Telluride: THR/UCLA TFT Party Attracts Everyone From Penn Jillette to Ralph Fiennes
Telluride, Colo. -- Partiers jammed the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art Friday evening for a reception hosted by The Hollywood Reporter and UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television. Poking his head above the crowd was the very tall Penn Jillette, producer of the documentary Tim's Vermeer, directed by his on-stage partner and fellow magician Teller. "We were here over 20 years ago with Arthur Penn who directed Penn & Teller Get Killed," Jillette told THR. "It's what we were working for from the very beginning, going to Telluride. But it's a bigger deal now."
Circulating among the crowd were Ralph Fiennes, here for the premiere of The Invisible Woman, his film about Charles Dickens' hidden love life, which he directed and in which he stars; Denis Villeneuve, nervous about the imminent screening of his thriller Prisoners (which went on to screen to rave reviews); filmmaker Errol Morris; Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences senior publicist Teni Melidonian; Sony Pictures Classics co-president Tom Bernard; Telluride Film Festival directors Tom Luddy and Julie Huntsinger, and Teri Schwartz, dean of UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. "I'm overwhelmed," said Bernard. "This is probably the most diverse festival I've seen, and certainly the biggest." Smiling, Luddy said, "Two well-known publicists who came for the first time complained, 'I've known you for 30 years, how come I haven't been here before? I said, 'You know, Telluride is no secret.'" Bernard identified the brand-new Telluride fans: "Peggy Siegal and Leslee Dart."
"I told Tom Luddy it was just like old times," said UCLA alum Donna Deitz, who brought her film Desert Hearts to Telluride in 1985. "But I asked him, 'Where are the women?' Why aren't there more women filmmakers?' There were more last year, and now they've fallen down this year." To be fair to Luddy, one of the stellar debuts of the festival was Mitra Farahani's Fifi Howls from Happiness, and not only was Palo Alto directed by Gia Coppola, but every head of department on her film was female, most prominently dp Autumn Durald.
More stellar debuts are on the way for both sexes, thanks to UCLA's Telluride program. "We have ten grad students here having a transformational experience," said Schwartz. Reflecting on the growth of UCLA's film school, Deitz said, "Now that Dean Teri Schwartz has rolled film, theater, and TV into one at TFT, it's the best institution of its kind in the world."
Schwartz introduced THR to recent UCLA TFT grads Battiste Fenwick and Esther Julie-Anne, the first married couple to present two separate films in Telluride’s 40-year history. "Jacques Demy and Agnes Varda also showed at Telluride many times," said Huntsinger, "but never at the same time." Fenwick was repped by the doc Una Chanza Más, about gang members turned firefighters, and Julie-Anne brought Out of Love, about her father who divorced her mother and then went on to marry and divorce four additional times. "Both are world premieres," said Fenwick, "and we're about to have our first child. We have a couch and an editing suite in the living room. When she edits, I lie on the couch and sob." "And vice versa," said Julie-Anne. "The films have such distinct stories, yet they're perfectly matched," said Huntsinger. "One shows a tougher side of life, and the other is gentle, gossamer, ethereal, with a beautiful sensitivity." Considering the fact that Francis Ford Coppola came to Telluride in its first year, and his granddaughter Gia 40 years later, maybe that baby of Fenwick's and Julie-Anne's will be back with a debut film of his or her own.