and eventually pitched Llama Cop, which got picked up in 2015. It wasn’t long until Walter started getting to know David Katz (formerly of Starz Digital) where the web­series currently airs. “We were so happy to be promoting our series, and to get it picked up by a network like Starz was a big milestone for us.”

The Working Dead is what Walter considers an “office comedy” ­ something that wasn’t quite a fit for Starz Digital when he first brought it to the table. “It was really created around the idea of rotted zombies, petty office politics, and self­centered employees at a major corporation.”

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Cheryl Texiera

Cheryl Texiera
Actor/Producer

Los Angeles, CA

When you talk to people in the entertainment industry and ask them about their individual journeys, the answer is often similar. They have a passion, they’ve taken chances, built a network, and relied on the support of family and friends when they first took what many view as a gigantic leap of faith. The journey of Cheryl Texiera, Hollywood actress (and choreographer/ web­series producer) has been one filled with moments of unexpected good fortune, meaningful relationships, and a whole lot of determination.

One of 5 children, she always knew she wanted to act. Like many professionals in the industry, the career vision began taking shape in her childhood, leading to many years of training in the arts, particularly in acting and dance.

A New York native, she was eager to begin her acting career in the city. As a teen she was a broadway hopeful, and recalls taking the train into Manhattan to attend open equity calls. “I eventually opened a theater company in New York. I dance, and when I was asked to fly out to LA to be on So You Think You Can Dance I knew that it was only a matter of time before I moved to the west coast. It just felt right”

With an accomplished education behind her (a BA in psychology from Fordham University, and not to mention her degree from the prestigious NYU's Tisch School of the Arts) she took the flight west. “I just love the energy in LA. Its different. As much as I love New York, I was ready to try something new, and I’ve really enjoyed being here so far.”

Cheryl, who is extremely bubbly, charming, and enthusiastic, told me about the serendipitous series of events that took shape one day in LA. She was taking a class about developing acting workshops for professionals on the web.

“How it all happened was such a crazy coincidence,” she explained. “I was sitting in class, and we were all sort of going over different ideas. I made a joke about my personal life at the time, which was living the chaotic life of a bride­to­be. Then, one girl turned to me and said ‘I would watch that’ ­ I didn’t know that this would be the beginning.”

Confessions of a Bitter(Sweet) actress, Cheryl’s comedic web­series began to take shape shortly thereafter. “I remember going home, roughly scripting out a monologue, and within 2 episodes it morphed into me playing off of myself.” Her initial idea, Confessions of a Bride­to­Be (and Confessions of a Bartender) allowed for her current series to take flight.

“It was shortly after that when the ‘magic’ happened. A friend of mine, Howard, asked me if I would be submitting the show to any festivals...”

And then came ITVFest.

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Brett Elam

Brett Elam

Actor / Writer

Being an “idea machine” is something that almost all of us in the creative arts can relate to. Finding purpose for a project, and passion to get it started is the very root of what allows industry content creators to do what they do best.

For Brett Elam, actor, writer, and “Nashville boy turned Los Angeles” ­ creating comedic content is truly second nature. Teaming up with fellow writer and producer Joshua Logan, Brett has put forth a number of different projects, including Old Town, their comedic web series. “It is really just fun and unique. Sometimes when we pitch it to different people, we get the response that it is kind of weird...but also really cool,” Brett explains. “We always say that if you’re looking for the next Two and a Half Men, that this isn’t it.”

Brett has done a number of things over the years, including commercials, sketches, film acting, and improvisation. As an artist, and a writer, Brett is familiar with both sides of the process when it comes to producing content.

“People often say that writing is really just a long process of re­writing. The hard work comes when we get critiques and feedback, and have to apply everyone’s notes. That’s when you really have to be committed as an artist. It is always way easier just to start something new and fresh.”

