Bill Pence, co-founder of the Telluride Film Festival, died Dec. 6 after a long illness, the Telluride Daily Planet reported Wednesday. He was 82.
Pence co-founded the festival in 1974 with his wife Stella, film preservationist James Card, producer Tom Ludy, and the Telluride Council for the Arts and Humanities. He also serves as co-director and president of the National Film Preserve, which operates the annual Telluride Film Festival.
“Bill Pence is an almost mythical figure in the Telluride Film Festival landscape. An incredibly generous founder but no single description is enough,” Telluride Film Festival Executive Director Julie Huntsinger said in a statement. diversity. “A showman, a visionary, a great leader, a film buff — all these and more. But most of all, Bill was a great person. Kind and smart and a wonderful father and husband. We are inspired by his example and vow to continue the important work of film appreciation.”
A native of Minneapolis, Pence grew up working as an usher at the city’s movie palace. He joined and directed the Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University) Student Film Society in the 50s, where he presented a regular film program for students. After college, he enlisted in the US Air Force and served for several years.
From 1965 to 1978, Pence served as vice president of Janus Films in New York. He was instrumental in growing its collection which later served as the basis for the Criterion Collection.
For 33 years, Pence helped program and expand the Telluride Film Festival until his retirement in 2006. They also produced the Santa Fe Film Festival in 1980, which ran for three years.
After their Telluride departure, Pence and his wife were hired by Turner Classic Movies to help organize and direct the TCM Classic Film Festival. Over 50 years, Pence amassed a collection of film prints that are now housed at the Museum of Modern Art and the Harvard Film Archive.
Besides his wife, Pence is survived by his daughters Jazzy and Lara and four grandchildren.