Our Opinion

If there was ever any doubt that the Deerfield Valley – and all of southern Vermont – should throw its full support behind the Independent Television and Film Festival, the recent visit from a well-known car manufacturer should help put that to rest.

Representatives from BMW were in East Dover recently to show off how BMW’s new i3 model handles hills with its special technology.

The car is built using a large measure of wind power and hydropower and is created from largely sustainable materials, which are at the same time very light, very strong and very futuristic, according to Matt Russell, technology communications manager at BMW of North America.

He said the car was designed to be a city commuter, but the company wanted to prove that it can also maneuver good on windy mountain roads. The plan was to film the i3 navigating a specific course for a marketing video to be shown during auto shows and on the Internet.

Adding even more notoriety to BMW’s visit, auto racer Bill Auberlen, said to be the most winningest BMW-sponsored racer, was on set for the filming.

Some local businesses got a financial shot in the arm since BMW representatives had taken up an entire inn for two nights and they were eating and drinking mid-week, a time known to be less busy in Dover. Plus, imagine how cool it will be for folks in Dover when they see the commercial to be able to say, « That’s my hometown! »

And to think, it all started from connections made during ITV Fest over the last two years.

The festival’s executive director, Phil Gilpin Jr. was approached about the project after hosting BMW Car Club’s « Oktoberfast » at the Dover-based festival. He said the event brings 50 to 60 of the company’s vehicles to town.

The two Vermont producers who shot a promotional video for the Car Club at ITVFest were later asked to find a suitable mountain course. They called Gilpin, who immediately got on the horn with Dover Economic Development Director Ken Black to get permission from the Selectboard to close Holland Road, Cooper Hill Road and Rice Hill for three hours last Wednesday.

As Gilpin observed, « This is a great example of how having something like ITVFest brings a major international brand to town to film a commercial. These are the ways that bigger things start to happen. »

It’s good to be able to show people the tangible benefits from the ITVFest, especially since it has gotten off to a bit of a slow start here in Vermont.

The festival was first held in 2006 in Los Angeles and had grown into quite a success. But despite its profitability – and the seemingly ideal proximity to big-name Hollywood studios – ITVFest organizers decided they would be better off away from the bright lights and big city life so they could focus more on showcasing the world’s best independent talent.

That’s when they came to the « quaint mountain valley » – as described on the ITVFest website – of Dover, Vermont. And when you go to the website you see a picture of the town’s Route 100 business district and links to area travel and lodging sites.

The first year in Dover was rough, with some disappointing attendance and sponsorship results. People in the area simply didn’t know what to make of all this TV glitz and glamour.

The festival reported more losses last year, and still less than desired local attendance, but to its credit the town has been offering what financial support it can. This past fall the Selectboard approved a $25,000 events grant for the festival and agreed to match other sponsors, with funding capped at $50,000.

And festival organizers haven’t given up on this location; they’ve committed to keeping the festival here until 2017. The contract will be renewed as long as there is not two consecutive years of audience decline. With continuity guaranteed for at least the next two years, organizers have been able to secure more sponsors and financial partners to help expand marketing efforts. Hopefully that will help generate even more sponsors and boost attendance.

Gilpin has often compared ITVFest to such well-known events as the Sundance Film Festival and the Telluride Film Festival, and he has grand visions of the local event growing to similar fame.

« There’s something special brewing here, » he said.

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