Plus, there’s a rad party at the end.


The True/False volunteer army is a mighty force of chaotic good. Every year, we’re overwhelmed by the outpouring of community devotion and we want to give a hearty thanks to this tireless crew. This year, we’re highlighting volunteers from each department so they can tell us a little about themselves and why they started volunteering for T/F. Want to get involved? Head to to apply for True/False 2018.



Meet Marie; Marie Schaller is a Columbia native and University of Missouri graduate with a degree in International Business. She currently lives in Fargo, North Dakota and works at Concordia Language Villages, language immersion summer camps. The first T/F films she saw back in ’09 were Food Inc., No Impact ManBerma VJ, and Pressure Cooker. We’re lucky to have her.

“Marie’s calm, cool, collected attitude makes Missouri Theater run like a well-oiled machine. Her smile is contagious and her love of the fest is infectious. We love Marie and are so thankful for her dedication to the fest!” – Carly Love, T/F Manager of the Theater Operations


TF: What department do you volunteer for?

MS: I have volunteered for Theater Operations as Venue Captain and have also volunteered with Special Ops


A large crowd gathers inside and outside the Missouri Theatre on Sunday evening, 2015. (Photo by Rebecca Allen)


TF: How many years have you volunteered for True/False?

MS: I have volunteered for the fest the past 6 years


TF: How did you get involved in volunteering?

MS: When I attended high school I saw a few films that had a really big impact on me and I knew I wanted to get involved.


TF: What’s your favorite part about volunteering? 

MS: My favorite part of volunteering for T/F is getting to see films that are thought-provoking and then getting to discuss them with other volunteers and creating friendships with them. More recently, this has translated to getting to help facilitate that bond within my team of volunteers


The closing show crowd at the Missouri Theatre, 2015. (photo by Rebecca Allen)


TF: Tell us one prominent memory or great story that happened while volunteering?

MS: Not a specific memory, but I love how the feeling of Columbia changes during those 4 days. All the art, music, activity, and openness adds this magic and suddenly downtown is transformed and everything feels heightened. The volunteers implement that transformation.


TF: What would you tell people who never been to or volunteered for True/False?

MS: Volunteering is so fun! You get to feel like a part of the Columbia community and you can make new friends and see some of the films for free! Plus, there’s a rad party at the end.

DJs at the Volunteer Party, 2017 (Photo by Jonathan Asher)


TF: What’s been the most rewarding part of your experience volunteering?

MS: The most rewarding part of my volunteer experience is getting to watch young people experience True/False through volunteering or just watching the films and seeing their perspectives broaden.



Posted December 26, 2017

You get to see a whole new side to the event.


The True/False volunteer army is a mighty force of chaotic good. Every year, we’re overwhelmed by the outpouring of community devotion and we want to give a hearty thanks to this tireless crew. This year, we’re highlighting volunteers from each department so they can tell us a little about themselves and why they started volunteering for T/F. Want to get involved? Head to to apply for True/False 2018.




Meet Lincoln Sheets. He is a physician and informatics researcher who studies the social determinants of health at Mizzou Med School. He lives and serves full-time at St. Francis House, a Catholic Worker community that provides shelter and hospitality to the homeless residents of Columbia, and his free-time interests include dance, triathlon, mountaineering, European languages, martial arts, and TRUE/FALSE!

“Lincoln is an fantastic volunteer.  The enthusiasm, willingness, and joy he brings to True/False – and to working with students – is the kind of glue that holds this festival together and helps it happen every year.  We’re so lucky to have him on our team!” – Allison Coffelt, T/F Director of Education


We asked Lincoln to tell us a little about his volunteer experience, his favorite parts about volunteering, and any advice he would give to first-time volunteers:

I’ve volunteered for the Outreach & Education team for the past two years. In prior years I’ve volunteered as a ticket taker, and also been a paying passholder. I was recruited to the Outreach and Education team by my friend Allison Coffelt, who is the director of that department for True/False.

Eddie Martinez, documentary filmmaker and college instructor, leads a group of high school students in a story writing workshop as part of the DIY Day Workshop. (Photo by Frank Finley)


My favorite part of working for that team is working with the high-school kids during the DIY Day program. I get to help the filmmakers and other creative types introduce 20 or 30 high schoolers to the various arts of filmmaking, storytelling, interviewing, and all kinds of cool skills.

