Our view: Bringing productions, youth, to Manchester

While the glitz and glamour of Manchester's inaugural Independent Television Festival (ITVFest) has begun to fade, the experience can provide some valuable insight into Manchester's future — specifically when it comes to town goals like attracting more young workers and their families to join the Northshire community, increasing tourism, and developing a nightlife in downtown Manchester.

In the past week, Manchester saw more than a thousand visitors — many of them millennials — pouring into town for ITVFest. While that influx of tourism is likely to have an impact on commerce, support found by the festival within the Manchester community proved mutually beneficial, according to festival Director Philip Gilpin Jr.

"From our perspective it was so beyond anything that we could have imagined, because this is the first time in the 12 years of the festival that we've had a full community behind it," said Gilpin. "It's a very exhilarating, exciting, and unique time for us at the festival where we feel like we can accomplish anything because we have the community support."

With next year's festival already in the works, as well as a number of educational initiatives and retreats, what's not to love? In the town of Manchester's 2017 Town Plan, specific goals like attracting more youth to Manchester to live and work, and developing a nightlife downtown, are identified as priorities. Manchester got a taste of what that future may look like this week with a drove of (mostly) millennials swarming the outlets, networking, and partying the night away at Seasons.

Overwhelmingly, we've heard a positive response to the energy that these visitors brought to Manchester (though maybe not the traffic.)

"The nightlife was so fun," said 23-year-old resident Carly Reilly about the festival. "It was like we were bar hopping in Manchester, which I've obviously never done. From a young person's perspective that was really awesome, and I really enjoyed having that."

It's not just Manchester's goals that could be bolstered by ITVFest, however. Gilpin has already heard from attendees that many are seriously considering making a permanent home in Manchester, and with the Vermont Production Council (VPC) working to bring more filming projects to the state, our community could become a hotbed of creative activity — moreso than it already is.

The relationship is so mutually beneficial it's almost astounding that initiatives like this haven't been pursued seriously in the past. Filmmakers can utilize the beautiful natural landscapes available in our state, and spend a lot less in the process. (The VPC created a short film "The Land," as a proof of concept — while the project would have cost close to $100,000 to shoot in New York or Los Angeles, according to Gilpin, it cost only $40,000 to shoot in Vermont.)

At the same time, both the state and local economies could benefit in the process. These projects are likely to hire locally as often as possible when it comes to crews, locations, and vendors, according to the VPC. Even workers in construction, utilities, and related fields could see business bolstered.

"This is a green industry, it's an independent industry, and it fits with the fiber of Vermont and it's pioneering and independent spirit," said Jennifer Rutherford of the VPC. "It provides a lot of workforce opportunities for young folks not just in the film making business, but there are also a myriad of opportunities to work alongside it."

Additionally, the festival provides a pipeline for local youth aspiring to careers in the entertainment industry — without having to move to New York or Los Angeles. Youth retention is a major issue in our state, and Manchester is not exempt from that trend. With a top-of-the-line cinematography program at Burr and Burton Academy, and proposed educational initiatives from both ITVFest and the VPC, embracing this industry encourages at least some of our local youth to build their lives here.

"Encouraging students to continue to make projects is really what the festival is all about," said Gilpin. "It's really important that we have everybody in town realize that you can now with ITVFest in town go straight from being a student in the area to having your shows screened at a professional festival without having to move to L.A. or Hollywood or New York after you graduate."

Gilpin says that ITVFest is here to stay in Manchester, and we're glad to hear it. The festival has proven itself as capable of increasing tourism, stimulating commerce, and attracting potential residents to the Manchester community.

Let's take that momentum and run with it.


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