True/False organizer, MU grad win directing award at South by Southwest

Thursday, March 14, 2013 | 9:00 p.m. CDT; updated 7:26 a.m. CDT, Friday, March 15, 2013

COLUMBIA — Two Columbia filmmakers were stars at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas.

David Wilson, co-organizer of the True/False Film Fest, and MU graduate AJ Schnack, of California, were recognized Tuesday for directing "We Always Lie to Strangers," a documentary about Branson, the country music mecca in southern Missouri.

The two filmmakers received the Special Jury Recognition for directing the day after their film had its world premiere at the festival,  a highly anticipated annual event that attracts huge crowds and big-time celebrities to central Texas.

Eight documentary feature films were judged by three jurors for the Film Jury Awards. The members included Brian Brooks, writer for for The Film Society of the Lincoln Center in New York City; Elvis Mitchell, host of the public radio show The Treatment and curator of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s film series; and Maria Popova, creator of and writer for WiredUK and The Atlantic.

The titles up for grabs were the documentary prize, special jury recognition for cinematography and special jury recognition for directing.

Brooks said the jury enjoyed the Wilson and Schnack film particularly for its cast of people portrayed.

“The film takes a look under the hood of people’s lives,” he said. “The directors cast the film with members of the community who represented Branson.”

The film was no easy feat. Wilson and Schnack spent five years working on the project. They initially lived for four months  in Branson with MU graduate and producer Nathan Truesdell. The team continually returned to finish the project afterwards. Wilson described Branson as an idealized version of America.

“We wanted to take a small town and make it distinctive,” he said. “We’re proud that we were able to capture Branson.”

Wilson, who was en route from Texas to Columbia on Thursday, was already thinking about showing off his trophy — a giant belt buckle — when he returns.

Wilson promised his documentary will be screening in Columbia later this year. He's also working on editing a short film and writing a fiction film.

Guest blogger Reuben Stern, futures lab editor at the Reynolds Journalism Institute and host of "Intersection" on KBIA/91.3 FM, filed a report about the documentary from South by Southwest, along with video interviews of Wilson and Schnack and the mayor of Branson on the VoxTalk blog.

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