Quoted in the Trib

Residents supporting Columbia’s cinema scene

By JILL RENAE HICKS
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 jrhicks@columbiatribune.com.

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