By Ray Pride

Co-founder and Artistic Director Paul Sturtz Leaving True/False Film Fest, Ragtag Film Society 

[pr] Columbia, Missouri — Paul Sturtz, artistic director and co-founder of True/False Film Fest and co-founder of Ragtag Cinema, is stepping away from Ragtag Film Society to pursue new opportunities.

“Over 22 years, I have worked with inspiring, curious people, many of whom have become dear friends and accomplices,” Sturtz says. “I feel confident that the festival and cinema can thrive without me. There are dozens of talented, committed people who are refining and remaking a vision that we put into motion.”

“I’m grateful for the ideas, enthusiasm and vision that Paul brought to the table every day,” says Jeremy Brown, Ragtag Film Society executive director, “and for the creative spirit that he instilled in all of us that will enable the organization to evolve into this new stage of its history. We’re excited to continue building on the foundation that Paul helped lay.”

Sturtz co-founded Ragtag Film Society with David Wilson in 1998. In 2000, the Society worked with three entrepreneurs — medievalist Tim Spence, farmer Holly Roberson, and baker Ron Rottinghaus — to open the storefront Ragtag Cinema, which moved to its current digs in 2008. Sturtz worked as the head programmer at Ragtag Cinema in Columbia, Missouri, from 2000 to 2016. (The theater was selected as one of 14 outstanding arthouse cinemas by the Sundance Institute in 2006.) Over the course of his career, Sturtz also served as a film booker for the Moxie Cinema in Springfield, Missouri, the Capitol City Cinema in Jefferson City, Missouri, and the Lyric Cinema in Fort Collins, Colorado.

With Wilson, he co-founded the True/False Film Fest in 2004 and led as its “co-conspirator” since then. Sturtz’s vision of a community-oriented festival with exacting international curation fueled meteoric growth — from selling 4,000 tickets at three venues to more than 50,000 tickets at nine venues in 2019 — and garnered praise from filmmakers and press alike, who repeatedly cite True/False as one of the world’s great film events.

Sturtz earned his degree in journalism from the University of Oregon in 1989 and was awarded an honorary doctorate alongside Wilson from the University of Missouri in 2015. “Quite by luck, Columbia is the very best place I could have landed for starting a cinema and festival,” he says of the town he moved to in 1997. “Its generous volunteer spirit and easygoing, kind atmosphere are incomparable.”

“What a joy it has been working closely with Paul Sturtz over these past two years. His energy, enthusiasm, creativity, and boundless curiosity have opened my mind to new ways of viewing the world,” says Shon Aguero, president of Ragtag Film Society’s board of directors. “I know Paul’s legacy will be well-served by the team at RFS and our communities will continue to be positively impacted by his vision.”

Ragtag Film Society will continue to be led by Executive Director Jeremy Brown, Fest Managing Director Camellia Cosgray, and Cinema Managing Director Barbie Banks. Sturtz, along with Wilson, will continue to serve in an advisory capacity for the organization.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

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And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

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