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True/False 2011 Interview by Scott Johnson

During True/False, on one of our many walks up and down the streets of Columbia we met Scott Johnson. Well not really. I’d met him at some party at Mojo’s a year or so before. He was wearing huge ski boots and a flowing scarf. I had to say hello. Ryan and I kept running into Scott at the parties and at the films. Mostly the parties. He had this awesome set up in the basement of the Regency Hotel (soon to be demolished). The basement was full of mirrors and he had brought a ton of gear and lights to get interviews with filmmakers that had a film in the festival. He showed us the space one night and we were like, “Sure. We’ll let you interview us.” We scheduled a time to meet the following day and it was done. Well… not really. We woke Scott up in his Regency room at 5pm the next day. He had just got in from the night before. A true rock star. He was in rough shape but found the energy to shoot our interview. We helped him set up and he went from looking hungover to consummate professional at the press of the record button. His enthusiasm for our film was contagious. Sadly we were one of the only interviews captured in the soon to be destroyed Regency Hotel. Please take a moment of silence before you hit play to pay your respects to all the good times that have been had in the Regency.

Click to Play

Thanks to Erika Adair for editing this piece and thanks again to our boy Scott Johnson for not flaking out.

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As Seen in The Epoch Times

True/False Film Festival in Missouri

by Sheila O’Connor
Published on May 29, 2011
The Epoch Times (New York)

Love travel and love documentary films? Then don’t miss out on a trip to Columbia, Missouri in March.That’s because you can enjoy the True/False film festival at that time each year. And it’s well worth seeing.

If you thought Columbia, Missouri was just a college town, then it’s time to be pleasantly surprised. So what’s there? Just ask Christina Kelley, the store owner of Makes Scents in the town.

“People come here to see an amazing array of world-class documentaries at the True/False film festival. The atmosphere they are shown in takes the festival to a whole other level. There’s a great downtown with shopping and eating and that enhances the whole experience,” she says.  (Note that the perfume store, Makes Scents, is a “good place for people who don’t like perfume,” says Kelley.)

And I can vouch for it being a great experience.  I was at the True/False Film festival in March in Columbia, and it was an exciting and eye-opening event. There are movies to meet just about every interest and taste (but note it’s not suitable for young children so best to leave them with a sitter.)

Beth Mead, the Tourism Marketing Manager at the Columbia CVB says, “People can see carefully-selected documentary films that they can’t see outside of the Sundance Festival.  This is a walkable, enjoyable film festival, complete with music, parties and a fun game show,” she says.


Here’s what some of the movies we saw (out of an available 43) were about:

The Project Nim (the baby chimp who was taught to learn sign language as a way of communicating with humans, until he became too aggressive to handle and attacked his trainers at around age 5).

Page One of the New York Times and what it takes to get a front page story published there.

The Interrupters (a real-life group of people who try to prevent violence on their city’s streets by interrupting altercations that are about to happen);

Zielinski, about a brilliant photographer whose works on the Amish became famous worldwide;

The Burger and the King (about the diet that Elvis Presley was on and why he chose those comfort foods—did you know that as a young boy his family was so poor they had to eat squirrel? It was in part his diet, along with other things eventually killed the king).

And finally the favorite of this writer:

The story Donor Unknown (aka Secret Screening White because the movie wasn’t yet officially out), who was a sperm donor back in the day and who actually fathered 15 children that he didn’t know about.

Read the whole article

Sheila O’Connor is a writer based in San Francisco who writes on a variety of topics, including travel. When Sheila is not off traveling the world, she is at home with her husband and three children.

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Quoted in the Trib

Residents supporting Columbia’s cinema scene

Sunday, June 12, 2011

It’s not New York, and it’s not Los Angeles, but Mid-Missouri denizens know the truth: Columbia is growing into a bustling film town in its own right.

With up-and-coming filmmakers making award-winning works — not to mention the presence of a superb indie theater and festivals that bring in national color — this town is a great place for those interested in catching a quality flick or creating one.

The True/False Film Festival is the best-known film event in Columbia. This year ticket sales surpassed 30,000 for the first time. After eight years, the festival continues to grow in scope and in size, drawing national and international filmmakers hoping to exhibit their thought-provoking, humorous and intimate documentary films.

“I think there is something about T/F woven deeply into the fabric of Columbia that plays out in all these small and subtle ways,” co-creator David Wilson said of the festival, which occurs annually in late February or early March.

The name True/False has meaning: Sometimes Wilson and festival co-creator Paul Sturtz and their team throw in a few hybrid documentaries to make the audience sit up even straighter and think even harder.

“The films are on the documentary continuum, from observational to staged,” Wilson noted in a recent Filmmaker magazine interview.

