A ragtag bunch of cinephiles
MOVE chats with the self-titled “co-conspirator” behind True/False and the city’s beloved Ragtag Cinema.
MOVE interviewed David Wilson, self-titled “co-conspirator” of the annual True/False Film Fest and Ragtag Cinema, the well-known arthouse cinema located in the heart of downtown CoMo. Here’s what he had to say about Ragtag, its history and the cinema’s influence on Columbia’s arts and entertainment scene.
MOVE: Why’d you decide to base Ragtag in Columbia?
David Wilson: I grew up in Columbia, but after college I lived in New York and Washington, D.C., for a while. As a filmmaker, I thought there were lots of people like me doing sort of similar things. It might be more interesting if I were telling stories at a place that didn’t have lots of people who were telling those same stories. If you lived in New York, you’d have lots of chances to watch movies all the time. It felt like a much more powerful thing to create opportunities for people who weren’t living in New York. In the last few years, three Columbia filmmakers have been featured in filmmaker magazines' “25 New Faces” lists. There have been a number of features of fiction and nonfiction that have been made here and done really well. There’s a film scene here that just wasn’t here at all 16 years ago. If I’ve been a part of that, it’s something that makes me really proud.
M: Why’d you decide to design Ragtag in its current fashion? I mean, it has couches …
DW: When Ragtag first opened, it was in a different space. It was on a storefront on 10th Street. We had money to build a theater. We had a room, we built a booth, we got a projector and we put up a screen … and then we needed chairs for people to watch movies. We started going to garage sales looking for chairs and couches. So, those chairs that you see at Ragtag were kind of just built out of necessity. That’s what we could afford and it kind of gave the place its character.
M: According to your “co-conspirator” Paul Sturtz, “The biggest misconception about True/False is that it’s geared to hipsters.” Do you think that same ill logic applies to Ragtag?
DW: What I love about Ragtag is that it is something that attracts all different kinds of people and going back to our very earliest days, there were kids with dyed green hair next to the grandma sitting in the chair. It was all different people and a lot of young people working on it as a project. I think if you look at who comes to Ragtag day-in and day-out, it’s a cross-section. It’s a lot of older people, a lot of pretty normal people. What’s exciting to me is new culture and new art and interesting things. What’s not exciting at all is any of those things being exclusive or only belonging to one small group of people. With Ragtag, we’ve always wanted it to be a very inclusive place.
M: How does Ragtag support True/False Film Fest?
DW: Ragtag is our year-round present. Ragtag is where the people of Columbia go and watch movies. True/False gets to be this once-a-year big weekend explosion of people and culture, but I think both really complement each other well. Still, Ragtag feels like the cultural hub of the festival. It’s where I can walk in and they’re people hanging out and getting food and drinks and coffee and catching up. I think Ragtag still very much feels like the heart of the festival.
M: How does Ragtag serve the community?
DW: As a hub, having a so-called “great space” where people can gather outside of work, outside of home and not just watch a movie, but then go and sit down and talk about it … when I walk into Ragtag and into Uprise Bakery, every day there are people having meetings and all kinds of stuff. Pretty often, most people are local filmmakers pumping up new projects and new ideas. I think that giving the community a hub and a place to gather, as well as providing films that they might not otherwise be able to see is a pretty vital resource.
M: If you could only choose three words, how would you describe Ragtag?
DW: “Handcrafted”, “lively” and “community.” True/False and Ragtag are projects that aren’t cookie-cutter or come out of some corporate machine. Everything about these places is something that someone has thought about. The liveliness of it, it’s a goal of ours making Ragtag something that wasn’t stuffy memorial movies, but was really aged to fit present-tense filmmaking. We don’t want it to be a museum. We want it to be a place that’s constantly looking for new work and featuring new voices and people young and old are engaged with. Community is that part of it more than anything. Even more than being a cinema, Ragtag is a place for the Columbia community to come together and engage and talk about ideas, art and whatever they want to talk about.