A Brief History of the Telluride Film Festival

The annual Telluride Film Festival takes place over Labor Day weekend in September each year and is hosted in Telluride, Colorado. It has become a hotly anticipated event in the calendar of film festivals. It all started in 1974 when it event was founded by The Telluride Council for the Arts and Humanities. Those involved included Bill and Stella Pence, James Card, and Tom Luddy. The event is operated by The National Film Preserve.

From 1995 onwards, this film festival has awarded a special medallion each year to a non-filmmaker who has made a significant impact on movie culture, either in America or internationally. Some recipients of this award include Janus Films, Ted Turner, Milos Stehlik, HBO, and Postif, a French Film magazine.

When the Pences retired in 2007, Gary Meyer and Julie Huntsinger were hired to run the event alongside Tom Luddy. Julie Huntsinger was also appointed as Executive Director of the festival. They then partnered with UCLA TFT in 2010 and this partnership led to the creation of FilmLab. This is a program focusing on the industry and art of filmmaking and ten filmmaker graduates from UCLA are selected each year to participate in this program. In 2012, this program was extended to create a curated program on the Westwood campus of UCLA.

For the 40th anniversary of The Telluride Film Festival in 2013, the Werner Herzog Theater was added as an additional venue. An extra day was also added to the festival’s program.

Although its program changes each year, the program is predominantly made up of new films. Traditionally, these films must be shown in either the United States or Canada first for them to be eligible to be included in the program.

As Telluride’s organizers have insisted on premieres, this event is now widely associated with discovering important new films and exciting new filmmakers. Two discoveries have included Michael Moore and Robert Rodriguez. Some of the best films that have premiered at this event include Stranger Than Paradise, My Dinner with Andre, The Civil War, Sully, Moonlight, Brokeback Mountain, Blue Velvet, The Crying Game, Mulholland Drive, and The Imitation Game.

Each year, Silver Medallions are awarded in three categories. The first award is for a well-known American figure in contemporary Hollywood. The second award goes to a major historical figure. The third and final award is for a person who is either unknown to or misunderstood by American audiences. In the debut year of the festivals, these awards went to Gloria Swanson, Francis Ford Coppola, and Leni Riefenstahl. Others who have won one of these accolades over the years include Jack Nicholson, Penelope Cruz, Jodie Foster, Meryl Streep, Mickey Rooney, Daniel Day-Lewis, Clint Eastwood and Peter O’Toole.

In addition to Julie Huntsinger and Tom Luddy, who are executive director and artistic director respectively, there are guest directors of this event each year. A new artist is also chosen each year to produce poster art to promote the festival. Those who accept this commission are given just one rule to work with and that is that all posters must feature The word ‘SHOW’.

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