True/False shifts from Stephens venues, adds Jesse Auditorium, Methodist church

Monday, February 6, 2012 | 5:39 p.m. CST; updated 9:18 p.m. CST, Monday, February 6, 2012

COLUMBIA —True/False, an annual documentary film festival, will shift its campus venues from Stephens College to MU this year.

Jesse Auditorium, which has been used one other time since the festival began in 2004, is likely to become a permanent addition. Also new this year is "The Picturehouse," inside Missouri United Methodist Church.

Stephens was unable to host the festival this year due to previous facility bookings, said Amy Gipson, the school's vice president of marketing and public relations.

"Our academic buildings were booked this year, so were unavailable for (True/False)," Gipson said. "We offered the chapel, (the Lela Raney Wood) ballroom and also the theater, but they really needed more space than that."

In past years, the festival has used Stephens' Windsor Auditorium, Charters Auditorium, Firestone Baars Chapel, the Lela Raney Wood Ballroom and the Macklanburg Playhouse to show documentaries.

"We had a great run with Stephens, and we like those venues and like that partnership," festival co-director David Wilson said. "But as we were looking at numbers and the impact it would have this year, we made an agreement with Stephens that it might be too much for their campus."

Wilson said Stephens facilities were adequate in past years, but the festival is now looking for more space. True/False expanded from its original venues — The Blue Note, Ragtag Cinema and The Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts — to Stephens College in 2008, where it has shown films ever since.

"The scale of the fest has grown," Wilson said.

According to a previous Missourian report, ticket sales for the festival have been steadily increasing since its first year in 2004, when 4,400 seats were filled. Last year, attendance topped out at 3o,600, up from 25,500 in 2010.

The limited number of venues available at Stephens in conjunction with the booking issues and the expansion of the festival made Wilson realize more spaces with larger seating capacities were needed.

"We have more seats than ever this year," Wilson said. "We can accommodate more people, and we can give more elbow room. We won't be as packed as we were in past years."

Jesse Auditorium, with 1,732 seats, is the largest venue True/False has ever tried to fill, Wilson said. He said the increased space will be more comfortable for festival-goers.

Wilson said he sees the change in location as an exciting challenge for the festival, which runs March 1 through March 4.

The new partnership with MU could help "bridge the town-gown divide," Wilson said. He said he hopes a large campus venue new to the film festival will bring students and community members together for a common cause.

"We thought back to a place that we had used once before," Wilson said. "It's a great venue, it's a very large venue. We like the challenge of entering Jesse Hall and showing movies there."

Throughout the festival, 10 films will be shown in Jesse Auditorium, Wilson said. MU facilities coordinator John Murray said True/False will show films in the auditorium March 2 through March 4. The Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts, which is now operated by MU, will continue to be a venue for the festival.

True/False is renting space from MU in Jesse Auditorium and the Missouri Theatre for $1,600 per venue per day, plus expenses, Murray said.

Although MU will be making some money in rental fees through its partnership with True/False, the true motivation for teaming up is to become a part of "a great Columbia festival," Murray said. He said MU wanted to host the festival in the past but was unable due to Jesse Auditorium's lack of availability.

The Picturehouse at Missouri United Methodist Church will provide a few hundred new seats. The Missouri Theatre, The Blue Note, Ragtag Cinema, the Forrest Theater at the Tiger Ballroom and the Globe Theater at First Presbyterian Church are also returning as venues.

Wilson said the festival staff is excited about the partnership with MU and expects it to continue into future years. He said the new students at MU each year expand the viewership of the films, and he expects even greater attendance now that the films are showing right on campus.

"There's a whole new crop of people in Columbia every year that maybe (don't) know anything about True/False," Wilson said. "We're excited to get people seeing the films."

The festival recently announced Russian filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky will receive its True Vision Award for his contributions to non-fiction film. The award is given to a filmmaker with a body of work that creatively advances the genre, Wilson said.

"(Kossakovsky) brings a real creative verve to documentary filmmaking," Wilson said. "His films have incredible visual sensibility, not to mention his sense of pacing. He isn't well-known to most people in the U.S., and we think he should be."

Gipson said Stephens remains on good terms with the festival.

"We are still very supportive of (True/False) and film in Columbia," she said. "That hasn't changed."

The True/False film schedule will be announced Wednesday. More information about the festival is available online.

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