If you’ve never volunteered for True/False, and especially if you already love the Fest as much as I have for so many years, you should try being a volunteer one year. You get to see a whole new side of the event, of the international community that makes up the Fest every year, and the great local folks who make it possible.


DIY Day participants make their way down 9th Street during the March March! (Photo by Adam Vogler)


Posted December 22, 2017

Make mistakes and take risks.


The True/False volunteer army is a mighty force of chaotic good. Every year, we’re overwhelmed by the outpouring of community devotion and we want to give a hearty thanks tireless crew. This year, we’re highlighting volunteers from each department so they can tell us a little about themselves and why they started volunteering for T/F.

Meet Jane McElroy. She is a faculty member in the School of Medicine at Mizzou, a loyal True/False volunteer, and a wonderfully involved community member. About True/False she says, “I’m not a big movie fan, so I don’t watch very many films but I’m committed to supporting my community through meaningful volunteer activities and T/F ranks high.” Jane, to us, you rank higher than high. Thanks for giving us your time, energy, and endless support.


Jane builds houses with Habitat for Humanity. She has been doing this every weekend for years because she likes to stay active, she believes in the cause, and it’s fun. At some point, she started offering T/F her Sundays in the winter. We’re so lucky. I’m not even sure that she was able to attend this year’s event, but I bet she cut a full tenth of the lumber we used in preparation. – Ben Falby, T/F Production Manager


(Photo by Stephen Bybee)


TF: What department do you volunteer for? 

JM: Build. [Build Team is an off-shoot of the production crew that handles a lion’s share of the construction projects. The build team does everything from work with artists to help them create their visions to building storage crates for T/F production materials (and a million other things in between).]

TF:How many years have you volunteered for True/False?

JM: 6  years


TF: How did you get involved in volunteering? 

JM: Heard about it and tried a few different options before I landed on Build as a good fit a few years ago.


John NIchols and Jane McElroy discuss table saw safety with George Zimny during a work session at the Lab. (Photo by Stephen Bybee)


TF: What’s your favorite part about volunteering for T/F? 

JM: T/F rocks by providing an outstanding community experience and showcasing great documentary films.


TF: What would you tell people who never been to or volunteered for True/False? 

JM: Great event.  Volunteers on the days of the event are the face of T/F so it is a meaningful experience.  For those behind the scenes who volunteer,  we contribute to the quirky and nut-and-bolts pieces for a successful and memorable event.  In both cases it is a worthwhile experience with very tangible and fairly immediate results.  Patrons and artists feel supported and want to keep coming to the T/F event each year.  Columbia gets to have this event in their backyard.


TF: What’s been the most rewarding part of your experience volunteering?

JM: Being part of a great group of people (on the Build team) who have tasks without a exact answer on how we are going to complete them in every case.  With Ben as the coordinator/facilitator/and mentor, (working under Ben’s tutelage is one of the rewarding components of the experience), we stand around and problem solve.  Ben allows us to make mistakes and take risks as we pull together the structures that support the creative art installations.


Design and construction work begins early at the Lab for True/False 2015. Photo by Stephen Bybee.


Posted October 26, 2017

Post Rough Cut Conversation, PIGEON KINGS

Pigeon Kings, a new documentary by filmmaker Milena Pastreich, tracks a peculiar subculture of pigeon competitions in South Central Los Angeles presided over by the godfather Keith London. Milena brought the rollers to Rough Cut Retreat back in July, and afterwards we sat down to talk about how she met the pigeon community and how the story evolved from her initial fascination.



TF: How did you get involved in this project?

MP: I made a scripted short film in 2011 and the lead in the film had pigeons, many scenes took place in her pigeon coop. So, during pre-pro, I was location scouting coops all over LA and upon visiting one, I looked up into the sky and saw pigeons doing somersaults. I got pretty annoying asking one question after the next, so the man who owned the coop invited me to a Roller Pigeon auction on that very day. I headed to the event, where I saw hundreds of men wearing pigeon T-shirts, talking about birds, and looking up into the sky. This world felt surreal and that is why when someone asked me what I was doing there, I responded “I’m making a documentary.”


TF: How long did you spend shooting?

