Banff pumps TV fest

Evolving event offers communication, education

TORONTO — Organizers are expecting the 19th annual Banff Television Festival to be the biggest yet.

As of Thursday, 1,350 TV execs and up-and-comers have registered to attend the five-day shmooze-fest in the resort town of Banff, Alberta, running June 8-12.

“Last year we were astounded to push over 1,500 delegates,” says festival communications manager Fran Humphreys. “This year we’re budgeting for 1,800 at the outside, but we expect somewhere around a 10% increase.”

Festival CEO Pat Ferns says the event has grown and evolved into four events in one, which is why he’s calling this year’s the “choose your own festival” festival.

First it’s a conventional festival, with everybody who’s anybody in Canadian TV and many from the U.S. and abroad in attendance, headed up by the Rockie Awards presentation. Of the 989 programs entered from more than 40 countries, 81 have been nominated from 19 countries.

Next, with over 60 seminars, workshops, panels and master classes, Banff is an opportunity for both greenhorns and the old pros to keep learning about their craft.

This year that includes an international co-production component, a U.S. pay/cable focus with representatives from Disney, Viacom, Time Warner and Discovery, and a salute to British television.

Getting off the ground

Banff is also a coming together of all the elements necessary to getting an idea off the drawing board and onto the tube.

In addition to all the casual mingling, there’s the “Take a Decision Maker to Breakfast/Lunch,” sessions, giving delegates a one-on-one chance to buttonhole top TV execs.

“We’re trying to preserve the democracy of the festival,” says Ferns, “so the emerging producer can rub shoulders with the chairman of the BBC.”

And this year there’s a new technology component. “It’ll focus on how technology is changing the way we make programs,” says Ferns.