Gimme Truth! ‘Not Unusual’

One of our proudest creations is our signature game show, Gimme Truth! Every year a panel of three filmmakers gathers in front of a rowdy crowd at The Blue Note to watch a series of short films and try to determine if they are 100% True or 100% False. The whole event is presided over by the irreplaceable master of ceremonies Johnny St. John.

Thanks to our loyal media partner CAT TV you can relive this year’s edition and play along with judges Bill Ross (Tchoupitoulas), Sergio Oksman (A Story for the Modlins) and reigning champion Heidi Ewing (Detropia). Below you can evaluate “Not Unusual” by Betsy Gantt.

You can watch all of the 2013 edition of Gimme Truth! here.

Posted October 14, 2013

‘The Influencing Machine’ Revisited

In 1919, former Freud disciple Victor Tausk published an article called “The Origins of the ‘Influencing Machine’ in Schizophrenia“, which became a classic of psychiatric literature. In it he describes “Influencing Machines”, elaborate mechanical constructions that simulate artificial realities, invented by schizophrenics to explain their delusions. In their operation, these contraptions reflect uncertainties about recently discovered phenomenon like radio waves and invoke the power of the then-budding cinema.

T/F Co-conspirators Paul Sturtz and David Wilson read about Tausk and his machines in a 2004 piece in Cabinet Magazine by Christopher Turner. This served as the inspiration for our 2012 theme and poster, created by artist Erik Buckham based on Tausk’s own drawings.

Now a new piece in Aeon Magazine by Mike Jay shows how the influencing machines continue to churn along, still projecting the paranoid fears and narcissistic fantasies engendered by our technological culture. Jay describes “The Truman Show Delusion”, where one believes oneself to be the star of a hidden reality TV show, constantly on the brink of experiencing the This-is-Your-Life moment of revelation.

Jay’s essay concludes:

In the 21st century, the influencing machine has escaped from the shuttered wards of the mental hospital to become a distinctive myth for our times. It is compelling not because we all have schizophrenia, but because reality has become a grey scale between the external world and our imaginations. The world is now mediated in part by technologies that fabricate it and partly by our own minds, whose pattern-recognition routines work ceaselessly to stitch digital illusions into the private cinema of our consciousness. The classical myths of metamorphosis explored the boundaries between humanity and nature and our relationship to the animals and the gods. Likewise, the fantastical technologies that were once the hallmarks of insanity enable us to articulate the possibilities, threats and limits of the tools that are extending our minds into unfamiliar dimensions, both seductive and terrifying.


Posted September 23, 2013

‘I Am Breathing’ in Theaters Today

I am Breathing (T/F 2013) gracefully presents the final six months in the life of Neil Platt, a Scottish architect, husband and father enduring the indignities of Motor Neuron Disease. We watch Neil, confined to a chair by his illness, come to terms with his mortality and construct a legacy for his wife and infant son. The film is built around entries in Neil’s blog The Plattitude, a fount of down-to-earth wisdom capturing Neil’s humor, courage and inspiring resolve.

I Am Breathing opens today at the IFC Center in NYC with more cities soon to follow.

Co-director Emma Davie participated in our cozy get-together, Campfire Stories, where she shared an unforgettable story about “the tape in the shoe box under the editing suite”, a final message from Neil the she and co-director Morag McKinnon couldn’t bear to look at. Campfire Stories was filmed by our good friends at CAT TV.


Posted September 6, 2013

Gimme Truth! ‘The Mystery of Momo’

One of our proudest creations is our signature game show, Gimme Truth!  Every year a panel of three filmmakers gathers in front of a rowdy crowd at The Blue Note to watch a series of short films and try to determine if they are 100% True or 100% False. The whole event is presided over by the irreplaceable master of ceremonies Johnny St. John.

Thanks to our loyal media partner CAT TV you can relive this year’s edition and play along with judges Bill Ross (Tchoupitoulas), Sergio Oksman (A Story for the Modlins) and reigning champion Heidi Ewing (Detropia). Below you can evaluate “The Mystery of Momo” by Dac McCabe.