MP: I spent two summers (2011 and 2012) meeting people with a camera, that was my form of research. In 2013 I got a grant from Canon via Film Independent, which meant I had C300 for 6 months. During those 6 months I was fully immersed in shooting the subjects of the doc in their day-to-day lives. In 2015 Canon loaned me the camera again and I spent 2 months shooting all things competition. In 2016 and 2017 I shot very sparingly to follow certain story lines.


TF: Can you tell me a little about the pigeon rolling sport?

MP: Roller competitions exist around the world and the fliers always compete from their own backyards so it’s the judge who travels to them. If it’s a national fly, the judge travels around the US, if it’s a local fly, he travels around the LA area. A South Central Roller competition starts around 6:30am on a Saturday or Sunday. Over the course of the fly, the group of participants caravan from house to house. Whoever is flying releases their birds and they have 20 minutes to fly a 20 bird team. There is a judge counting how many birds do somersaults in unison, if 5 or more pigeons roll at the same time, the competitor gets points. There’s a lot more to the scoring system, but that’s the basic concept.


Milena Pastreich and editor Alex O’Flinn discuss after individualized feedback sessions.


TF: During the post-screening conversation, we talked a little about how this film really served as a portrait of these people in this time, as opposed to a “sport” film. What about this group of people really stood out to you and made you want to continue filming?

MP: I’m glad it’s more of a character film than a sports film because that’s most definitely where my interests lie. What drew me to the men is their passion slash obsession with their birds. They have a real connection with their pigeons, they call them “children” and consider them part of their family. Over time, it became clear that the relationship is so extreme because they depend on their pigeons, just as their pigeons depend on them.


TF: When constructing the portrait of these people, what were you careful about including and excluding?

MP: Knowing what to include and exclude is such a long process. I don’t think I was calculating what needed to be in our story and what didn’t, instead it revealed itself and is still revealing itself as we edit. Everything started on a scene level though. Since most of our footage is verité, we began by assembling all the scenes that stood out and then whatever was compelling became a building block for our story. With Keith, the heart of his story is his relationship with his children. For Choo, it is his barbershop, which is where we get a sense of the South Central apart from the pigeons.


TF: Tell me a little about how you wove together the personal narrative, and the narrative of the sport. You do it really well in the film so we get this really lovely dual story line of the competitions and the interpersonal relationships.

MP: Glad to hear it felt woven together. We began by mapping out the personal narrative which included a competition, so there was a natural sports narrative built into the personal narrative. We then worked backwards and figured out what we needed to explain for that competition to make sense. In terms of the sport, our approach is to explain the minimum amount necessary so people are not confused or annoyed, wanting to know more.


TF: I think you’ve also done a really amazing job of grounding the film in a certain place and time – can you talk a little about where it’s set and the community surrounding these characters/sport.

MP: Pigeon Kings takes place in South Central LA and although we are immersed in a specific pigeon world, the film is very much about the neighborhood. Most of the pigeon enthusiasts in South Central are Black and Latino men in their 40s and 50s who have had rollers since they were children. There are a handful of pigeon clubs in the LA area and the members spend weekends competing against each other and attending pigeon auctions. If they’re not involved in club activities, they are stopping by each other’s backyards for a hang; there is a very strong sense of community.  


TF: You chose very distinct music for the film. Why that sound and what inspired the decision?

MP: Birdman stole our title so we stole their soundtrack. Only kinda kidding. Our film was originally titled Birdmen and I was very inspired by the Birdman score. With a documentary like this, that takes so long to make, it’s fascinating to watch prior work samples and see the evolution of the music. We first started with classical and although it worked for short teasers and work samples, it never seemed like it could carry the entire film. I knew I wanted to embrace one genre of music or have a similar sound throughout since we are entering such a specific world. Last year when we made a teaser for a Kickstarter campaign, we were playing around with different options and when we tried jazz drum solos and drumlines we got VERY excited.


TF: What stage of post-production were you in when you came to Rough Cut? Had other people seen the film, were you pretty far along in the feedback process?

MP: We had been editing for over a year and had had 4 screenings.


Feedback session with mentor Mark Becker


TF: During the retreat, you got some feedback from a bunch of different filmmakers, what was some of the best feedback you got and how has it impacted your film so far?

