Newspaper staff member Ji-Sung Lee spoke to True/False employees to get a behind the scenes look on how the festival is run. Read below to get information on volunteering, history, goals of the event and more. True/False will take place Feb. 28-March 3.
Allison Coffelt, Education Director & True Life Fund Coordinator
JL: How many students are involved in Camp True/False?
AC: We are expecting approximately 80 students this year.
JL: What is DIY Day and Camp True/False?
AC: They are both geared toward high school students. They are two different programs we put on; however, all of our Camp True/False attendees go to DIY Day. DIY Day is a one-day opportunity for high school students to sign up for workshops with filmmakers, artists and musicians and all kinds of different people who have something to share in a workshop, and that is kind of a one-day event. Camp True/False, however, happens over the course of several months leading up to the fest, and then students participate fully in the festival including going to DIY Day as well as singing songs throughout the fest and having their own schedule during the fest.
JL: Who participates in Camp True/False?
AC: The students in Camp True/False are from all four Columbia Public Schools and also eight different schools from around the country, most of which are in Missouri, who come in for the fest. And so those schools who are coming in from outside of Columbia meet and work through a Camp True/False curriculum leading up to the fest, and our local students meet and have camp meetings and pre-fest to get ready for the festival.
JL: What are the True/False class visits?
AC: So the class visits are an outreach service that we provide if students or teachers were to have someone from the fest come in and explain how the fest works, how you can access the fest, how the ticketing works. We do class visits where we’ll come in and talk about how to fest because we do know ticketing can be kind of challenging to navigate.
JL: Why is True/False a great opportunity to get involved?
AC: In general I would say that we, at True/ False, are a world-class film festival that is right in your backyard, and we provide a number of completely free and super fun ways to get involved with True/False. It’s a resource and also a community space where we can learn from each other and practice storytelling and make stuff and have fun.
JL: What does DIY Day look like?
AC: So students will arrive in the morning for DIY Day, and on the sign up sheet they’ve selected which workshops they want to go to, so there will be a kick off, and we’ll all go to our first workshop, and then we’ll come back to Rose Music Hall. So we’ll arrive at Rose Music Hall to kickoff the day and get checked in, and then we’ll break into the groups of the workshops you’ve signed up to do, and then you’ll go to that workshop, and then you’ll come back to Rose Music Hall, and you’ll eat lunch, and there will be pizza and hanging out, and then you’ll get into your groups for the second workshop, and you’ll go to your second workshop, and you’ll come back to Rose Music Hall where we’ll have some kind of treat, like cookies or something like that, and we’ll close out the day and reflect on the day and then we all march together in the parade at the end of the day.
JL: Is DIY Day based on a first come, first served process?
AC: Kind of, so there are [a] limited number of slots in each workshop. We try to keep the workshops sizes pretty small. There is about a 15 person cap on most workshops, so workshops are first come, first serve in terms of how they fill up on the sign up sheet, but we do try to allow a certain number of slots for each school and then, after a little while, if for instance, if not all of the Rock Bridge slots have been filled we’ll open those slots up to students at Battle, Douglass and Hickman. So we start out with a certain number per school that’s pretty much equal, and then, depending on interest level, we might release some of those slots, if they aren’t filling, to other schools.
JL: What are the goals for DIY Day?
AC: I’m thinking of it as three goals this year for each workshop. First, we want the students to have a hands-on learning experience. Second, we want the students to practice some kind of skill or craft that they are practicing in that workshop and that they leave with that, so they can practice it more on their own. And then the third goal that we have is for students to learn a little bit from the presenting artist about their life and how they’ve made a career in order to kind of demystify how to be a working artist.
JL: What is the reason for catering these specific events toward high school students?
AC: We started working with high school students almost 10 years ago, and in part because we wanted to do more work. We wanted to make sure the school was reaching a wide swath of people in the community, and also many of our films are—it’s not that all of our films are inappropriate for younger students, but it is easier for us to find some that are appropriate for high school audiences than for any kind of younger student, so that’s just one aspect of [it,] programming-wise. It is just easier for us to find films that would be suitable for high school audiences versus middle school or elementary school.
JL: How do students apply to be a part of DIY Day?
AC: [We distributed] a sign up sheet, and there [were] 200 slots, and we [were] hoping to fill them through the sign up sheet.
Cathy Gunther, Volunteer Co-Coordinator
JL: How much of True/False depends on volunteers to run smoothly?
CG: There are over 900 people who work for the festival, and only about 100 of them receive compensation, so we totally depend on volunteers. True/False is a unique film festival in that it uses so many volunteers, and also that more than 80 percent of volunteers are local, [for instance from Columbia and surrounding towns such as Boonville.]
JL: What kinds of jobs do volunteers have?
CG: Volunteers are placed on teams depending on their time availability, their skills and their preferences. For the general public that [applies], there are about 20 teams to choose from, but some teams are very small (ie. lighting or photo), and other teams are very large (SetUp/BreakDown and Theater Operations). Our greatest needs are for volunteers on the largest teams, in particular working in theaters during the days of the festival.
JL: In the past, how many volunteers do you generally have?
CG: When I started as volunteer coordinator six years ago, we employed similar numbers. I’m really not sure about earlier festivals, but as the scale of the programming has increased over the years, so has our need for more volunteers.
JL: Why is volunteering a good way to get involved with the festival and the community?
CG: Volunteering for local organizations is always a valuable experience. Volunteering with True/False is unique in that it activates hundreds of community-oriented people to work together and transform downtown into a one-weekend cultural wonderland for thousands of guests. Some long-term volunteers say that they look forward to this fest more than most holidays.
Patricia Weisenfelder, Sustainability Coordinator
JL: When did the Green Mission at True/False begin?
CG: Beginning in 2014, [True/False] created a position for the Sustainability Coordinator. We knew that in order to be successful in the sustainability efforts it’s important to develop a mission to encompass multiple facets of the fest.
JL: What inspired the Green Mission?
PW: True/False has been around for many years now and is a huge draw for Columbia. Often times, with hosting a large event comes a large amount of waste and an even larger footprint. For this, we knew it was important for us to find ways to reduce our impact on Columbia and the global environment wherever possible.
JL: What does True/False hope to accomplish by promoting the Green Mission?
PW: Since [True/False] brings together people from all over the world, we feel that sharing and promoting our Green Mission and efforts is a good way to inspire others to take action in their own lives. For Columbians who attend, hopefully we can educate them on proper recycling practices here locally. For others, we want to empower them to take sustainable attitudes and practices away with them.
JL: At the festival, what can visitors do to do their part and help the environment?
PW: The fest offers several ways for attendees to contribute to our efforts. We offer recycling at every film venue as well as a full three-stream waste station, including compost in our Art Yard. Additionally, guests can bring their own water bottles to use at our refill stations and take advantage of our extra bike parking or bus routes. We also encourage our guests to take time to sit down and enjoy their food at the establishment instead of ordering to-go. Columbia restaurants have an awesome atmosphere, so why miss out when it could require unnecessary packaging?