DULUTH – The goal was to get their film into one festival. Katie Lindow and Megan McGarvey got one better.
“We had a meeting with an executive who saw our project and told us it was good work. I’m still star-struck by it,” Lindow said.
More than ticket sales or screening attendance, connections like that were the metric by which the organizers of the Catalyst Content Festival measured their success.
“Did we create those magical interactions?” said Philip Gilpin Jr., the festival’s executive director. “It was like setting up a big thousand-person blind date — and there will be many more dates.”
With about 1,100 attendees — including creators from as far away as Bali and Australia — over five days last week, the independent TV and film festival’s first year in Duluth went off as planned. And as hoped for when the event moved from Vermont and rebranded from ITVFest to Catalyst, it will be back in town next year, Sept. 30 to Oct. 4.
“Next year starts today,” Gilpin said Monday, and his main question to tackle for 2020 is: “Do we grow to 1,300 people or 2,500?”
For Lindow and McGarvey, whose film “Outsourced: The New Wisconsin Idea” documented recent program cuts at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, the environment was right for creators.
“It was a good way to connect with people who are in the first phases of their projects and to see they have all these similar experiences,” Lindow said. “It was like, ‘We didn’t have any money, either!’ ”
The executives who came got access to the content they are “clamoring for” as the streaming wars intensify, as one festival sponsor put it.
“In the past, with ITVFest, people would win awards, and that was it, nothing happened,” said Adam Bold, chairman of Los Angeles-based Abrams Artists Agency. “We’re trying to do something different.”
He said a number of artists had signed with his agency during the festival, though he didn’t have a final count just yet.
As for Catalyst’s other goal, bringing more show business to Minnesota, Bold said the exposure worked wonders, both in person and through attendees saturating social media with images of Duluth.
“The industry is going to want to be here,” he said.
But advocates like Rep. Dave Lislegard, DFL-Aurora, say more competitive incentives from the state are needed to lure productions here, and Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman’s attendance at the festival indicates there could be some traction on the issue during the next legislative session.
Gilpin said the past year was filled with doubts — “from outside, from inside” — about the move and the future of Catalyst. Now it’s just a matter of scripting the sequel, he said.
“The stage has been set.”