City Lights

City Lights was an experience that has reshaped who I see myself as and how I see my future…I also came out as a better person. I can say that with complete confidence, a confidence that that short time I spent up in the mountains, helped build.

Student, City Lights Class of 2017

I was totally unprepared for what I experienced through the weekend of watching over twenty diverse, unique, exciting films.  What struck me the most this year was my realization of the humanity within every film… I was amazed at how every story was teaching me more about the people around me and myself.

Student, City Lights Class of 2017

The TFF's City Lights Project provides a select group of high school juniors and seniors and their teacher/chaperons a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the experience of the world renowned Telluride Film Festival high in the Colorado Rockies.

Read what a City Lights teacher had to say about the program:

I experienced my ‘aha! Moments,’ the kind that get me teary and set my idealism goosebumps to standing on end…watching the interactions my students had with people – whether it was the amazing special guests the City Lights Program arranged, the student filmmakers who my kids recognized as not so different from themselves, or the patrons who honestly saw the faces of the future of film in my kids. Peter Sellars, in his somehow magical, transformative, free-form talk given to the students, said ‘You do not wait to be invited to a caring community, a better world, an artistic avocation‘…and yet, somehow, we were. The City Lights Program, above and beyond the thrill of the Festival itself …, was an awakening experience for my kids. I heard thoughts and feelings pouring out of my kids’ mouths that I could have never evoked from them. I know they had never, ever seen movies like those shown at the festival. They had certainly never been exposed to people like Peter Sellars, like Ken Burns ... What these artists represent to my kids is an opening, an offering, an existential permission slip excusing them from the life that is expected of them, a life that they do not necessarily want. These kids from conservative homes, from small towns, from limited means, were shown a variant trajectory, maybe for the first time in their lives... Telluride showed these sheltered kids from the middle of nowhere that someone stepped out of line, or into an unimaginably different line, and not only survived, but thrived, became (and made!) something beautiful, and unique, and admirable … and so could they. So … thank you for everything you have done, but especially for what you have done for [our] kids.

Eric Abbott, Sargent High School

Here’s what happens when you and your students participate:


  • View approximately 10-12 film programs over five days.
  • Interact with filmmakers, actors, and other film artists including screenwriters, musicians, and producers.
  • Participate in journal writing sessions.
  • Meet with college students participating in the Festival's Symposium and Filmmakers of Tomorrow programs.
  • Learn how films are critiqued, how they are made, how stories are developed, how to critically view a variety of creative media, and how to open their minds to new experiences and viewpoints.
  • Continue the experience back home with complementary rental DVDs from Facets Inc., one of the great sources for films of all kinds.
  • Have the time of their lives in one of the most majestic and beautiful places on the planet – Telluride, Colorado.
  • Live, breathe, and eat film with students and teachers from other participating schools.
  • Share their experience with other passholders and film lovers from around the world.


We consider the City Lights Project a continuing education opportunity for high school teachers as well. One of the teachers’ greatest learning opportunities comes from seeing their students quickly expand their ability to express themselves in a highly participatory environment.


High schools outside of Telluride will be selected to attend based on their applications (six students accompanied by two teachers from each school). One group attends annually from the Telluride R-1 School District. Teachers interested in providing this opportunity for their students must simply complete the application form and send via mail or email to Zoe Ward, City Lights Coordinator, at the address below.

Use as much or as little space as you need on separate pages to answer each question to your satisfaction.

Completed applications must be received in our offices no later than February 9, 2018. Late applications may not be accepted.

The 2018 City Lights Project Application window is closed. Please check back next year!


By attending one of the most exciting film festivals in the world, students (and teachers) will have the opportunity not only to screen some of the best and newest selections from world cinema, but also to discuss these films and interact with other students, filmmakers, guest discussants, Festival staff, and general passholders. They will develop lifelong friendships with the peers they meet through this program, find a new confidence in their own abilities and thought processes, and expand their way of looking at the world as well as themselves.


Teachers whose students are interested in the humanities (history, literature, the visual arts, writing, film, music, etc.) and who would like to use an experience such as the City Lights Project as a launching point for further arts education efforts. An interest in film production is not a requirement.

See the application form for acceptance criteria.

PLEASE NOTE: The reviewers will consider a pair of schools or a youth service agency and a school.


Thanks to the contributions from considerate individuals and generous corporations, the Telluride Film Festival is able to cover Festival passes, lodging, meals, supplies, and curriculum materials. Travel to and from the Festival, as well as meals, are the responsibility of the participating school(s).


All applications, correspondence and questions should be directed to:

For general questions about any of our education programs please email

For more information about sponsoring TFF’s student programs, contact our development department today.

It is characteristic of the Telluride Film Festival to run a program like the City Lights…because Telluride is about showing films to provoke discussion, bring people together and to inspire. The students I encountered were eager to learn, full of questions and some answers – they were an inspiration to me!

Sarah Gavron, Filmmaker, SUFFRAGETTE