Catalyst Content Festival Lives Up to its Name

Riki McManus | (218) 940-3770 |

Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, and, now…Duluth? The world of film festivals is an exclusive one, but after successfully hosting the Catalyst Content Festival, a film and TV festival devoted to independently produced episodic programming, on October 9-13, Duluth is making a name for itself in the industry. Riki McManus of the Upper Minnesota Film Office (UMFO), a program powered by Northspan, played a vital role in organizing and launching the event.

The festival that became Catalyst started in 2006 in Los Angeles as independent episodic and streaming content first emerged as a niche in film and television. The industry has since exploded, with many critics heralding a golden age of television amid the high quality of content and novelistic narratives produced by filmmakers. After seven years in Los Angeles and six years in Vermont, festival organizers sought a new home and struck upon Duluth as a city with the ideal mix of a rural vibe and a thriving arts scene.

McManus called Catalyst’s first year in Duluth an unqualified success. Nearly 1,000 people attended the festival, including 700 executives and creators ranging from small and local filmmakers to major content producers such as HBO, A&E, NBC, The History Channel, and “O.” McManus adapted her Gritty and Pretty City Tour, a staple of the annual Duluth Superior Film Festival, for Catalyst in order to show off the region’s wide range of locations for filming. The festival led to immediate leads for film production in northeast Minnesota, with several filmmakers and development directors scouting the region and seeing its assets firsthand.

Catalyst’s success comes amid a watershed year for UMFO. Support from Catalyst allowed UMFO to develop a new website that better highlights the organization and McManus’ long track record of success in spurring film development across the region over the past 25 years. UMFO and Northspan thank funding partners with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation, and Visit Duluth for their ongoing support.

“The event exceeded my expectations as well as those of many others,” said McManus. “We’re going to outdo this event next year since this year turned out so well.” Catalyst returns for its second run in Duluth September 30 through October 4, 2020.