TRUE/FALSE: Behind the scenes of festival merch

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COLUMBIA - True/False is known primarily for the artists behind the documentaries it showcases, but the creativity doesn’t stop there. The merchandise sold at the event also has a story to tell.

Every year, local artists submit designs to reflect the year’s theme, and then a local graphics company brings those ideas to life.

Nickie Davis, Assistant Merch Coordinator, said this year proved harder to choose which designs should go on the limited number of t-shirts.

“This year I think we have more [designs] than we’ve had in previous years,” Davis said. “I want to say there’s about 12-14 total this year.”

The submitted designs are used solely for the t-shirts. All other products made and sold — hoodies, laptop cases, scarves and pillows, to name a few — are designed by Davis’ small team of three.

The True/False board has used Diggit Graphics off of West Broadway for years to locally source all merchandise for the festival.

Collin Sees, a designer with Diggit Graphics, grew up in Columbia but moved away for college. He used to attend the festival yearly in high school, but now that he’s back in the city, he’s playing a new role.

“Seeing the True/False stuff is really cool,” he said. “Seeing the other stuff - random shirts - it’s just like ‘oh whatever,’ but seeing stuff that’s really making an impact on the community it’s like, ‘Yeah! I did that. I helped.’”

Sees said Diggit is printing thousands of shirts with different designs. He said he’s already done as many as 250 patches and 75 embroidered shirts as well. He said if there’s one thing he wishes people knew about the festival, it’s how localized every step of the process is.

“I can only imagine there’s people in Columbia who haven’t been to True/False like, ‘What, we have a film festival? I had no idea,’" Sees said. “Maybe seeing that merchandise will inspire people to learn more.”

A move toward sustainability means you can actually purchase True/False merchandise year-round. True/False fans can purchase excess merchandise at Makes Scents in downtown Columbia.

Two years ago, the merch team began selling ‘vintage merchandise’ out of an airstream during the festival. Inside, customers will find merchandise left over from previous years.

“There is no waste,” Davis said. “We box it up, keep it and bring it out as we can during the fest.”

Davis said about 30% of the team’s budget is allotted for merchandise. Every penny of the sales go back into the organization — from running the fest and the cinema, to all of the outreach programs that take part. According to Merchandise Coordinator Christina Kelley, since 2014 there has been a steady increase in sales while the budget has stayed mostly the same.

There is a preview week at the box office in Sager Braudis Gallery, and festival-goers can pre-purchase merchandise the Tuesday through Saturday before the event begins.