Another event gaining ground — a fall festival to balance out the T/F spring fling — is the Citizen Jane Film Festival, put on each year through Stephens College to celebrate the best and brightest in women’s filmmaking. Documentaries aren’t the only thing shown here; any genre of film is fair game — live-action fiction, nonfiction and even animation.

“Columbians understand the value of our film festival and that it not only makes Columbia a better place to live, but it’s also making Columbia a truly unique destination for others to come visit or even stay for a while,” said Citizen Jane co-director and Stephens College film and media chairwoman Kerri Yost.

The festival started as a women’s film series at Stephens College and grew to the point where the college decided to make it a full-weekend festival beginning in 2008.

The sense of community collaboration is one resource most local film volunteers and directors point to when citing the growth of film in the city.

“Film is supported here in ways it simply isn’t in other cities, particularly through sponsorship and volunteering,” Yost said.

Ragtag Cinema has shown limited-run independent films since its inception, with the community’s support.

Wilson pointed out that many local businesses, individuals, venues and filmmakers have been great avenues of support for True/False as well. In addition, local production companies Boxcar Productions and Pure Entertainment churn out local spots for television channels along with independent short films. The 2010 horror film “A Horrible Way to Die” was filmed this past year on location in Columbia.

“Columbians really want to be supportive of projects,” Wilson said. “If you come at something with the right ethos and good reasons, people get that and they want to pitch in.”

One resource helpful for local filmmakers is Columbia Access Television, or CAT. Award-winning Columbia documentarians Chase Thompson and Ryan Walker, who premiered their film “Zielinski” at three film festivals this year, point to CAT as what got them started.

“I felt like I was on the outside looking in until CAT opened the door,” Walker said. The channel offers low-cost access to channel time, training and equipment.

In addition, the presence of three colleges lends a critical and intellectual spirit to the craft of film here. Another locally produced documentary, “The Pruitt-Igoe Myth,” was created by Chad Freidrichs, who teaches filmmaking at Stephens College.

Reach Jill Renae Hicks at 573-815-1714 or e-mail

This article was published on page A21 of the Sunday, June 12, 2011 edition of The Columbia Daily Tribune.

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Review in MOVE Magazine

‘Zeilinski’ peels back labels

“Zielinski” is a look into the odd, conspiracy-driven world of published author and journalist John Zielinski, who currently resides in Columbia. Working for more than three years on the documentary, Chase Thompson and Ryan Walker not only document Zielinski’s life, but create a profound yet unresolved sense of discontinuity for the audience.

Quickly, the audience learns how brilliantly intelligent and incredibly talented Zielinski is in his field, as an author and photographer. We are introduced to various books he’s written. We see images from his documentation of the Amish, his home state Iowa, and most notably, his gritty portrait of Martin Luther King Jr.

Despite these accomplishments, we see Zielinski’s ultimate mission is to investigate and uncover the corruption and cover-ups in the system. It is this mission that has led to Zielinski being both the most blacklisted author and politically exiled in his home-state of Iowa. He makes allegations on a variety of issues from child sex trafficking to drug lords, but is never able to actually create solid proof or evidence. These allegations have caused many to dismiss Zielinski and label him a crazy, loon. Although, Thompson and Walker never officially give their opinion on Zielinski’s claims, they show us that Zielinski is in-fact not crazy.

Thompson and Walker explained at a Q&A after the film that though Zielinski wanted the documentary to be an expose on uncovering these conspiracies in the political system, they decided to focus on Zielinski and his life because they found it to be more interesting. This decision gives the audience a chance to look past the labels Zielinski has obtained over the years.

The film does not have a narrator, but rather the story of Zielinski is told through various interviews and clips of Zielinski himself. To get an even deeper look into Zielinski’s life, Thompson and Walker interview the people that have been closest to Zielinski. The flow of these different perspectives created a unique intimacy. We meet his past co-workers and his family, including his ex-wife who admits that Zielinski is one of the most talented men she knows.

Through this insight, Thomson and Walker were effectively able to capture the raw, intensity of Zielinski, which evoked a strong, emotion of empathy. But Thompson and Walker don’t try to connect the overall story of Zielinski’s life; they leave that for the audience to decide.

Posted to MOVE Movies by Alexis Hitt at 2:11 p.m., March 5, 2011

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Interview on “The So-Called Good Life”

“The So-Called Good Life” on KOPN 89.5fm is hosted by local DJ extraordinaire Kelvin Walsh. The day before True/False Film Festival, we appeared on the show with composer Mark Speckman to promote ZIELINSKI. Take a listen, son.