Posted September 3, 2013

Watch ‘The Interrupters’ and a Campfire Story From Steve James

One of the most unforgettable films ever to screen at True/False was our 2011 True Life Fund selection, The Interrupters. Steve James’s documentary introduced us to violence interrupters working in the troubled streets of Chicago. These interrupters are part of a program created by epidemiologist Gary Slutkin called Ceasefire (now renamed Cure Violence), based on the thesis that violence should be approached like an infectious disease, where the goal is to prevent each individual case of transmission.

The film’s deep humanism comes from the life stories of the violence interrupters themselves: Ameena Matthews, Cobe Williams and Eddie Bocanegra. All former gang members, the interrupters don’t shy away from their violent pasts, but instead utilize their reputations and gained knowledge to help their communities. We watch as they courageously interject themselves into intense situations, speaking blunt truths and directly confronting the drive for revenge or respect, passions that so frequently lead to acts of violence.

The 114 minute cut of The Interrupters is available to watch for free online through the PBS series Frontline.

The Interrupters was inspired by co-producer Alex Kotlowitz’s 2008 New York Times Magazine article “Blocking the Transmission of Violence”. Director Steve James was moved by this piece because of his personal connection to Curtis Gates, who was senselessly killed in a 2001 shooting. Curtis was the older brother of William Gates, one of the principle subjects of James’s 1994 film Hoop Dreams. Universally recognized as a documentary masterpiece, Hoop Dreams follows two basketball prodigies from poor neighborhoods in Chicago who dream of achieving fame and fortune through careers in the NBA. You can watch this essential film for free streaming online through Hulu.

Steve James returned to T/F this year to participate in our annual event Campfire Stories, an intimate gathering where filmmakers share tales about compelling scenes that didn’t make it into their films. In the clip below, James recounts an incident at a gas station which illustrates the violence interrupters problematic relationship with the police. Campfire Stories was captured on video by our friends at Columbia Access Television.


Thank You Boone Dawdlers!

For the fourth year in a row, the Boone Dawdle, our summer excursion and fundraiser, was a rollicking good time. We want to send a hearty thank you to everyone that made August 17, 2013 a day to remember. Thank you to the dawdlers of all kinds: riders, party-goers, sponsors, musicians, filmmakers, guests, volunteers and staff.

A legion of volunteers once again pitched in with their time and talents. Among them were our photo team, Stephen Bybee, Kevin Dingman and Ryan Henriksen. We’ll be looking back through the images they captured. If you want to see even more pics of the Dawdle, check out their Facebook photo albums here, here and here.

Things got underway on Saturday afternoon with some important assistance from our friends at Walt’s Bicycle, Fitness and Wilderness. They offered all of the riders a tune-up before our departure.

photo by Kevin Dingman


After everyone signed up, we struck off westward down the trail for a ride across Boone County. Our meandering 16-mile trip eventually took us from Columbia to Les Bourgeois outside Rocheport.

photo by Kevin Dingman


True/False wouldn’t feel like True/False without music and the spirited buskers who create it. Popping up here and there among the trees were Dubb Nubb, Ruth Acuff, The Flood Brothers, Googolplexia, Lizzie Wright Super Spaceship and The Onions. Also contributing a cheerful noise were the Branson-based performers the Lennon Brothers.

photo by Ryan Henriksen

photo by Kevin Dingman

photo by Ryan Henriksen


Other pleasant interruptions in our journey through the woods included games, a trivia contest, an advice machine, a lunar explorer photo cut-out and snacks and drinks courtesy of our culinary contributors.

photo by Stephen Bybee

photo by Ryan Henriksen

photo by Kevin Dingman


We also got our first chance to meet our special guest Christopher Carson, the star of the evening’s film, Lunarcy! Christopher intends to be the first human being to live his life on the moon. He shared his bold vision for lunar colonization with characteristic gusto and wit.

