DULUTH – For its first year in downtown Duluth, the Catalyst Content Festival navigated a torn-up Superior Street that saw hundreds of attendees taking long detours to jump from theater to theater for panels, screenings and workshops.

This year the indie TV-focused fete is navigating a pandemic — with venues closed, that means Catalyst will be all digital.

For a pay-what-you-can donation that funds scholarships for the organization's Story Institute, Catalyst will send a link to screenings and panels that will be available from Oct. 2-16.

"What we're doing next month is a little virtual event," said Executive Director Philip Gilpin Jr. "It will be nice to bring everybody back in 2021."

Formerly known as ITVFest, Catalyst moved to Duluth from Vermont last year and ran a wide range of events meant to highlight independent web and TV series and put them in front of agencies and executives. There were about 1,100 attendees at the five-day event in 2019.

Since the pandemic shuttered theaters with no reopening date in sight, Gilpin has been working on Catalyst's year-round educational efforts that now have 200 students, about 40% of them from Minnesota.

"We took the last six months to really focus on launching the Story Institute component," he said. "People understandably saw us as a festival event first or a festival event only, but now we really get the chance to introduce the institute."

Efforts are still underway to create greater incentives for film and TV productions in Minnesota. Gilpin said it's an obvious choice for a region that has struggled with layoffs amid the pandemic.

"The worst thing Duluth could do for itself is let the arts scene collapse," he said. "The cascading business effect of not supporting the arts scene immediately and to a scale greater than it was before COVID could have devastating effects on the region for generations."

Brooks Johnson • 218-491-6496