My wife and I recently visited Columbia, MO for their annual True/False Documentary Film Festival. We both love documentaries and have wanted to go to this for several years, but our schedules never worked out. This year we were able to go for a portion of the festival and were not disappointed.
This was their 11th year in operation. Over 40k tickets were sold for the 2013 festival, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was higher this year. It's popular enough that we felt we had to plan in advance: we booked our hotel 5 months prior, and even then we were not able to get into our first choice. We purchased our festival passes two months prior and selected our movie tickets immediately when they were released for passholders.
Once we arrived, I was surprised and impressed at the scale of the operation. Upon arrival in Columbia, we picked up our tickets at the temporary box office. All of our tickets were already printed and packed in a small envelope along with our festival pass on a lanyard. Each film venue had 10-15 staff and volunteers: several outside the theater helping with the lines, several taking tickets, several at the merchandise stand, several in the theater helping people find seats. As attendees came into the theater and took their seats, a musical group performed onstage, complete with lighting, multiple mics and mic stands, etc. Many of the bands were brought in from around the country: I saw one group from New Orleans and one from Paris. As the film was introduced by a host, AV staff removed the sound equipment. After the film, the host often brought the film's director (or other key people) on stage for a Q&A session. Having spent a decade planning group travel programs and special events, I know that each of these elements requires an enormous amount of coordination to put together and execute smoothly. I haven't even mentioned the last minute ticket system and excellent iphone app. From what I saw, the True/False organizers did an amazing job.
My wife and I will definitely visit True/False again, hopefully next year. We've decided that we would enjoy going for a few days rather than just one or two - this would give us the freedom to not feel like we have to see a film in every time slot possible. We plan to see a couple movies each day, but also allow time to relax, shop, eat, etc.
Looking forward to True/False 2015!
Read all about True/False on their website, truefalse.org.