Student Symposium

This is one of the best experiences I've ever had in my life.

Symposium Student, Class of 2017

I loved my experience and will cherish it forever. The symposium was like sleepaway camp for film lovers, and I'm so grateful to have been given this opportunity to see films, talk to directors and exchange ideas with my peers. 

Symposium Student, Class of 2017

Imagine being a part of an exclusive give and take with filmmakers like Barry Jenkins, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Todd Haynes, Joshua Oppenheimer, Francis Ford Coppola, Errol Morris, David Fincher, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Agnieszka Holland, Bryan Cranston, Laura Linney, Tilda Swinton, Mike Leigh, Lynne Ramsay, Walter Murch, Michael Haneke, Xavier Dolan, Chloé Zhao, Asghar Farhadi, Guy Maddin, Luc & Jean-Pierre Dardenne, and Volker Schlöndorff, to name just a few of the past participants in the Telluride Film Festival Student Symposium.

It all happens Labor Day Weekend in beautiful Telluride, Colorado. The Student Symposium, now in its 30th year, is open to 50 currently-enrolled college and university students from around the globe, no matter their major. Yes, there’s an official application but the primary requirement is a love of film. All participants in the Symposium receive a Student Festival pass and a modest travel stipend—the rest is up to you.

If you’re chosen, the Symposium begins Thursday afternoon and ends Monday night.


  • View approximately a dozen film programs over 4 days
  • Attend exclusive symposia with filmmakers, producers, actors, writers, and other great minds
  • Have the time of your life in one of the most majestic and beautiful places on the planet – Telluride, Colorado.
  • Live and breathe film with 49 other students and 2 of the best film faculty leaders you could ever wish for
  • Share your experience with other passholders and film lovers from around the world
  • Make lifelong friends


We are looking for a diverse cross-section of the college and university student population - undergraduate and graduate students; film and non-film majors; and geographical and cultural diversity. The most important qualities we seek are: passion for film, an ability to enrich the discussions with other students and Symposium guests, and a willingness to follow a highly rigorous program of screenings and discussions. With only 50 slots available, each student’s full commitment to the program is critical.


The Student Symposium begins on the afternoon of Thursday, August 30th and continues non-stop through Monday night, September 3rd. The general schedule is as follows:

  • Thursday afternoon: Check-in, formal orientation
  • Thursday evening: Get-acquainted gathering, film screening
  • Friday afternoon: Students-only symposium
  • Friday evening: Opening Night Feed, film screenings
  • Saturday morning: Breakfast discussion
  • Saturday all day: Film screenings
  • Saturday afternoon: Students-only symposium
  • Sunday and Monday: Schedules are similar to Saturday

Your exclusive Student Pass provides admission to all scheduled screenings, the Opening Night Feed, Labor Day Picnic, and selected other events. The schedule of screenings is carefully curated by Symposium faculty in collaboration with the Festival Directors.


  1. The application window for 2018 is now closed. Please check back next year!
  2. Write an essay on the following: What film matters most to you, and why? Please give this question serious consideration in terms of film as an art and/or social force. Please limit your response to a maximum of 700 words, place your name at the top of each page, and save your essay as a PDF.
  3. Email your essay (in PDF format) to Please include your name in the subject line. 
  4. Have an instructor/adviser compose a letter of recommendation attesting to your student status and explaining why they are recommending you for this program. If printed, letter should be provided on official campus letterhead and signed by your instructor or adviser. If emailed, letter should come directly from instructor/adviser’s email address. Please have them scan and forward directly to, writing your name in the subject line.
  5. Receipt of emailed application & letters of recommendation will be sent via email auto-response. It is your responsibility to follow up on your application & letter of recommendation (if you are concerned they were not received). As of the due date, incomplete applications will be penalized and/or disregarded.
  6. If you decide to submit your application materials by traditional mail, please print the original plus three full copies and send to Austin Sipes at 1351 Pine St.; Santa Monica, CA 90405. If you would like acknowledgment of receipt, please include a stamped, self-addressed postcard. A downloadable application is also available by request.


Applications will be reviewed immediately following the March 19th deadline.  Application results will be emailed in early May (please do not call before May 1st). Incomplete applications may be immediately precluded from consideration.

For more information about the Telluride Film Festival Student Programs, please contact Austin Sipes at 310.570.3294 or at

For general questions about any of our Education Programs please email

For more information about sponsorship of TFF and its programs, check our sponsorship page, or contact our development department:

The sense of community that comes from an event like this is astounding. It changed my perspective (for the better) on the entire world of filmmaking more than I thought it could.

Symposium Student, Class of 2017

What is there to say? It's the best American film festival… and I hope to come back every year.

Symposium Student, Class of 2017