Tom Luddy, the co-founder of Telluride and the producer of Francis Ford Coppola, has died

Tom Luddy, the co-founder of Telluride and the producer of Francis Ford Coppola, has died ...

Tom Luddy, the co-founder of the Telluride Film Festival and a long-time producer of Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope Studios, died on Monday after a long battle with dementia.

Luddy was a ruthless cinephile who made the Colorado Festival a major stage for international filmmaking. Much of his involvement played a role in the Telluride community's uniqueness.

Luddy was the main attraction for many Telluride devotees — someone as emblematic of cinema's global presence as the filmmakers he championed.

Luddy's contribution to the development of an international cinema audience in the United States is staggering. Over the years, his collaboration with filmmakers such as Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Errol Morris, Coppola, Paul Schrader, Agnieszka Holland, and others helped establish Telluride as a unique launchpad for key filmmakers.

The festival's continued presence throughout the years as an exclusive setting for influential actors in the film world to keep an eye on current films and renovations laid the foundation for the festival's eventual currency during the Oscar season. The Labor Day weekend gathering eventually became a critical stop for award season hopefuls.

Luddy was a golfer in high school in New York City in 1943, and later discovered his passion for film in the counterculture of the Bay Area while attending UC Berkeley. As a student, he headed the F.W. Murnau Film Society, the Slate Film Society, and the Student Union Film Series. In 1964, he worked as an assistant to Ed Landberg at the Berkeley Cinema Guild.

Luddy served as the program director for Brandon Films after Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Accatone" and Alain Resnais' "La Guerre Eat Fini" were released. He then took over the Pacific Film Archive in 1972, where he soon organized around 1,000 programs annually. Among the most significant was a comprehensive 1968 retrospective of Jean-Luc Godard's work that broadened the scope of his work in the United States.

Luddy's programming aided young Bay Area actors like Coppola and George Lucas in deepening their world cinema knowledge just as they embarked on producing significant American films inspired by those same directors. At Telluride, Luddy's most famous restoration coup was Abel Gance's silent classic "Napoleon."

In 1974, Tom co-founded the Telluride Film Festival, which today is held in a small opera house, where screenings continue, although it quickly expanded around the city.

Luddy's programming abilities were informed by his day job. At Zoetrope, he acquired and distributed classic Chinese films, including "Every Man For Himself," "Crossroads," and "Street Angel." Schrader's celebrated "Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters" Kurosawa's late-period epic "Kagemusha" and Godfrey Reggio's celebrated experimental film "Koyaanisqatsi"

The Telluride Film Festival is a film festival based in Telluride.

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The closeness with filmmakers that Luddy maintained in the course of these collaborations ensured that Telluride always had a robust guest list, while the absence of red carpets and other formalities emerged as an extension of his casual personality. Over the past 20 years, Telluride's VIP list has become a must-see for Best Picture contenders, as everything from "12 Years a Slave" to "The Shape of Water" has left a mark.

Werner Herzog sent me an email in his honor of Luddy. He was the one who invited me to submit my first feature film 'Signs of Life' to the Pacific Film Archive more than half a century ago, and he has been my friend and guardian ever since. "With him, we are losing a National Treasure."

Telluride enticed newcomers to follow no-frills guidelines, and maintained a program steeped in repertory programs, even as industry and media participation increased. "We want to attract people who are hardcore film enthusiasts," Luddy told IndieWire in 2006, the year the festival featured "Babel," "Volver," and many others. "We want to reward them with new films they can't see back home.... It just provides the best context for us to do what we

Luddy's death marks the end of an era, just a few months after Telluride co-founder Bill Pence passed away in December. He began his career in programming several years ago, but he no longer attended the festival in 2019. Since then, the festival's operations have been managed by executive director Julie Huntsinger, a long-time Luddy compatriot who began working for him as an assistant at Zoetrope.

Huntsinger said in an official statement that the world has lost a rare ingredient that we'll all be looking for for a while. For some, Tom Luddy had a sphinxlike quality that took a while to get used to. He called Telluride a labor of love for a very long time. We're all so much better off because of him and his dedication to and love for cinema.

Schrader, who attended Telluride for the first time in 1971, wrote in an email to IndieWire: "If you searched for the very heart of film love, you would find Tom's."

Luddy is survived by his wife Monique Montgomery, his siblings Brian Luddy, James Luddy, Jeanne Van Duzer, nephews Stevens and Will Van Duzer, and nieces Dierdre Pino, Megan Archer, and Caroline Van Duzer. Donations in Luddy's memory may be made to the National Film Preserve's Nugget Project.