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Northern Vermont University-Lyndon Students Gain Rare Industry Access at TV Fest

Northern Vermont University-Lyndon students were the first college students in Vermont to participate in the international Independent Television Festival (ITVFest) in Manchester, held in October, the country’s only such event for non-network, episodic programming.

Through NVU-Lyndon’s new course this fall, On-site Experience: Independent Television, cinema production students attended the 13th annual ITVFest, which draws 1,500 independent producers, content creators and executives from around the world. The festival features screenings, panel discussions and an awards ceremony.

“I liked that there were so many different aspects of the industry represented: young filmmakers, big businesspeople, heads of production houses and other film students,” NVU senior Brandon Hunter of Glastonbury, Connecticut, says. “They’re all very creative and supportive. They’re trying to help people with their projects. Big people were talking to small people.”

Brandon went to a panel discussion on tax credits and other incentives for the film industry in New England, saw an HBO presentation with new filmmakers and scriptwriters, and attended a pitch competition, at which young filmmakers promoted their movies to producers.

The pitch event will help him as he starts his career. “I saw the format of giving pitches and what a final presentation looks like to executives or future investors,” Brandon says. In addition to hearing tips about pitches, “I learned about putting together a trailer of a project and presenting it…so people will want to invest in it.”

The nonprofit festival, based in Vermont since 2013 and directed by Philip Gilpin, is an example of the real-world opportunities NVU-Lyndon offers students to give them an advantage in the workplace after they graduate.

“It takes students out of the classroom and puts them in front of industry professionals,” says Tim Egan, who teaches the TV course. “They see how the industry works…They get experience, insight and access.”

Access was a big takeaway from the festival for NVU senior Maureen Glover of East Andover, Maine, who is majoring in cinema production and music business and industry. In addition to learning about the business side of filmmaking, how to promote and distribute web-based content, and other essential aspects of film production, she had valuable opportunities to network with industry experts one-on-one.

In talking with actors, writers, CEOs, producers and directors, Maureen got career tips about how to maximize an internship and promote her work after she graduates. “I got a lot of advice about what people in the business look for,” she says, “and creating a portfolio of work to show what you’ve done…so
they can know your talents versus just having a resume on a piece of paper.”

She plans to follow up. “I got their business cards and made contacts with people out in L.A.,” says Maureen, who chose NVU-Lyndon for its cinema production program. “They told me, ‘If you need anything, contact me.’”

The experience students gained and connections they made at the festival could lead to related jobs in Vermont after they graduate. ITVFest is affiliated with the Manchester-based Vermont Production Council, which Gilpin founded to promote filmmaking in Vermont. “We want to bring enough of the TV and film industry here year-round, so there are enough jobs available here for students to work in TV and film. It’s nothing short of bringing in an entire new industry” to the state, he says.

One of the council’s aims is to keep young professionals in Vermont. “We’re helping to draw students to NVU and keep them in the state because there’s now an industry here for them to want to stay for,” Egan says. “Students will want to come to NVU if they know the industry is involved with the school.”

Brandon was drawn to NVU in large part because of the cinema production program, “a major that’s pretty rare around New England,” he says.

The festival provided an eye-opening look at the film industry that helped prepare him for his career. “I really saw how big these productions are, how much work goes into them,” he says, with production, casting, budgeting and other aspects. “It’s more than just going out there and shooting.”