Telluride Film Festival (TFF) is trying to envision its world-renowned gathering of cinephiles in a world post-COVID-19, and in doing so, wants to create more space. Film fest representative Brandt Garber requested one additional day to tack on to its Labor Day weekend festival, which takes place in numerous venues around town. Telluride Town Council agreed unanimously to the extra day.
Originally scheduled from Sept. 2-7, the event, which attracts an international crowd of nearly 3,000 film-lovers, film industry heavyweights and a fleet of crew and volunteers, will now begin Sept. 1. Garber explained the reasoning behind wanting an additional day added.
“We’re trying to create more space,” Garber told council via Zoom. “We need to be agile and nimble. Having more time seems it would be good for the town.”
The additional day, he said, will cost the festival money, but would allow programming to be spread out over more days. There will be one additional day of an Elks Park free film screening and programming at the Herzog Theatre (Town Park Pavilion) will commence Thursday, instead of Friday. Also the Opening Feed, which customarily takes place Friday on Colorado Avenue, will now be Thursday. The closing picnic will remain on Monday, Sept. 7.
“We’re looking for a more relaxed and calmer atmosphere,” Garber explained. “We can spread out the programming. We’ll have more time and less hectic energy.”
The request, which is for 2020 only, comes with a few conditions as detailed by Telluride Parks and Recreation Director Stephanie Jaquet. Those conditions include town manager approval of availability of the Community Room; determination of the load-in date for the pavilion, pending construction occurring there this summer; and catering facility use pending Parks &Recreation Commission review of 2019 facility usage.
In approving the request for the extra day, Mayor DeLanie Young noted that festivals this summer “have to be adaptable.”
“This is the new reality for all our festivals,” Young said, adding that it’s “harder to cancel and then try to resurrect” a festival or event.
In other council business Tuesday, town manager Ross Herzog let council know that a Black Hills Energy gas line upgrade would be postponed after receiving citizen complaints that crews were not practicing proper social distancing measures. The project had been approved by San Miguel County as “being critical to public welfare,” Herzog wrote in a memo to council. Work started the week of April 6.
“As the project evolved, (town staff) received citizen concerns and observed workers not adhering to the social distancing requirements under the public health order,” Herzog explained in his memo. “Because of our concerns, the project is temporarily suspended and may not proceed until an acceptance of a proposal of a safety plan to San Miguel County and the Town of Telluride explaining compliance to the existing order.”
In another discussion between council and staff in the morning work session, the topic of a checkpoint/informational tent, similar to those set up by festivals, was taken up, and, for the second time in as many council meetings, concluded without any agreement on how to direct staff. Some on council strongly support a checkpoint to monitor incoming traffic, concerned that visitors from outside the county could threaten the health of residents.
“Our No. 1 priority is saving lives,” Young said. “Health is tantamount, while other people are stressed about the economy. This (the public health order) has been going on four weeks, though it feels like an eternity. “
Young further stated that those wishing to visit the area during the pandemic, or locals ignoring social distancing and mask-wearing mandates, were “being selfish.”
Council member Lars Carlson wondered, “Who’s financial responsibility for it?” but definitive answers were elusive.
“Let’s give staff direction, working with the county,” implored council member Geneva Shaunette. “We’ve talked about it in circles and not gotten anywhere.”
The concept of a checkpoint was, said council member Adrienne Christy, “wishy-washy,” and asked for a more concrete proposal.
Telluride Town Council will be meeting weekly, on Tuesdays, until further notice.