Make it possible for storytellers to make a living they love from where they love living.
The TV & Film production industry is a multibillion dollar sector of our national creative economy being decentralized by the digital revolution. Communities can now diversify their local economies by incorporating it into their educational, workforce and economic development plans.
Why support this industry? Jobs in science, technology, and arts. Local economic impact. The importance of storytelling in our culture. Perhaps the most compelling reason is local talent often has to move away to pursue their dreams. If they can't, career paths and dreams are abandoned. Important stories that should be shared go untold. People bury their sense of intrinsic growth and lose their ability to believe that their story matters. This no longer has to be the case.
Catalyst empowers storytellers by lowering the systemic and economic barriers between creators, audiences, and industry. Over the past 17 years, our work has supported more than 20,000+ creative voices while generating tens of millions in local economic impact.
We strive to catalyze a community's development of its own sustainable production industry. Because the production industry can seem foreign to many communities, it is critical that locals lead the process while Catalyst provides logistical support, industry expertise, connections, and guidance. Specific outcomes are set by the community.
EDUCATION: HIGH SCHOOL, COLLEGE & PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Establish local educational opportunities to create industry entry pathways. Lower existing barriers to entry.
CIVIC ENGAGEMENT: COMMUNITY ASSETS & PEOPLE
Collect data on existing resources and identify areas of greatest need. Create a development plan.
ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT: CREATING A PRODUCTION ECOSYSTEM
Building a functioning local production industry of public, private, and philanthropic sectors working together.
ARTS & CULTURE: GROWING VISIBILITY OF THE REGION'S ARTISTS
Benefits of production can include increased exposure and investment in communities where projects are created.
The organization was founded in 2006 by television producers AJ & Jenny Tesler, and was originally named ITVFest, the Independent Television Festival.
Websites such as YouTube were just launching and streaming video was not seen as a valid competitor to traditional television networks. Industry access was tightly guarded by a few gatekeepers who kept it closed off to new voices & creators, especially in new formats such as short series and independent television projects.
During the festival's 7 years in Los Angeles, it began to down these barriers between the industry and a new generation of creators who were independently producing their own narrative stories.
Many discussions at the festival focused on the future of the industry and how the internet and TV would soon be the same thing...
By 2012, streaming had begun its rise as a serious economic competitor to the existing TV network & studio system.
With the fundamentals of the industry quickly changing, the festival needed to adapt its approach as well. Philip Gilpin, Jr. took over as the organization's Executive Director in late 2012 and moved the festival from Los Angeles to Vermont.
Vermont's rural foliage setting allowed creators and executives to escape the busy city lights, relax, and develop working relationships focused around storytelling.
As the industry was opening up to new voices creating their own series, deals began to happen and a core community of thousands of creatives, executives, and industry talent began to work together...
As the festival's global community of creators & executives continued to grow, the industry simultaneously accelerated its shift away from traditional TV. Our organization needed to adapt again.
Creators were rapidly entering the indie TV space and an entire generation of young adults had now grown up in the post-network TV era. However, the TV industry still lacked educational and professional development opportunities.
Our organization expanded beyond the annual festival and now offered a year-round institute for storytellers to accelerate their careers: the Catalyst Story Institute was born.
Minnesota offered the right homebase with the infrastructure and resources to support not just the annual festival but also year round productions and educational programming.
Launching the new institute program was only the first step in achieving our mission of making it possible for storytellers to make a living they love from where they love living.
Simply creating a new career pathway for creators did not remove the barriers they face in their personal and professional journeys. Many do not have the time, travel, and financial means to visit Minnesota each year. We needed to meet artists where they are.
In 2023, Catalyst began its regional expansion with partnerships in Lake Placid, Minneapolis, and Nashville. These regional hubs bring Catalyst closer to artists by putting our programs within a 6-hour drive radius of over 100,000,000+ Americans.