COLUMBIA — This year, the True/False Film Festival featured more films, more venues, more parties and more movie junkies in a rush for tickets.
In the last eight years, the festival has grown from a modest attendance of 4,400 to 30,600 this year. Last year, a total of 25,500 seats were filled during the festival.
But, organizers say the vision remains the same.
"The focus hasn't changed," said Jonathan Westhoff, who has worked every festival. "It's the perfect mix of still being a film festival that's hip and bringing in filmmakers, but openly, at the heart, it's a festival for the public, for viewers and for the community."
Westhoff, 32, a projectionist for Ragtag Cinema, said this year offered the most must-see films.
"I don't know if this year was the best so far," Westhoff said. "It's like your children. Each one's special in its own way."
During its run, the festival has broadened its interaction with the community, adding a parade, musical performances, parties and a 5K race.
"A lot has been added, but the purpose of all the events is to celebrate the community in the form of the film festival," Westhoff said.
Nick Peckham, 70, said he has attended the festival as a patron every year.
"I thought it would be a one-time thing," Peckham said. "Back then it was a less robust offering."
Yet, while the festival is bigger, he said that doesn't necessarily mean it's better. Even though he had purchased a Super Circle Pass, a $500 pass that allows admission to any of the festival's films and comes with other perks, he said he was denied entry to several films because of the crowds of filmgoers.
"It seemed oversold, but who can argue with success?" Peckham asked.
He also compared True/False favorably to his experience at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
"Sundance is the gold standard, and this year was the closest True/False has ever gotten," said Peckham, a partner in Peckham & Wright Architects.
"I'm not a filmmaker; I'm an architect," Peckham said. "I'm committed to Columbia. As a citizen I support my community."