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Why the Hell is One of the Most Well-Respected Doc Fests in Columbia, Missouri?

By Peter Gerard & Paul Sturtz and David Wilson | Indiewire February 11, 2013 at 3:29PM

Just ten years in to creating their regional documentary festival, the creators of the True/False Film Fest in Columbia, Missouri are already running one of the most successful documentary film festivals in the world.
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True/False book

Just ten years in to creating their regional documentary festival, the creators of the True/False Film Fest in Columbia, Missouri are already running one of the most successful documentary film festivals in the world.

For festival goers, True/False leaves an indelible impression as being a festival with not only great films but also with eager and excited audiences and great conversations.

True/False is celebrating their decade in existence with a special book charting the history of the festival, "Rarely Has Reality Needed So Much to Be Re-Imagined: A Mostly True History of the True/False Film Fest," available for purchase on the True/False online market here.

Below are two essays printed in full from the book, both of which are essential reading for documentary lovers and filmmakers alike.  One is from Distrify Founder and CEO Peter Gerard about how the festival got its start and another from the festival directors, Paul Sturtz and David Wilson, about how they program the fest. We've also included an exclusive look at the beautifully designed layout of the book, with four pages available to view in PDF format.

The 2013 True/False Film Fest will run from February 28-March 3.  -- Bryce J. Renninger [Indiewire]

"Bargain Basement Memories"
By Peter Gerard, Founder and CEO of Distrify

Once upon a time in Columbia, we had a few old beautiful cinemas that occasionally showed independent films and the odd documentary. I remember watching Hoop Dreams and eating so much candy that I felt sick (it was three hours long, so I bought a huge bag of candy). But then a giant multiplex descended on our humble town and closed our precious downtown screens. The dark years that followed were a sad time for everyone in mid-Missouri.

Finally, David and Paul appeared on the scene with a wild sparkle in their eyes that suggested they were crazy enough to take on Hollywood. In an effort to save our town, they launched the Ragtag Film Series—a seasonal program of bi-weekly film screenings at The Blue Note night club. For two nights a week, a few weeks a year, we were spared from the homogeneity of the multiplex and got to enjoy great films like "Crumb," "Sick," and "Divine Trash."

There was hope in the town and excitement in the air and my friend Aaron Davis and I were inspired to start a film festival. We wanted to showcase the cheap and cheerful of independent film—the wonderful little gems people were making on the fringes. We didn’t care if it was shot on 35mm or VHS. If it was good, it was on. At the very moment that Bargain Basement Film Festival was coming into being, Paul and David were working with some co-conspirators to open the doors at the new Ragtag Cinema—a small, quirky one-screen cinemacafé filled with antique sofas and delicious beverages. The first film I saw at Ragtag was a bootleg of "Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story." It was clear that Ragtag would be the home of Bargain Basement.

For two years we crammed a motley collection of unknown short films and features into a summer weekend of films, ice cream, ramen noodles, music, and randomness. Bargain Basement was not in a basement, but it was a bargain and it sold out pretty much every show. David even won the audience award with Hepcat’s Holiday—a beautiful black and white 16mm short accompanied by an incredible snare drum solo performed live in the cinema.

Aaron and I weren’t living in Columbia anymore and we were too busy shooting documentaries to keep up the festival, so the basement got damp. I have no idea if there was a connection, but a couple years later David and Paul announced the True/False Film Fest. This was the real deal, a proper film festival, with the best audience and the best parties at any festival in the world. I’ve been lucky enough to have been invited twice and to show my films to the best audience on earth—my hometown audience.

See page 2 for an interview with Sturtz and Wilson from the book about why films get selected for the festival.

If your web browser is not configured to display this file, click here to download the PDF file.

See page 2 for an interview with Sturtz and Wilson from the book about why films get selected for the festival.

This article is related to: True/False Film Festival, Filmmaker Toolkit: Festivals, Documentary





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