Creating compelling, high-quality films is no small feat, and beautiful work often does not receive a wide theatrical run. True/False is working to create a sustainable ecosystem for nonfiction filmmakers to help storytellers share their work with a larger audience and support the non-fiction filmmaking community.
Now in their 11th year in Columbia, Missouri, the True/False Film Fest is one of the most well regarded documentary film festivals in the country. Aggregate has sponsored the festival in the past, and this year we are excited to announce we are founding members of the True/False Film Fest’s Pay the Artist! initiative.
Pay the Artist! will offer $450 to each feature filmmaker (or filmmaking team) attending the fest this year, in addition to all travel, lodging, and food expenses. The festival envisions this fund growing each year, eventually offering stipends of $1,000 per filmmaker. Funds are provided through three-year financial commitments from patrons like Aggregate.
Alison, our Founder/President, is flying to Columbia this week for the festival, so I took the opportunity to ask her more about her love for True/False, her favorite films, and why investing in True/False and Pay the Artist! is a reflection of our values here at Aggregate.
What inspires you most about Pay the Artist! and the values for which True/False stands?
I’ve been close friends with David Wilson, one of the festival’s two founders and our Creative Director, for more than 20 years now. I am incredibly proud of what he and Paul Sturtz have done with True/False and the integrity they have maintained. To me, despite the fact that the festival has grown larger and more well known and there are more big name filmmakers walking down 9th Street in Columbia, MO at the end of February/beginning of March every year, it is exactly the same festival that it was in the beginning. It reflects a sincere reverence for nonfiction film and filmmakers, yet doesn’t take itself too seriously. It maintains a friendly DIY flavor, while being incredibly efficient—including the best run box office of any festival out there. And, while David and Paul may travel the world in search of great non-fiction films, the festival reflects their mutual love for Columbia.
I was at the Full Frame festival last year when David—who was screening his own film, We Always Lie to Strangers—announced that True/False planned to go beyond paying for filmmakers’ travel (which most festivals don’t do) and begin to pay them a small stipend. It was a further step in True/False’s commitment to nonfiction filmmakers and the nonfiction filmmaking community and, when David asked if Aggregate wanted to be an inaugural funder, it was a no brainer. All of the money that we give away goes to people and organizations whose work inspires us, often through the stories they tell. That is precisely what True/False filmmakers do for us. We’ve committed to $10,000 per year for three years, but I am hopeful we’ll be able to give more.
Tell me a story of your most memorable True/False moment.
The best moments are always watching the director take the stage after a screening at the beautiful Missouri Theater and getting a standing ovation from the biggest crowd that will ever see their film. And it’s always that much better when Paul or David are on stage to take it in with them.
Beyond that, I remember Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips calling in to the Blue Note to speak to the audience before the screening of The Fearless Freaks over the phone in year one. I remember weeping in the alley behind the Blue Note after a screening of And Everything is Going Fine because I was so moved. I remember Peter Staley taking the stage in 2012 after the screening of How to Survive a Plague and announcing that it was “a good night to be a homo in CoMo” and I remember getting to the festival last year and seeing David France, the director of How to Survive a Plague in the first five minutes, getting a big hug and knowing it was going to be a good year.
My memories of True/False are also about seeing David’s family and the pride on their faces throughout the long weekend of the fest. This year will be the first year of the fest since David’s dad Willy passed away, and I am going to miss seeing him immensely.
Which is your favorite film from past years, and why?
I’ve been to the festival nine out of the ten years of the festival (deciding not to go year 2 may be one of the greatest regrets of my life), so it’s tough to say which was my favorite film, since I am confident I’ve seen more than 200 films at True/False. Last year my favorite film was Stories We Tell. Other great films that have stayed with me are Alex Gibney’s Gonzo, The Control Room, The Imposter, Burma VJ, Murderball, Only the Young (damn, I love that film), Waltz with Bashir, Following Sean, Undefeated, The Waiting Room, Low and Clear, Buck, Computer Chess, Laura Poitras’ The Oath, Reporter, Last Train Home, Shut Up Little Man and A.J. Schnack’s Kurt Cobain About a Son. And Everything is Going Fine and How to Survive a Plague are also huge favorites.
Which films are you most looking forward to seeing this year, and why?
I’m excited to see 20,000 Days on Earth because my mentor, John Bell, is a huge Nick Cave fan and I can’t wait to tell him all about it. I’m excited to see Richard Linklater’s Boyhood because of the story behind the production of the film. I’m also excited to see Rich Hill, both because it was the big winner at Sundance, but primarily because the filmmaker is from Missouri, and will probably feel great about showing the film to a “home town” crowd. I only recently realized I could ask David to provide me with guidance in selecting my films and, although he redirected me slightly, he thinks I have a good slate of films—16 films between this Thursday and Sunday.