MP: We got tons of great feedback at the retreat. One take-away was that one of our characters was outshining the other so we’ve been working on making the less popular character more present. Furthermore, some of the rules of the sport were confusing so we have been clarifying them. We got so many great notes but one of the best ones was so simple, reminding us of the scale of the changes that needed to be done. Very small changes will make a huge difference. Hearing that was very important.


Rough Cut Retreat is a collaborative project from True/False Film Fest and Catapult Film Fund that strives to give filmmakers with new projects dedicated time, mentorship, and feedback to help their work move from a rough cut to a final cut. 

Posted September 14, 2017

She Does True/False

If one of your favorite parts of True/False is chatting with our visiting guests, you’re not alone. The festival environment is an auspicious one for fest-goers and filmmakers to connect – both groups energized by the weekend and excited to share ideas about their experiences.

Elaine Sheldon and Sarah Ginsburg have been working on a new podcast in the same spirit. She Does: Conversations with Creative Minds launched in January of this year, and has since been consistently connecting listeners with women artists of all stripes. These conversations are personal and professional – maybe the kind you’d have over coffee at Uprise right after watching a new film?

From their site:

“Whether up and coming or well-established, She Does features notable women of all generations, working at the intersection of media, film, journalism, art and technology. We bring you stories of what makes these women tick, their beginnings, their roadblocks, and the delightful bits in between”


It’s clear that the ladies of She Does have great taste, because they’ve featured tons of True/False makers, musicians, and guests:

Back in January, before she came to True/False with (T)ERROR, Lyric Cabral was featured. Polish filmmaker Hanna Polak talks about her 14-years in the making doc, Something Better to Come (T/F 2015). Linda Pan, of the SundanceNow Doc Club, and Emily Best of Seed and Spark both spoke on our Dollars & Donuts panel about distribution. Fans of T/F buskers will especially enjoy the She Does Music ep, and these featuring music by Dubb Nubb and Pearl and the Beard.

Once you’ve enjoyed those episodes, check out this week’s new ep, Finding Your Own Fun: Pamela Ribon.

by Arin Liberman

Posted August 27, 2015

Over 120 T/F Films Available to Watch for Free

Get into the T/F state of mind with over 120 films from True/False past available to stream for free on our newly revised and expanded video page. Films now feature descriptions along with links to essays and filmmaker interviews to further inform your viewing. You can use the categories function on the left of the screen to sort by the year the film played the Fest or by shorts or features. These films are gathered from a variety of sites which legally stream docs, including Vimeo, YouTube, Hulu, SnagFilms, Crackle, P.O.V. and The National Film Board of Canada’s online archive. If you are outside the US, access will vary based on the hosting site, but you should still be able to find plenty of interesting docs to explore.




We’ve also collected videos of classic documentaries, other work from T/F alumnimusical performances captured at the Fest, T/F Panel discussions, Campfire Stories and more. Come take a look around and find something to watch!

Posted January 27, 2015

T/F 2014 Panels Now Available as Videos or MP3s

T/F’s panel discussions bring together film directors, visual artists and film critics for candid conversation on the hows and whys of their crafts. Sometimes overlooked in the whirlwind of T/F weekend, we’ve now made the complete set of T/F 2014 conversations available to watch on our video page. Or if you’d like to take a panel with you on a jog or to the grocery store, click on any of the titles below to find an audio mp3 you can stream or download. All of these discussions were preserved thanks to the hard work of our media partners at Columbia Access Television.

The Critical Takedown

Nonfiction films entering the world are still plagued by two types of criticism. There’s “be nice, this topic is worthy” damnation by faint praise for films with “important” issues, and the “Where’s the context?!” stigma faced too often by more personal or artful films. How to strike a balance and what DOES creative nonfiction need from critics? Sam Adams, the editor of Criticwire engages three cranky malcontents (i.e. critics), Nick Pinkerton, Ela Bittencourt and Adam Nayman, who have all the answers.

Making Magic/Realism

T/F 2014’s visual theme of magic/realism suggested an intersection between the mundane and the fantastic. But it wasn’t until visual artists from all over the country offered their creative sparks did the theme come alive. Artist and writer Anne Thompson coaxes magic from T/F bumper director Jarred Alterman, T/F 2014 poster artist Akiko Stehrenberger, sculptor Taylor Ross, who made the interactive mechanical sculptor in the Missouri Theatre lobby, and “TransPlant” pod installation artist, Leland Drexler-Russell.

