A Local’s Take on the Telluride Film Festival and How to Do TFF on the Cheap

TFF: Great Films in a Spectacular Setting

TFF: Great Films in a Spectacular Setting

“Aren’t you tired of seeing movies?” my Hunny asked me as I rolled in last night after the last film of the After the Festival Telluride Film Festival viewings.

“No, you know how I love movies, Hun. Plus, I only saw eight over the span of five days. Some people see that many within the first two days of the festival.”

Still, I’m happy that Film Festival has passed. Just like every other festival in Telluride, it represents a workout of sorts. There’s always so much to take in and experience, whether you’re working it or attending it or doing some combination of both (as is the case with most Telluridians); it’s physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting. But it’s still pretty fantastic.

Greyhead: The Site of the VIP Brunch

Greyhead: The Site of the VIP Brunch

As usual, I started off Film Festival working a VIP brunch at a spectacular site high above Telluride. It’s a catered affair for close to seven hundred guests where tents, tables, chairs, chafing dishes, cookstoves and more are set up with the precision of a quick Hollywood set installation with an end result that looks pretty movie-land as well. Flowers and drinks grace buffets showcasing heirloom tomato salad, seasonal fruit salad, scrambled eggs, corn casserole, roasted potatoes, housemade sausages, smoked hams and a splendid array of regional cheeses (which is where I come in since after eleven years in France, I know a thing or two about the proper way to cut cheese).

Majestic Views and Threatening Skies for the Brunch

Majestic Views and Threatening Skies for the Brunch

The Calm Before the Storm

The Calm Before the Storm

The Old Homestead at Greyhead

The Old Homestead at Greyhead

Lucas, from Telluride’s beloved La Coçina de Luz, has been in charge of the food part of this event for years and boy, can he and his staff deliver, including making chanterelle omelets to order for at least two hundred hungry movie professionals and aficionados. As tony as the crowd is, I’ve always found the people to be lovely despite the fact that they can be picky about such things as wanting one more lettuce leaf on their plate or a bigger selection of cheeses even though hundreds are lined up behind them.

Setting Up for the Feed on Main Street: It's Kind of Like the Circus Coming to Town

Setting Up for the Feed on Main Street: It’s Like the Circus Coming to Town

Telluriders are still buzzing about the festival both on social media and in face-to-face encounters in town. People are raving about the wonderful films they saw but also bemoaning the fact that the crowd is so demanding and difficult to deal with overall. Sure, there are plenty of fine folks that attend the Telluride Film Festival and show tons of appreciation for our town and the people who live and work here but sadly, there are lots of self-absorbed moviegoers that seem to care more about rushing to the next film than exhibiting common courtesies. Friday and Saturday are the worst days because that’s when people are most hyped up about getting into the films. Peoples’ etiquette seemed to be worse this year because there are more people which means more of a wait for most films (ninety minutes as opposed to sixty in the past). In many cases, however, you wait a certain time for your Q (as in queue), then you can leave and come back once they begin to let people into the theater.

Let the Show Begin

Let the Show Begin

“We are a community, not a commodity,” as stated by one of our town councilmen in the local paper during Film Fest.

First People Lining Up in Town on Friday Afternoon

First People Lining Up in Town on Friday Afternoon

This Year's Program

This Year’s Program

For the second year in a row, I worked at a Grab and Go counter set up especially for the festival at The Village Table, a delightful restaurant, owned by John Gerona just outside the conference center AKA Chuck Jones Cinema during Film Fest, one of the larger venues of the ten theaters at the festival. After a grueling day on Saturday, I was referring to it as Be Rude and Go. I felt totally beat up and truly wanted to tell half the people demanding breakfast burritos, sandwiches, chips, cookies, drinks and peaches from me to go back from whence they came. How can such brutes be so moved by such emotionally stirring movies? I asked myself. It’s a mystery to me. I can’t say if it’s because many of these people come from big cities because we have many big-city folk that moved to Telluride. We’re a sophisticated bunch but we don’t treat people like that–not even on powder days. Well, not really, but the powder window is short lived (only a couple of hours).

How do these obviously well-to-do and well-traveled people fare in Paris? I wondered. where I lived eleven years in the City of Light and I know the French don’t tolerate people grabbing at their merchandise or not waiting their turn in a polite manner. I felt like giving many people a French lesson or two in la politesse.

The Gondola Station in Town

The Gondola Station in Town

I had even heard about a seventy-five-year-old woman that was knocked down outside of the gondola by someone in a rush to see a film. Mon dieu!

Galaxy Screenshot

Galaxy Screenshot

More Galaxy

More Galaxy

And this Is a School Auditorium

And this Is a School Auditorium

What Would Galileo and Newton Think?

What Would Galileo and Newton Think?

Oh Great Galaxy

Oh Great Galaxy

I survived my work responsibilities and by Sunday afternoon, I was able to start to venture out to see movies. I met up with my dear friend, Paula, with whom I always do the Festival. We were able to get into a free movie at the Galaxy–actually the middle school auditorium which undergoes its yearly transformation into a mystical universe of its own–with a wait that was pleasantly passed by lots of conversation and sandwich eating. We were enchanted by L’Inhumaine, a French silent film from the twenties that transported us on a fantastical journey of love and sensationalism. As is often the tradition at TFF, the Alloy Orchestra provided live, original music for this marvel, making it a unique showing, the likes of which one might only experience at the Telluride Film Festival.