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Looking Back on T/F

Check out the story I threw together for It is meant to be read fast, and I recommend you hold your breath as long as possible while you read it. This will help give you a sense of what Ryan and I were feeling during the festival.

Local directors look back on True/False experience

[published March 16, 2011]

Opening Night

Columbia has to be one of the top-five coolest places to live. When we are asked “Where are you guys from?” we answer proudly, without hesitation, Columbia, Missouri!

This town made “Zielinski” possible, and it was such a great feeling to see it play on our home stage, The Blue Note, on opening night. We had a great audience that night. Four hundred strong and all ready to hear John’s story. It was so cool to see the audience chanting ZIE-LIN-SKI after the film.

Ryan Wylie was the moderator of our Q&A. Class act.

My favorite moment was when someone asked John: “You’re such an amazing photographer. Why don’t you just stick to that, man?” John replied, “If some of you would get out there and help expose child slavery, then maybe I could go back to being a photographer.” Amazing!

Hung out with Ted and Matt. Lost my briefcase.

Day 2

Found my briefcase. Made it to Broadway Brewery for our interview on NPR. Fat breakfast. Nap. Panel discussion about whether we are laughing at or with our film subjects. Tornado!!! Get to the basement! Screening at The Hive. Said goodbye to The Pasta Factory. I worked there for four years and met my lover there. The restaurant is moving west by Hy-Vee. P-fac, downtown will miss you.

Went to say what’s up to Ted at The Blue Note, and we watched “KNUCKLE.” Made my way to the @ction party. Way cool. Good peeps. Even got to see Rob Rassmussen, one of the stars in “Zielinski.” Went home early to get some sleep for the True Life Run at 8 a.m.

Day 3

Early start. 5k run. So cold. 26:16. Fattest breakfast in the world.

Noticed a familiar face on the front page of the Tribune. It was the three of us (John, Ryan, Chase) from the Thursday night screening at The Blue Note.

It should be noted that page two had two articles on human trafficking and child pornography. You could hold the paper up to the light and see John’s face peeking through. Great press! John is loving it.

We geared up for our Saturday night screening at Little Ragtag. We went to see Chad Freidrich’s film, “The Pruitt-Igoe Myth.” It was a packed screening at The Globe Theater.

After the Q&A, I went to get ready to introduce our film while Ryan went to The Blue Note to show his short film for Gimme Truth. I talked with Becky and Mark about all kinds of stuff. Films, bombs, weird laws and the new Chow Wagon.

Ryan made it back in time to do the Q&A. We had a great discussion with a wide variety of intellects. Two women had a very heated debate during the Q&A. It was nice to have the pressure taken off for a minute and sit back and watch the show.

It was late and time to go to another party. The super secret party was the jam! Ran into Channing Kennedy. It’s been a while, bro. That was cool. Also ran into my old friend Zeb. Way cool. Stayed out way too late and did the zombie walk home.

Day 4

Woke up to a text saying, “See you in 15 minutes.” I’m supposed to be at this breakfast. Luckily I still had my clothes and shoes on. I made it there, no problem, and had some great conversation with some of the female filmmakers from the festival who were interested in Citizen Jane. Breakfast was served on the top floor of the Tiger Hotel. Sweet view. I think I saw Fulton.

Time for lunch. Used a coupon, ate a sandwich. Fair trade. Took it real easy. Getting ready for the last screening of our film at Windsor Cinema. Around 300 people watched “Zielinski” that night. We had a wonderful Q&A and headed to the closing night reception.

On our way downtown I noticed that the moon was waxing again. With just a sliver showing, we were escorted downtown with an ear-to-ear smile. How perfect. I had nothing left and went home afterward. I hear the volunteer party was tight. They deserve a night of madness to shake off all the questions they have had to answer. See you next year. Long live True/False!

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KBIA x 2

On February 28th, Chase was a guest on “Intersection,” an interactive radio/TV show hosted by Reuben Stern.

Organizers of the True/False film festival in Columbia pride themselves on finding films that ride the line between fanciful storytelling and documentary truth. On this program, panelists discuss the blending of art and life on film. In the second half of the program you’ll also hear about some of the highlights from this year’s festival line-up, and find out how films are selected for inclusion in the festival.

Watch the full episode

On March 3rd, Ryan was interviewed by Davis Dunavin for “Off the Clock.”

One festival entry this year comes straight from Columbia. Zielinski is directed by Columbia Access Television employees Ryan Walker and Chase Thompson.

The film investigates the bizarre, fascinating worldview of CAT personality John Zielinski. Some people consider Zielinski a bit of a conspiracy nut. Once a respected photojournalist, he’s made it his mission since the 1980s to expose what he sees as the wrongs in our world – Satanism, child slavery and drug trafficking among them. Walker and Thompson’s documentary premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival last month. KBIA’s Davis Dunavin sat down with Walker to talk about Zielinski – the man and the movie.