Lucky for him, his multi­faceted talents have lead him to another very interesting, and very successful career path. When he is not acting or creating, you can find Brett on tour with country music super star Kenny Chesney during five months out of the year. Chesney has his own Sirius XM radio station, and Brett manages his sponsorships, and has been doing so for the past 13 years. “It's really an extreme path, one way or another,” he describes. “When it comes to content creation, we are really always on the verge of something happening, which is great. It is definitely an emotional rollercoaster.”

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Jessi Shuttleworth

Jessi Shuttleworth

Actor, Writer, Producer

For Jessi Shuttleworth, actor, writer, and producer, creating Scabland Productions, LLC was truly a process of going back to her roots. The Scablands region of Eastern Washington is a place that she knows well, and many of her scripts, including February are based on the stories and characters who embody her three “key” elements of grit, backbone, and depth. “I was living in NYC at the time, but starting a company that was aligned with that region ­and that was committed to telling these stories ­felt perfect.”

Shuttleworth had heard about ITVFest while submitting February along the festival circuit. “It sounded like a phenomenal festival, and I felt tremendously lucky that my film was an official selection.”

After attending Saint Michael’s College in Burlington, Vermont (and studying with renowned theatre professor Cathy Hurst) Jessi was extremely proud to return to Vermont and screen her first professional film.

“I had written February, but couldn’t find a production company to produce it. So, I decided to start my own.” This type of enterprising spirit truly embodies the grit and depth Jessi refers to as the bedrock of her company, and her film’s mission. “I’ve been producing films since 2010.”

In addition to February, her feature All That You Wanted is in development, along with two other short films in pre­production. For Jessi, the most rewarding part about these projects is that she feels she is creating something bigger than herself. “It’s wonderful to have a large group of multi­talented filmmakers coming together and having conversations about craft, collaboration, and story. I met multiple filmmakers at ITVFest I’ve called upon for advice and many who I’d love to work with professionally.”

When asked about her biggest challenge in producing the 2015 ITVFest selection for Best Short Film, Jessi mentioned that finding a school to film in was far from easy.

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How to Get a Show on HBO

By Benjamin Lindsay

Audiences aren’t often given a behind-the-scenes peek at the executive minds of HBO, but that’s exactly what attendees at the Jacob Krueger Studio got with the “First Fridays” Q&A event June 3 with guest Alex Fumero, HBO’s new vice president of programming. Co-hosted and moderated by iTVFest and Executive Director Philip Gilpin, and put on in partnership with Akyumen Technologies, this evening with HBO filled to capacity with screenwriters, actors, and other creatives eager for insight on navigating the industry.

Throughout the two-hour event, Fumero emphasized the importance of having a distinct story and voice when selling a product, which often calls for well-rounded, multi-hyphenate creators.

(http://www.backstage.com/advice-for-actors/how-get-show-HBO/)

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ITVFest Expands Focus

By Chris Mays

In five months, the Valley Trail will look like a red carpet rolled out for filmmakers, network executives, actors and actresses at the 11th Annual Independent Television and Film Festival.

Attendees can expect even more this year.

"We're going to create an entire virtual reality world experience this year," festival Executive Director Phil Gilpin Jr. said. "We'll have new toys and devices people can come and play with."

(http://www.reformer.com/latestnews/ci_29905609/itvfest-expands-focus)

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ITVFest: Fostering the Next Generation of Television and Web Series Producers in… Dover, Vermont?

By Michele Meek

Sofia Coppola’s doing it. So is Steven Soderbergh. And Woody Allen.

It feels like on a daily basis, there’s another report of an acclaimed writer, director or actor making a TV series, or a Netflix or Amazon production. Television, it seems, is where it’s at. So it should be no surprise that a festival like the Independent Television and Film Festival (ITVFest) has been gaining traction in the industry.

Every fall, ITVFest showcases independently produced television shows, web series, multimedia content and short films. ITVFest’s mission is not only to screen content, but also to connect writers, producers and actors with executives, buyers and casting directors in the industry. Executives from HBO, Warner Bros., CBS Interactive, and Starz Digital were among some of the industry representatives in attendance this year.

(http://www.moviemaker.com/archives/festivals/itvfest-dover-vermont/)

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