Production grants have film crews gearing up to shoot in Dover
by Rolf Parker
Jul 13, 2015 | 7252 views | 0 0 comments | 67 67 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Assistant director Cody Signore, left, fits a prop on the hand of “Ascendants” director and writer Don Schecter. They will be filming in Dover later this year.
Assistant director Cody Signore, left, fits a prop on the hand of “Ascendants” director and writer Don Schecter. They will be filming in Dover later this year.
DOVER- If you see groups of people wandering around town with microphones and cameras, they might be members of one of four production companies who won a Dover Production grant. The crews from these companies will be coming to Dover to shoot footage thanks to the work of Independent Television and Film Festival (ITVFest) executive director Phil Gilpin Jr. and the Dover economic development department. The four production companies who won grants this year are Mom Cave, Thompson Films, Caterpillar Event, and Charles River Media Group.

Gilpin, who relocated the ITVFest to Dover from Los Angeles in 2013, says that he got the idea to entice video production companies to shoot in Dover based on a need he saw. “Some states such as Louisiana offer tax credits to video production companies. This is different from those programs, this is a grant.”

Vermont Department of Economic Development Commissioner Joan Goldstein agreed that while there are specific grants from the Vermont Arts Council for individual artists, including filmmakers, the state has no program such as Dover’s. In fact the state does not have a permitting process for video and film production companies, she said. “We just recently got a request for assistance with permits (from an out-of-state production company). They asked what permits were needed to film in the state, and I explained that none were needed.”

“With the lack of a film commission in Montpelier or an agency specifically dedicated to promoting the creation of films in Vermont, it’s good to see Dover leading the way,” said Gilpin.

Dover Economic Development director Ken Black said that Gilpin brought the general idea to him, and he presented the idea of a pilot program to the selectboard. The pilot program will be evaluated after this year’s trial run. “I think that this could be very successful. I think that this could explode, and many more production companies could come here and bring thousands of dollars to Dover,” said Gilpin. Black is hopeful, but more reserved in his assessment. “We will have to see how it turns out,” he said.

The money for the grants comes from Dover’s 1% local option sales taxes, not from property tax. Grant recipients are required to select lodging and meals in Dover, and must provide receipts from local establishments in order to receive the first half of the grant. They receive the second half of the grant after they complete a video.

Black explained that he and Gilpin conferred about which production companies would be awarded a grant. “I had certain criteria and he had certain criteria. I wanted people who had a track record, who had successfully made videos before. I also looked at how many people they would be bringing to town, at their budget, and at samples of their work and the quality of that work. Interestingly, we each made our selections separately, and when we got together, it turned out that three of the four that we had chosen were the same.” Eventually they were able to agree on the final grant winners, Black said.

Besides requiring the companies to provide receipts from local businesses, the final edits of the videos must include the text, “Filmed and sponsored in part by a grant from Dover, Vermont” and include the town’s official logo. There is no requirement to set the story in Dover, or to have scenes be readily recognizable as having been shot in Dover. “We just want them to come here,” said Black.

This year each grant is for $3,000. This amount is small compared to what many video production companies spend, but for those companies operating on tight budgets, it can represent a large portion of what they need to complete a project.

Thompson Films owner, videographer, and editor Katie Shannon said that she was able to complete the entire first season of the web series “K&A” for a little over $7,000. “We shot and edited this ourselves and do a lot of things that help us keep our expenses low.” Shannon said that her company has to be flexible while they use a script, because some of their best work comes from being open to improvisation, at which the actors, Ashley Elmi and Audrey Claire Johnson, excel. She estimated that they might be in Dover for about five days to shoot video.

Don Schechter, president as well as a director and writer for the Charles River Media Group, said that the grant represented a relatively small amount of what was needed to shoot, but that it had another benefit. “We have filmed three short films (as part of an anthology) already. Each one had approximately $15,000 in hard costs, which included additional equipment rentals, food, and location expenses such as rentals for warehouses, tunnels, and so on. This is nothing compared to the hours donated by the cast and crew - which right now is in excess of 50 people.” The real value of the grants comes from the fact that they can be used to help generate valuable publicity about the company and its series of short films, said Schechter.“One reason we decided to do it (apply for the grant and come to Dover) was that every reporter that sees it can then go on to write a story about it, and about our work.”

The four production companies will be working on very different projects while in Dover. Thompson Film’s “K&A” is a comedy about Karly (straight) and Alex (lesbian), who are “dysfunctional, day drunk, and doomed in their co-dependent friendship.” Shannon laughed as she tried to explain the episode that Thompson Films will be working on while in Dover. “The episode is probably going to be called ‘Gay Camp.’ It turns out that the camp in the country is a conversion camp and it is a surprise (to the characters),” explained Shannon. The short episodes heavily feature the two main characters having conversations with each other.

The Charles River Media group first created a two-hour science fiction pilot about a future where the afterlife is proven to exist, at least for some people. “There are two classes of people, and a hierarchy,” explained Schechter. While the company shoots video in Dover, they will be working on scenes from one of the short films that is part of the “Ascendants Anthology” series. These scenes are meant to “flesh out the complex mythology created” during the creation of the original pilot, and take place over 40 years.

While in Dover, Schechter said that they would be working on a piece of the story which was “relatively short and sweet. We will probably be there for about four days, maybe more. We are still working on what we’re shooting where but to give you a general sense, the short is called ‘Serein’ and the description from our site is ‘As the world of “Ascension” begins to take shape, this story follows a young man returning home to confront the death of his father and face the girl who got away.’

“We will definitely be shooting exteriors in and around the town. Depending on what we can arrange we are interested in filming in a bed and breakfast for a few key scenes, and then a restaurant or a bar, and so on,”

The four companies will be coming to Dover from many different cities. While Charles River Media Group and Thompson Films will be coming from the Boston area, and Mom Cave’s Jennifer Weedon Palazzo is based in New York City and members from Caterpillar Event will be coming from Ohio.

Caterpillar Event describes itself as “passionate about film and (we) enjoy collaborating with other filmmakers who share our drive and enthusiasm.” Their 2012 film “Mouthful,”which was written and directed by Robert Putka, premiered in competition at SXSW Film Fest.

As its name suggests, Mom Cave specializes in creating videos designed for moms. The company describes its comedic pieces as being between three and five minutes long and “perfect for watching on your iPhone while late-night nursing or on a ‘sneak break’ in the bathroom.”

Mom Cave co-creator, writer, and producer Palazzo said that while the group was not specifically looking for a northeast locale to shoot in, they were glad to get a chance to do so. Mom Cave’s “Double Leche,” which features “awkward and funny moments in breastfeeding, and “Slummy Mummy,” “a narrative comedy about a new mom who can’t live up to the perfection of her mommy nemesis, were selected for the 2013 ITVFest. “We’ve been really creative about finding budget-friendly locations for our shoots.”

Palazzo said that they typically bring five to 10 people on a shoot, but sometimes just two or three. “It’s all about flexibility and creativity.” She also explained that sometimes they can review the footage from the first day before shooting on the second. “It all depends on the number of pages for the day and how the shoot goes. Ideally, we review all the footage each day but sometimes our days are so packed, we don’t have time. And, remember, we are all parents, so our time is limited.”

Palazzo’s face may be familiar to those who have attended previous ITVFests.“We’ve attended the last two ITVFests and love the area. It’s beautiful. The people are incredibly creative and friendly. So we’re psyched to come back,” said Palazzo.
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