Lies My Subject Told Me

Present tense films are crafted through an agreement between filmmaker and subject, but sometimes the bond is broken. During these fragile moments, the foundation of the relationship is questioned and a new trajectory takes hold. Hot Docs director Charlotte Cook hosts Robert Greene (Actress), Maxim Pozdorovkin (The Notorious Mr. Bout), Jesse Moss (The Overnighters) for a discussion on deception.

Beyond Pretty Pictures

What was previously off limits is now possible through affordable, lightweight equipment, and low-cost DIY hacking. Increasingly light-sensitive cameras liberate filmmakers to capture nighttime scenes; miniature, waterproof cameras are cheap; skeleton crews allow subjects to feel more comfortable revealing themselves. T/F alumni Omar Mullick quizzes Linda Västrik (Forest of the Dancing Spirits), Ewan McNicol (Uncertain), and Victor Kossakovsky (Demonstration) on how they harness technology to tell better stories.

Place is the Space

Nonfiction filmmakers locate vivid places and people whose stories jump off the screen – then they sift and winnow to find the soul of the place. True/False mascot Beadie Finzi chats with Tracy Droz Tragos (Rich Hill), Sherief Elkatsha (Cairo Drive), and Mark Levinson (Particle Fever) who reveal how they cast films where settings don’t act as backdrops but as stars in their own right.

Africa is Not a Country

To a Western mind, Africa may appear as a slideshow of slums, safaris, refugees, and marathon runners. In a clutch of T/F 2014 films, though, outsider filmmakers avoid shopworn stereotypes to tell distinctive stories from a diverse continent. T/F ringleader Ingrid Kopp asks Tobias Janson (Concerning Violence), Rachel Boynton (Big Men), and Joe Callander (Life After Death) how they circumvented the pitfalls.

Posted October 7, 2014

‘Beyond Pretty Pictures’ Panel

Technology continues to revolutionize documentary filmmaking. Increasingly light-sensitive cameras liberate filmmakers to capture nighttime scenes; miniature, waterproof cameras are cheap; skeleton crews allow subjects to feel more comfortable revealing themselves. In this year’s “Beyond Pretty Pictures” panel, these ongoing innovations serve as the jumping off point for a wide ranging conversation on the art of nonfiction. Moderator Omar Mullick (These Birds Walk) quizzed Linda Västrik (Forest of the Dancing Spirits), Ewan McNicol (Uncertain), and Victor Kossakovsky (Demonstration) on how they harness technology to tell better stories.

Check out this short clip, an exchange on how doc subjects see themselves on film and how they react to these reactions.

If this excerpt peaked your interest, you can watch the whole thing on our video page or download the conversation as an audio mp3. Our panels were filmed by our friends at Columbia Access Television.

Posted July 10, 2014

‘Making Magic/Realism’ Panel

This year for the first time, we featured a panel with the visual artists who transformed our city, turning the mundane into the fantastic through their own interpretations of “Magic/Realism”. The Odd Fellows Lodge hosted T/F bumper director Jarred Alterman, T/F 2014 poster artist Akiko Stehrenberger, sculptor Taylor Ross, who made the interactive mechanical sculptor in the Missouri Theatre lobby, and “TransPlant” pod installation artist, Leland Drexler-Russell. Artist and writer Anne Thompson led the group on a discussion of ideas and inspiration, which you can watch below thanks to our friends at Columbia Access Television.

You can take also take this conversation with you as a mp3 here.

If this chat sparked your own creativity, you should know that we are now accepting art installation proposals for T/F 2015 when our theme will be “The Long Now”.

Posted June 13, 2014

‘Place is the Space’ Panel

The sense of place is a fundamental aspect of cinema. In great films it is a part of every scene, a background presence that informs everything we see and hear.

Our panel “Place is the Space” investigates how filmmakers go about communicated this essential feeling. The panelists’ films take place in fascinating array of places, a small midwestern town struggling to hold on, a massive underground science experiment and a crowded city undergoing a major political upheaval. Moderator Beadie Finzi talks with Tracy Droz Tragos of Rich Hill, Mark Levinson of Particle Fever and Sherief Elkatsha of Cairo Drive.

This panel is available thanks to our friends at Columbia Access Television. You can also take this conversation with you as an mp3 here.

Posted April 17, 2014
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