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Six faces of True/False

Meet some of the people that keep the True/False ball rolling

February 28, 2013 | 12:00 a.m. CST

*CORRECTION: Judy Pruitt manages and purchases films for the Center Aisle Cinema collection. An earlier version of this article identified Brandy Sanchez as the sole organizer.

So you’ve seen the documentaries and talked to the directors and producers. Who else is there to meet? Turns out, some of the quirkiest people at the festival aren’t on screen. Meet some essential cogs in the True/False clockwork. The weekend wouldn’t be the same without them.

Jonathan Gotsick – Gimme Truth! Game Show Host

The truth is that Johnny St. John, the host of the annual Gimme Truth! competition is a fictional character in the middle of a nonfiction festival. “He’s got a little bit of a superiority complex,” says Jonathan Gotsick, the actor and father now living in Pittsburgh who plays St. John. “I get to be sort of a jerk who is celebrated for his jerkness,” Gotsick says. Gotsick travels to Columbia and transforms himself just for the festival.

According to The Blue Note webite, Gotsick’s character will “booze his way” through hosting Gimme Truth! on Saturday night, a festival event for seven years. Gimme Truth! puts off a cheesy seventies vibe with its off-orange decorations and St. John’s slimy attitude.

“He gets a little drunk,” says Jamie Gonçalves, coordinator for Gimme Truth! “It makes it such a fun event.”

Photo courtesy of Jonathon Gotsick

Jamie Gonçalves – Great Wall Film Screening

Jamie Gonçalves has been in charge of the Great Wall films screenings for the past two years of its three-year existence and is also the coordinator for the Gimme Truth! competition. In the months leading up to the fest, Gonçalves looks for noteworthy short films that play better outdoors. The shorts he and his team choose all fit into a theme. “It’s kind of human existence,” Gonçalves says. “It’s kind of all-encompassing and grandiose.” He and his team solicit, stumble upon or request short films for the Great Wall program. “We try and mess with them and see what plays well with each other,” he says.

Gonçalves takes the selected shorts and burns them to a looping Blu-ray Disc. The films play from Shakespeare’s Pizza on Ninth Street and project onto the wall of the Missouri United Methodist Church.

Photo by Jake Godin

Brandy Sanchez – Co-coordinator of Center Aisle Cinema

Brandy Sanchez makes sure True/False films continue showing after the festival ends. Sanchez helps coordinate Center Aisle Cinema, a series of documentary film screenings at the Columbia Public Library, including hard-to-find past hits from True/False. The library has many past films from the fest, a collection that Sanchez and Judy Pruitt* helped organize.

For Sanchez, the documentaries are a way of taking educational and cultural issues to the next level. Last year, her favorite festival moment followed the showing of Comi-Con IV: A Fan’s Hope. “I got to hug Morgan Spurlock,” she says excitedly.

Photo by Nina Buckhalter

Patrick Hanson - True Life Run Coordinator

Just as True/False meshes fiction and reality, the True Life Run sticks a traditional 5K and an obstacle course into a blender and hits puree. The 5K is a timed race in which runners complete obstacles such as a game of Frogger and a run up and down the Walnut Street parking garage. “It crosses the worlds between festival craziness and a traditional race,” Hanson says.

The race is a good way to avoid the soul-crushing guilt of couch potato-itis that you might get from watching movies all weekend. “You don’t have to run all out,” Hanson says. “You can just loosen out before having to sit in the theater all day.” The proceeds of the race go toward the True Life Fund.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Hansen

Johanna Cox – Director of Events

For three years, Johanna Cox has made sure that documentaries aren’t the only memorable event of True/False. Cox spearheads the rocking parties and keeps people fed over the True/False weekend. “If there’s food or booze at it, then I’m in charge of it,” she says. She first attended the festival four years ago. “It definitely introduced me to my love of documentaries,” she says.

When she isn’t moonlighting as a gala guru, Cox is general manager at Kaldi’s downtown, which is offering a special True/False coffee blend. At festival events “Jubilee” and “Reality Bites,” Kaldi’s coffee is transformed into a coffee cocktail and toddy.

Photo by Nina Buckhalter

Mark Alexiou – Booze Admiral and Pass Master

Seventeen different designs, 4,600 passes and more than 22,000 rounded corners clipped by hand: creating these passes is the role of the True/False Pass Master. Mark Alexiou has held this position for nine of the 10 fests. After a friend of his cut herself on a sharp laminated pass corner, Alexiou volunteered to grab a pair of scissors and round the corners. He’s still doing it by hand and ignoring the teasing he gets around the True/False office. The entire pass-making process takes more than two months. “There’s a degree of satisfaction I get from the festival,” he says. “I see people wearing passes, and I know each one I did by hand. It’s a cool feeling. Ridiculous, but cool.”

A bartender at Booches and The Blue Note, Alexiou has also taken the title of Booze Admiral for the first time this festival. The title is slightly different from the previously used “Booze Master.” “Since I deal with liquid of the alcoholic variety, I went with something in the Navy,” he says. Alexiou is in charge of 14 events over the festival weekend. “All things alcohol-related, I’m pretty comfortable with,” he says. “I have first-hand and first-liver experience.”

Photo by Jake Godin

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