photo by Ryan Henriksen

photo by Ryan Henriksen


At the end of the long, fun-filled trip, we faced the final daunting hill. A little encouragement was definitely in order, and cheerleaders from Rock Bridge, Hickman and Battle High Schools were kind enough to oblige.

photo by Stephen Bybee

photo by Ryan Henriksen


Waiting for us in Rocheport was a sumptuous spread prepared by our friends Chelsea, Josh and Curtis and the rest of the amazing people at Les Bourgeois Winery. After grabbing some food and drink, we found seats, relaxed and hung-out on the beautiful limestone bluff overlooking the Missouri River.

photo by Ryan Henriksen

photo by Kevin Dingman

photo by Stephen Bybee


Next, we were treated to a concert by Yes, Ma’am. The group joined us all the way from the streets of the Big Easy to share their authentic blend of gritty country, pounding blues and old fashioned rock-in-roll.

photo by Ryan Henriksen


And before the film began, the T/F production crew treated us to a magnificent fireworks display.

photo by Kevin Dingman


The 2013 Boone Dawdle film was Lunarcy! Simon Ennis’s hilarious and inspiring documentary debut introduces us to a series of passionate dreamers who have built lives around the moon and its place in human destiny. After we watched the film out under the heavens, Simon and the subject Christopher Carson brought our evening to fitting conclusion with a charming and earnest Q and A.

photo by Kevin Dingman

photo by Ryan Henriksen

photo by Ryan Henriksen


Thank you again to everyone mentioned above. As inspiring as what happened in these photographs was, we assure you what went on behind the scenes was even more remarkable. Our tech team was up working late the night before, transforming the bluffs into an outdoor cinema. Volunteers hauled water and gear into the middle of nowhere, loaded countless bikes into trucks for the trip back to CoMo and stayed up past 2 am cleaning up the party. Our sherpa team stepped up in a big way, hauling bikes up the hill for hours. First Student provided bus transportation to get everyone back home for the night. And our dedicated staff put in the long hours at the Lab, making all of the details shine.

And, of course, our crazy schemes wouldn’t amount to anything without our sponsors. This year’s Dawdle was made possible by generous support of Delta Systems, Walt’s Bicycle, Fitness and Wilderness, Mountain Valley Spring Water, Les Bourgeois Vineyards, 102.3 BXR, The Columbia Daily Tribune and the Courtyard Marriott Columbia.

Together we can accomplish incredible things. Please remember, the Stars Are Ours!


Posted August 26, 2013

‘Never Not Working: Shorts on Labor from True/False’ this Wednesday at DCTV in NYC

This Wednesday, August 28th True/False is partnering with the Downtown Community Television Center and Filmwax to present Never Not Working: Shorts on Labor from True/False. This free program (RSVP for tickets) will be held at DCTV on Lafayette Street in New York City.

In anticipation of Labor Day, we’ll be screening short documentaries depicting labor as an inevitable part of our lives, whether enjoyable and fulfilling, difficult and necessary, and/or both. These five selections were culled from a decade of our programming by T/F shorts programmer Karen Cirillo and T/F co-director Paul Sturtz, both of whom will be in attendance. They’ll be joined by Musa Syeed and Yoni Brook of A Son’s Sacrifice and Marcelo de Oliveira, sound designer of The Breadmakers, for a post-screening Q and A.

The films in this program are:

Tina Delivers a Goat (T/F 2013, USA, Joe Callander, 2 min)
Through taking council with a local village elder, Tina discovers the benefits of a goat, delivers the goat, says hi to mama and papa and behbeh, takes a photo, and leaves. Global generosity in all its blunt simplicity.

El Cerco (T/F 2007, Catalonia, Ricardo Íscar/Nacho Martin, 12 min)
As the fishing boats close in on the tuna, the tension escalates until the men capture their prizes.

Breadmakers (T/F 2008, UK, Yasmin Fedda, 11 min)
At a unique Edinburgh bakery, a community of workers with learning disabilities makes a variety of organic breads for daily delivery to local shops and cafés.