L'Inhumaine

L’Inhumaine

A Flatliner from the New Sheridan: The Perfect Pick Me Up

A Flatliner from the New Sheridan: The Perfect Pick Me Up

After that, we headed to the New Sheridan for a Flatliner, an exquisite blend of vodka, Bailey’s, Kahlua and two shots of espresso. Not only is this cocktail a must for movie goers in need of a boost but they’re the best at the New Sheridan, the hub of Telluride. During Film Fest, this historic hotel, bar and restaurant really goes off and not surprisingly, many of the stars stay here. (Yes, there’s always the chance of bumping into a biggie such as Brad Pitt. But don’t make a fuss–that’s not the style of T-ride.)

Freshly fueled up, we were all set for the chilly night we were to spend in Elks Park–also known as the Abel Gance theater–watching a movie. The sound and image rival the setting of this extraordinary outdoor venue, however, one must come well-equipped with lots of layers, a good puffy, hat and gloves, a sleeping bag for extra warmth and a comfy lawn chair. And if you do like Paula and me, you’ll also pack a tasty picnic with a bottle of wine that you can enjoy during pre-movie socializing before night falls and the show begins.

Elks Park AKA Abel Gance Theater Before the Crowd Hits

Elks Park AKA Abel Gance Theater Before the Crowd Hits

By Monday, Paula and I were able to attend movies without long waits although I only caught one because at $25./ticket that’s a steep price to pay for a single show.

The real local’s secret lies in the After the Festival Telluride Film Festival where double features are typically shown at the Palm and The Nugget on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. For these, you can buy a six-punch pass for only $45. That’s what I always do and by the end of it all, I’ve had my fill. Of popcorn, too.

Brigadoon

Brigadoon

More on Attending the Telluride Film Festival on the Cheap

My Kettlecorn for the Week

My Kettlecorn for the Week

Let’s face it, buying a pass to the Telluride Film Festival requires a pile of cash, or a good dent on your card. And even in doing that, you have to deal with long waits unless you buy a Patron’s Pass which represents even more beaucoup bucks. So I recommend focusing on the After the Festival TFF and stretching out your moviegoing over the course of almost a week. Here are more suggestions:

-Stay from the Saturday of Labor Day weekend through at least the following Friday. The weather is great this time of year and by focusing largely on the After the Festival TFF, you’ll have time during the days to do the kinds of things people should do in and around T-ride such as hike, bike and go on at least one excursion to the nearby hot springs. By Monday, the lodging prices drop, so staying the extra time for a real vacation–not just a film festival–should make sense to a lot of people. As mentioned above, the six-punch pass for the After the Festival TFF is only $45. Remember that many of the films shown are art house and Oscar contender features that will be released to the public within the upcoming months.

-Do take in part of the actual Telluride Film Festival. Pick up a program–along with perhaps some schwag–at Brigadoon, situated at the base of the gondola as early as the Friday before Labor Day weekend. There you can find out about lots of free movies within actual theaters in addition to the films shown in the outdoor theater beginning the Wednesday or Thursday before the festival opens (and ending the following Monday). It’s best to go to the larger venues for these freebies where there’s less of a chance you’ll be shut out. They’ve been showing a free film at the Werner Herzog theater as early as the Friday afternoon at the start of the festival although it’s hard to say if that tradition will continue. Free documentaries are shown at the library AKA Backlot during the festival as well. There are also free movie-oriented seminars in Elks Park at noon on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday during the festival. Not only are these programs very interesting, but they also typically feature big name actors such as Meryl Streep who participated this year.

One more thing: You could also volunteer for TFF although that’s becoming an increasingly less popular option. I did this for a few years and found that it wasn’t worth the thirty-five hours of time I had to give in exchange for a free pass, some schwag and meals (many of those have been taken away since then, too). Plus, once again, people are not always treated with the respect and appreciation they deserve. That must be a film festival thing, which is really too bad.

That’s all folks! Now it’s up to you to start making your travel plans for next year. Or just sit tight and let many of the movies come to you without all of Telluride’s glorious perks.

It's All About the Show

It’s All About the Show

As I mentioned above, I saw many fantastic movies this past week, many of which will be opening in the U.S. this fall. I’ve posted about a lot of them on my Facebook page if you want to check them out.

For more about TFF, read Telluride Film Festival:  A Movie Goer’s Lovefest, Silence is Golden on Telluride Film Festival’s Silver Screens, Telluride Film Festival Celebrates Forty Years, Post Telluride Film Festival Reflections and My Telluride Film Festival 2014.

Thank you for writing this. I’m a Sydney resident and I’m wondering if it would be worth flying halfway across the world to volunteer for Telluride Film Festival. I’m trying to do as much reading as possible as I’ve worked for film festivals in Australia and this one sounds so amazingly unique. I’ve taken into account that it’s a very expensive venture so I’m just trying to determine whether it would be worth it. I would love the chance to watch films in a beautiful location and potentially network in a film-loving community. Thanks again for sharing your lovely thoughts. Merci!

P.S. I also despise bad manners

 

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