The True/False Film Fest distributed $30,000 to the five families featured in the film Bully, this year’s True Life Fund selection about the impact of bullying on society. Capacity crowds attended screenings of Bully at the Missouri Theatre and Jesse Auditorium during True/False 2012. The True Life Fund—presented by the True/False Film Fest with support from The Crossing Church and media support by KOMU—raises money and awareness for the subjects of one nonfiction film each year and provides the audience with an opportunity to give back to the subjects on the screen. The funds raised will go to the main characters of the film, Alex Libby, Kelby Johnson, and Ja’Meya Jackson, and to the families of Tyler Long and Ty Smalley, two bullied kids who took their own lives. The money is a way of thanking them for sharing their stories and speaking out about bullying.
Support for the True Life Fund comes from outreach and fundraising events within the Columbia community and generous donations from True/False attendees. A portion of the proceeds from the True Life Run also supported the fund. This year, four subjects from Bully joined the run, including Alex Libby, Philip Libby and Bobby Johnson, who ran in honor of all the victims of bullying, and David Long, who ran in honor of his son Tyler Long and all the families who have lost loved ones to bullying. The Bertha Foundation also matched $15,000 of the funds raised for the True Life Fund. This combined effort resulted in $30,000 for the 2012 True Life Fund, doubling the amount raised last year.
The film’s director Lee Hirsch, producer Cynthia Lowen and an “extended family” of subjects from Bully, including Alex Libby, Philip Libby, Jackie Libby, Maya Libby, Ethan Libby, Kelby Johnson, Londa Johnson, Bobby Johnson, David Long and Tina Long, visited Columbia public high schools for school-wide assemblies on March 2 to discuss the film and their experiences with bullying. Hickman High School presented a donation of $3,000 to the subjects of Bully from fundraising events such as the Hickman Purple Cow Lip-Sync contest.
Bully is expected to return to Columbia at Ragtag Cinema later this spring.
The recipients of the 2012 True Life Fund wrote in to share their experience at the Fest:
“I really enjoyed my time in Columbia. I have been to several film festivals on behalf of Bully, and True/False stood out for me. The participation and support from the community was overwhelming at times, and the local high schools were awesome and welcomed us with open arms. I felt very privileged to get to be there and to be a part of something so important. To be chosen to receive the funds raised by the True Life Fund and matched by the Bertha Foundation is truly an honor. Your generosity will be used to continue the fight to eliminate bullying, with trips already on the schedule for this spring and summer. This money will help me to realize my goal of making life better for kids everywhere.”
—Kelby Johnson, subject of Bully
“I wanted to take a moment and thank you for allowing us the pleasure of attending your event and for making us a part of the True Life Fund. We had a wonderful time and Jessica and her team of Liaisons went above and beyond for us while we were there. As I was telling you at the time, we have been to a number of festivals and this was by far our favorite. The commitment from the community, the attitude of everyone involved, the proximity of the venues to one another and never lacking for anything to do all made for a great time. It is obvious that this is a very well planned and executed event. I didn’t want any more time slipping by without giving you and your team a heartfelt thank you. It was truly a pleasure meeting you.”
—Bobby Johnson, father of Kelby Johnson
“We all had such a wonderful weekend in Columbia at the T/F Film Fest; it was more than we could’ve hoped for. Thank you all again for everything.”
—Philip Libby, father of Alex Libby
“Everyone in the town of Columbia was so gracious. We all felt loved and supported.”
—Tina and David Long, subjects of Bully and parents of Tyler Long, who took his own life after being bullied
“We are so floored by this. Thank you guys so much! We will use whatever funds come to go to more schools and speak to more kids. We so appreciate this!”
—Kirk Smalley, subject of Bully and father of Ty Smalley, who took his own life after being bullied
“Thank you. God bless you all.”
—Barbara Primer, mother of Ja’Meya Jackson, subject of Bully
“Thank you so much, I can’t believe how much love Columbia showed us all—it was such an incredible weekend. It meant so much to have Bully and all of the families who created this film together with us honored at True/False in such a way.”
—Cynthia Lowen, producer of Bully