A Son’s Sacrifice (T/F 2007, USA, Yoni Brook, 26 min)
A young American Muslim struggles to take over his father’s halal slaughterhouse in New York City.

Il Capo (T/F 2011, Italy, Yuri Ancarani, 15 min)
A choreographed, spooky look at a marble quarry, this film features the best use of a monolith and upward pan since Kubrick’s 2001. Man, machines, nature come together in an elemental masterpiece.

To create the authentic festival atmosphere, T/F 2013 buskers Mountain Animation will be warming up the house before the lights go down. Below you’ll find a sample of the Brooklyn-based power duo performing in Union Square. They were also recently named among the seven best busking acts in NYC by the Gothamist.

New Yorkers, we hope to see you there. Remember, tickets are free, but going fast. RSVP soon if you want to join us.


Posted August 24, 2013

Remembering Willy Wilson

Willy Wilson, a great friend and supporter of True/False and Ragtag Cinema, passed away on Saturday night. Not only was Willy the voice of the Ragtag showtimes line from 2000–2008 and the narrator of our 2012 digital-conversion video (see Willy at the end), he was the designer and co-creator of the copper Tatlin sculpture above the Ragtag box office, and co-creator of David Wilson, Ragtag’s co-founder. Willy was also a prime mover in buying and investing in the Hittsville building that houses the cinema today.

Yet these projects were only a small part of Willy’s lifelong commitment to skeptical inquiry and the flourishing of the arts. A true polymath, Willy’s passions included adventurous travel, computer programming, teaching mathematics, coaching soccer and playing music. He was also involved with Columbia’s Maplewood Barn Community Theater for over thirty years, serving as an actor, director, set designer and board member.

From all your friends at Ragtag Cinema, True/False, Uprise Bakery, 9th Street Video and Hitt Records, thank you, Willy Wilson. You’re already missed.

In Willy’s memory, a scholarship fund has been created to support students interested in the arts. Donations can be made online or sent c/o Maplewood Barn Theatre, P.O. Box 1704, Columbia, MO, 65205.

Posted August 20, 2013

Support Columbia Access Television

As you may have heard, Columbia’s City Manager recently proposed cutting funding for Columbia Access Television from the city’s 2014 budget. This proposal will be taken up this week by the Columbia City Council.

In light of this, we wanted to affirm CAT’s importance, both to True/False and the City of Columbia. CAT has been our media partner for the past three years, providing technical support and creating quality videos of events like Gimme Truth! and Campfire Stories. In addition, True/False has partnered with CAT to provide an academic-year-round filmmaking program for High School students from Douglass, Hickman and Rock Bridge. These students have been given an incredible jump start on a career in filmmaking, due to the access of top of the line professional filmmaking equipment and editing software from CAT. By making these tool available to everyone in our community, CAT has become a vital part of Columbia’s growing filmmaking culture. As Zielinski (T/F 2011) co-director Chase Thompson put it, “CAT was an open door for me as someone who couldn’t afford to go to film school.”

If you are interested in supporting CAT TV during this critical time, their website offers multiple suggestions on how to help. These include recording a video testimonial at their downtown location, connecting with CAT TV’s Facebook and Twitter, contacting city officials and attending the City Council meetings tonight, August 19th and this Saturday, August 24th.

Posted August 19, 2013

An interview with ‘Lunarcy!’ director Simon Ennis

The adventurous spirit of The Boone Dawdle is reflected vividly in this summer’s film. In Lunarcy! director Simon Ennis weaves together stories from a variety of people who have dedicated their lives to the moon and its place in human destiny. Chief among them is the oddly charismatic Christopher Carson, a man who aspires to be the first to live his life away from the Earth.

Both Simon and Christopher will be answering your questions this Saturday following our moonlight screening of Lunarcy! In preparation, I chatted a bit with Simon about his film and the fascinating character at its center.
-Dan Steffen

T/F: What was the initial inspiration for Lunarcy!?

