A History Of The Telluride Film Festival

Thursday, September 15 by Karen Lac

The Telluride Film Festival is a small film festival that occurs every year during the fall in Telluride, Colorado. The 38th Telluride film festival will take place on September 2 to September 5, 2011. While the Telluride Film Festival is small compared to others, it makes a mark due to its commitment to promoting and celebrating niche and overlooked films. Celebrated film critic Roger Ebert proclaimed that at the Telluride Film Festival, "there is always a controversy, and always a discovery, and always a moment when you stumble…convinced that cinema is worth saving after all."

History. The first Telluride Film Festival took place on August 30, 1974. The film festival was started by James Card, Tom Luddy, Bill Pence and Stella Pence as a way to remember and celebrate hard-to-find and forgotten films. The first film festival started with a tribute to Gloria Swanson, a silent film star, and a showing of a newly restored "Sadie Thompson." Through the years, the film festival has gained fame for premiering movies that went on to gain critical fame. Movies that premiered at the Telluride Film Festival include "Blue Velvet," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "Talk to Her," "Brokeback Mountain," and "Juno."

Submissions. The submissions period for each year's festival usually ends in July. Films for the 38th film festival must be submitted by July 15, 2011 for feature films and July 1, 2011 for shorts and student films. The competition is open to amateur and professional filmmakers.

Prizes. Unlike other film festivals, the Telluride Film Festival is not a competitive film festival. Films are not submitted in order to win a grand prize but simply for the prestige and fame. The one award given, the Silver Medallion, is given not to a film judged to the best but to three persons for their contributions to the film industry. Past awardees of the Telluride Film Festival Silver Medallion include Francis Ford Coppola, Catherine Deneuve, Meryl Streep and Mickey Rooney.

Tickets. Visitors can attend the film festival by purchasing a pass in one of five levels. The lowest cost pass for the 2011 festival is the Cinephile Pass, which is $390 and provides admittance to selected films over the entire weekend as well as to the Labor Day picnic. The selected films will be a mix of classic film restorations, Guest Director selections and new films. On the other end of the spectrum is the Patron Pass, which costs $3,900, $1,900 of which is tax-deductible. Those with a Patron Pass get admission to all of the events, priority seating at all of the theaters and are considered guests of honor at two important events. While getting a pass costs hundreds of dollars, there are ways to attend the film festival on a budget. Showing the film festival's commitment that film lovers of all financial means be able to attend, there is a highlighting the festival's free events. There are also individual tickets for screenings sold for $25 each on a first-come first-served basis.

Getting and staying there. Telluride is a hard place to get to. Attendees are urged to contact Ski.com to arrange charter flights into Telluride. There are also limited flights into neighboring Colorado towns such as Grand Junction and Gunnison. The closest major airports, Denver and Albuquerque, are about 350 miles away. Telluride has several hotels as well as campsites available on a first-come first-serve basis.

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