The Telluride Film Festival is truly one-of-a-kind. Every Labor Day weekend, dedicated cinephiles flock to the charming mountain town of Telluride, CO to watch a curated selection of the year’s most highly anticipated films. The catch? The lineup is not released until the day before the festival begins.
As far as film festivals go, Telluride is the perfect combination of low-key yet high quality. It’s devoid of paparazzi, red carpets, and awards but is secretly star-studded and usually a good predictor of Oscar nominations each year. It’s a place for filmmakers and film-lovers to gather and share in a completely film-focused weekend while nestled in the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.
In my family, Telluride is sort of a tradition. It’s a thing we love to go to when we can. My parents went every year for over a decade but kids, school, and sports got in the way. Last year, however, we rekindled our Telluride tradition. For my 21st birthday, my mom and I planned ahead, bought passes, booked flights and accommodations, and spent Labor Day weekend in Telluride watching movies day and night until our eyes hurt. It laid the foundation for my imminent entree to what would become a year full of filmmaking and screenwriting. It encouraged me to take the plunge into DIY production and reminded me of my passion for the cinema.
This year, however, we didn’t quite know what our Labor Day schedule would be like when the passes were released (and almost immediately sold out) in the winter. We sighed and said, “Maybe next time.” But on Thursday morning (Aug 30th), the 2018 Telluride Film Festival schedule was released and I shed a small tear as I read all the buzz about this year’s lineup during my lunch break at my summer internship.
On my way home from the office that evening, I decided to call my mom to help pass the time while I waded through hours of bumper-to-bumper traffic (I’ve been commuting from my family’s home in Orange County up to LA a few times a week and Thursday night traffic is particularly bad). When my mom answered, she cut right to the chase. “Hayley,” she said, “How would you feel about going to Telluride...without a pass...tonight?” Nearly cutting her off, I snapped, “Let’s go. What time do you want to leave?” And just like that, we decided to go to the 45th Telluride Film Festival on a moment’s notice. Over the course of the following hour and a mere 16 hours before the start of the Telluride Film Festival, my mom and I packed up the car while my dad booked us a condo, made some coffee, and hit the road. Hopped up on adrenaline and motivated by our spontaneity, we decided to drive straight through the night.
Now, the drive from LA to Colorado is a 12-14 hour long drive through 850 miles of mostly desert. We left at 10pm and had made it safely to the middle of nowhere by 2am, my mother and I belting show tunes and blasting the air conditioning to keep ourselves awake. It was all a little Thelma & Louise.
We took turns behind the wheel, and were glad to find an open Starbucks when we stopped for gas in Flagstaff, AZ at 5:30am. Re-caffeinated, we kept driving and found ourselves enraptured by the break of day and the beauty of the Arizona morning. We caught the sunrise just as we entered the Navajo reservation, the soft morning light turning the red rocks a hue of lilac and the desert sand a gentle shade of peach. Inspired by the majesty of the landscape, we forged on, eventually arriving in Telluride at noon sleep-deprived, stiff beyond belief, and hungry. We grabbed some food, checked into our condo (my dad miraculously found one online despite the short notice) and decided to queue up for a film. Without passes, attending the Festival means standing in lines for hours hoping to be let in after all the pass-holders have been seated. We started off a bit unlucky on Day 1 (Friday) as we were turned away from Damien Chazelle’s First Man and The White Crow before getting in to see Destroyer, a film by Karyn Kusama starring Nicole Kidman.
(Please forgive typos and let me know if you see one! I’m typing on my phone from lines for films and have gotten very little sleep in the past few days)