Walker has high expectations for the festival – including, he says, Zielinski himself, who is expected to visit the premiere Friday night wearing a sandwich board and handing out flyers. After Zielinski has finished the festival circuit, Walker’s next project will be an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated book The Bootlegger, by John Hallwas.

Listen to the interview

Thanks KBIA!

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T/F Buzz

Mar 7 - Interview with intrepid journalist Scott Johnson from Kansas City. A three-camera shoot in the dingy basement of the Regency Hotel.

Mar 6 – Over 200 people attend the final T/F screening of ZIELINSKI at Windsor Cinema.

Mar 5 – Little Ragtag screening is full.

Mar 5 – Chase Thompson takes part in the True Life Run – bright and early.

Mar 5 – ZIELINSKI makes the front page of the the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Mar 4 – The Hive screening is full.

Mar 4 – Chase Thompson takes part in the T/F panel “Are You Laughing At Me?” which was interrupted by a tornado warning.

Mar 4 – NPR radio appearance – “Up to Date” on KCUR, broadcast live from the Broadway Brewery.

Mar 4 – KBIA radio appearance – Ryan Walker on “Off the Clock” interviewed by Davis Dunavin. And here’s a photo.

Mar 3 – 400 people attend the Midwest Premiere of ZIELINSKI at The Blue Note.

Mar 2 – KOPN radio appearance – “The So-Called Good Life” with Mark Speckman and host Kelvin Walsh.

Mar 2 – Meet up with Jack Falby to tape two huge ZIELINSKI posters to his red van.

Mar 2 – Mark Speckman releases newly mixed and mastered ZIELINSKI soundtrack.

Mar 2 – Missourian T/F Guide:  ”The work of freelance investigative reporter John Zielinski exposes human trafficking, pedophilia, drug-dealing and more — and it originates from his home here in Columbia.”

Mar 1 – KOPN radio appearance – “Sex Drugs & Civil Liberties” with host Dan Viets.

Mar 1 – MOVE Magazine preview:  ”Attention all journalists and writers: John Zielinski, the topic of the film ZIELINSKI is ‘the most blacklisted author in the history of Iowa.’ His controversial investigative reporting subjects include human trafficking and Satanists, and the man is never afraid to rattle the cage of criminals. Columbia directors Chase Thompson and Ryan Walker examine the life and times of the controversial writer and will appear in person at the screenings of the film.”

Mar 1 – KFRU radio appearance – “Columbia Morning” with host David Lile. We bump into Kelvin Walsh on the way out. So sneaky!

Feb 28 – KOPN radio appearance – John Zielinski on “Thought Crime Radio” with host Rich Winkel.

Feb 28 – Ryan Walker is selected as a finalist in the “Gimme Truth” competition at T/F.

Feb 28 – KBIA radio/TV appearance – Chase Thompson on “Intersection” with David Wilson and host Reuben Stern.

Feb 27 – ZIELINSKI is named one of the “must-see” films of T/F by Scott May of the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Feb 25 – ZIELINSKI is named one of the “socially relevant” films of T/F by Peaceworks, a local non-profit organization.

Feb 21Article about Chase Thompson in Stephens Life – by Hayley Williams.

Feb 20 – Mark Speckman comes over. We drink Stag, listen to the new Radiohead album and get ridiculous.

Feb 20 – John Zielinski returns from Las Vegas – where he attended an aloe vera conference.

Feb 19 – Apparently tickets for ZIELINSKI are getting snatched up like hot pizza. T/F adds a fourth screening on Sunday – 5:30pm @ Windsor Cinema on the campus of Stephens College. That seems only fitting, since the film is intrinsically connected to Stephens and Columbia Access Television (adjacent to Windsor). We love you Columbia.

Feb 16 – Paul Pollmann sends us an updated poster with T/F laurels.

Feb 14 – KOPN radio appearance – “Thought Crime Radio” with John Zielinski and host Rich Winkel.

Feb 10 – T/F announces 2011 film lineup.

Jan 27 – T/F Brunch at Easy Street Brasserie in Park City.

Jan 25Meet up with Paul & David at the Yarrow Hotel for a coffee.

Jan 23 – Waiting in line for some Mexican food in Park City, we get a phone call from Paul Sturtz. We’re in!

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Around the World with John Zielinski

Featuring Ryan Walker & Mark Speckman. Photos by Chase Thompson. We were goofing around and drinking Stag. That’s a beer.

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Straight From the Horse’s Mouth

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