SE: I was eager to one day try my hand at documentary (my first feature film You Might As Well Live and previous shorts were all fiction) and was generally keeping my eyes and ears open for a potential subject. Quite randomly, over the course of one week I read three very different articles about the Moon- one on the Moon in ancient religion, one about a fellow in Northern California who claimed ownership to the Moon 30 years ago and has since been selling it off one acre at a time and another about mining the Moon for something called helium-3 that could potentially replace oil as our primary fuel- and I thought to myself, there’s an interesting subject!

Originally the idea was to go around and collect various stories; all of the different ways that human beings have seen the Moon. But as I went on my travels something happened and the film naturally became more about the people who had devoted their lives to the Moon rather than the Moon itself.

T/F: As this was your first documentary, was there anything about the process that surprised you? Was it similar to making a fictional film?

SE: Nothing particularly comes to mind that was surprising. It was certainly a different process in that I had no script and would only go into a given situation with a very general idea of what might happened. It certainly made for a more loose, open, free and improvisational approach. The fact that we shot and edited for about a year was really nice too. It allowed me to build the movie slowly over time and react to what I was getting rather than the usual: plan everything, go out and shoot, then cut it together as three separate stages. I really liked this way of working and hope to bring elements of it to my next fiction projects.

T/F: How did you approach managing so many different characters and stories within the same film?

SE: There were actually quite a few more interviews that I did that ultimately didn’t make the final cut. My approach was to collect as many interesting Moon-related stories as I could and then figure out what to do with them in the editing room. My editor (the inestimable Matthew Simon Lyon) and I had a simple approach- we would go through everything that was shot and just try to cut out the least interesting stuff until we were left with only footage we thought audiences would find interesting or moving or funny. Then we tried to find thematic connections between what the different folks were saying and put it together like that.

 T/F: What connections did you find?

SE: I never really like when filmmakers explain what the audience is supposed to get out of a film thematically. There’s whatever I think is in there, sure, but people often come up to me after screenings and talk about responding to all kinds of things that I may or may not have identified as themes, myself. Those are just as valid and interesting and I’d rather just let people take what they naturally take from it rather than imposing something. That being said, dreaming, creativity, the idea of home . . . these are all pretty explicitly mentioned in the movie.

T/F: At what point did you decide on Christopher Carson as the main character?

SE: It just sort of happened naturally. Christopher was actually the only subject in the film that I didn’t find in my research. I literally ran into him at a conference of rocket engineers and scientists. He was wearing a vest that said “Luna City or Bust” and told me he intended to be the first person to leave the Earth with the intention of making his home on the Moon. I told him I was making a documentary about the Moon and that I’d like to interview him. He said, “Yes. You had better!”. We talked for an hour and ended up spending the better part of a year together traveling the country and striking up quite a friendship!

 T/F: What is it about Christopher that gives him such a compelling screen presence?

SE: He’s an incredibly smart, well-spoken and charming fella with a very unique and bold personal style and a great sense of humor, who has devoted his life to the pursuit of a beautiful and quixotic dream. Some people who have seen the movie have asked me if he’s an actor and I always tell them the same thing. “No, he’s not an actor . . . but he IS a movie star”.

T/F: As I watched the film, it became clear that he was more self-aware than he appeared at first glance. Interestingly, this made it harder to dismiss his seemingly fantastical goal. Was there a similar evolution in your relationship?

SE: No. On the one hand, I wasn’t dismissive of his dreams when I first met him. When he explained to me that he wanted to be the first person to go and live on the Moon, I immediately thought it was an awesome and beautiful goal to shoot for. I am absolutely behind the idea!

On the other hand, if Christopher wasn’t self-aware and didn’t understand that most people are dismissive or laugh at his bold claims, then he would be crazy and the film would have been exploitative. Chris is an incredibly smart person and knows very well that what he’s going for sounds far-fetched. How could he not? One of the reasons he’s so affable and charming though is because he also has a great sense of humor about the whole thing. I made sure to include both his self-awareness and sense of humor. Not doing so would’ve been dishonest to his character and probably a miserable experience for the audience too.

Posted August 12, 2013
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