Welcome to Junior Year, the Missourian, and Eight-Hour GA Shifts

This week has held a lot of firsts for me. My first day of junior year. My first time getting a parking ticket. My first time taking a sunrise yoga class. And today was my first GA shift at the Columbia Missourian, Columbia’s city newspaper.

From the moment you step onto campus as a freshman journalist, the Missourian is this big, scary, impending obstacle that looms over you. You know it’s coming, you’ve heard how hard it is, and all you can do is practice writing at the campus newspaper and hope you can just get through the J4450 semester.

When I walked into the newsroom during orientation, I was, and honestly still am, intimidated.

It didn’t make things better when I realized that my first General Assignment shift would be held during a walkout demonstration by graduate assistants. After prepping for the day to come by reading through articles for hours the day before, waking up before dawn for sunrise yoga, and grabbing my favorite Starbucks combo — a grande white mocha with a chocolate croissant — I set out for GA, armed with my reporter’s notebook and pen.

After some early-morning live-tweeting, my GA shift mainly consisted of calling MIA sources and leaving voice mails from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Two stories fell through simply because nobody would respond to my messages, and a third story is looking like it’ll be dropped by tomorrow.

This wasn’t exactly how I wanted it to go.

But even though the day was full of setbacks, I found myself enjoying the job. I love being in a newsroom. I love making friends with the other reporters, something I’m finding astonishingly quick and effortless to do. I love working with editors and ACES who take the time to help us newbies.

I may not have a byline just yet, but I’m excited for the semester and stories to come. Maybe the Missourian isn’t so scary after all.

My Experience as a True/False Volunteer

Anxiously awaiting "Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck."
Anxiously awaiting “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck.”

True/False is without a doubt my favorite time to be in CoMo.

The True/False Film Festival is four blissful days of film, music and art. Four days of being downtown up to (or, in some cases, over) 12 hours at a time. Four days of spending way too much money on food and festival merchandise. Four days of waiting in Q lines and befriending Q Queens.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to cover the festival for MOVE Magazine, where I got to interview a director and review some films. It was a highlight of my freshman year and a big reason why I signed up to be a True/False volunteer this year.

This past weekend, I gave 15 hours of my time to the festival. I sold merch at the Missouri Theatre and the Box Office — if you needed True/False T-shirts, pocket knives, or bamboo socks, I was your girl.

Here's me looking like a dork in my volunteer attire in a picture I took for my mom.
Here’s me looking like a dork in my volunteer attire in a picture I took for my mom.

Before my first shift I was nervous, as only my anxiety-ridden self would be. What if I didn’t get to see all of the films I wanted? What if I fell behind in schoolwork because of all the hours I have to put in? (Spoiler alert: I did). What if I majorly screw up and by the end of my shift the Missouri Theatre/Box Office is crumbling to the ground or going up in flames? I kept playing out these ridiculous scenarios in my head of all the things that could go wrong.

But within an hour of arriving at my first shift, I loved it.

One of the best parts of True/False is the people. I met so many amazing individuals while I was volunteering. These people had dedicated time every year to making everyone’s True/False experience great, and they were incredibly nice. Both of my supervisors bought the whole team Strange Donuts. One of them now follows me on Instagram and spent half of my shift telling me stories of her drunken escapades at the gym. I spent my 15 hours surrounded by fantastic and beautiful human beings.

Merch was such a fun environment to work in. I was surrounded by quirky socks (pictured below) and scarves and shirts and stickers and posters. The Box Office was decked out with tortoise shells and clocks (all centering around this year’s time-related theme, “The Long Now”). I met fest goers who traveled from all over the country — New York, Tennessee, Texas, etc. — just to see some documentaries in little Columbia, Missouri.

True/False volunteer party aka the hippest place I've ever been
True/False volunteer party aka the hippest place I’ve ever been

TF volunteer party 2

Volunteering at True/False is the best way, I think, to immerse yourself in the festival experience. You also get a ton of perks — just to name a few: free films, discounted leftover merch, and the legendary True/False volunteer party, which was the coolest place I have ever been in my entire life.

I still got to see films I wanted to see — “Heaven Knows What,” “Cartel Land,” and my personal favorite, “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck.” I still got to wander downtown and look at the art and grab food with my friends. Volunteering did not hinder my True/False experience as I had originally feared it would — it made it so much better.

As a volunteer, you’re contributing to something that makes the community great and provides joy to so many people. And there’s no better feeling than being a part of something bigger than you.

Between the time I woke up on Friday and went to bed Sunday, I had gotten, collectively, five or six hours of sleep. I survived on free cups of Kaldi’s coffee (another volunteer perk) and a sugar rush from stuffing my face with donuts. It’s Tuesday night and I’m still exhausted, I’m still behind on school and work, I’m pretty certain I failed yesterday’s astronomy midterm, and I’m still struggling to keep my eyes open because I haven’t had the opportunity to catch up on the sleep I missed this weekend.

But if you’re not completely worn out at the end of True/False, you obviously didn’t do it right.

A Newbie’s Adventures at True/False

DSCN2275

Yesterday I forsook my classes and spent 12 hours trudging around Downtown Columbia, using the last of my Shakespeare’s and Starbucks gift cards, standing in Q lines for an hour, and, above all, watching documentaries.

This weekend is the True/False Film Festival— a documentary film festival that comes to Columbia every year in late February/early March. I found out about the festival over the summer, but until this weekend I had no idea how huge it really is.

43 documentaries and three series of shorts are screened over four days at nine venues throughout the Downtown area. Films shown at True/False sometimes go on to be nominated for Academy Awards (such as “The Act of Killing,” which is currently nominated for an Oscar and was at True/False last year), which is completely incredible. Having the opportunity to view some of the year’s best documentaries and participate in a Q&A session with the film’s creators and subjects after the showing is an amazing experience. So far, I have seen three films— “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” “Rich Hill,” and “Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart,” and I have plans to see “Private Violence.”

True/False-goers line up for "Rich Hill." Around 300 Q's were given for the screening.
True/False-goers line up for “Rich Hill.” Around 300 Q’s were given for the screening.

Along with the films, True/False takes over Columbia with art and music from all over the world. Last night an indie band from France performed before a film. Thursday, a latino band from Mexico City. There are pieces of artwork in alleyways and outside theaters. Hipsters with beards and dreadlocks and ear gagues litter the sidewalks as they stand in Q lines or walk to panels with their Canon in one hand and a coffee from Lakota in the other.

But above attending True/False as a spectator, yesterday I had the privilege and honor of covering the fest for MOVE.

I wielded that press pass like it had magical powers and it was invigorating. Scrambling to write reviews between screenings while frantically chugging caramel Frappuccinos is my equivalent to skydiving or bungee jumping or other things normal people do for an adrenaline rush. There’s nothing like the feeling of cranking out a review in record time before heading directly to another Q-line.

I love every moment I’ve spent at True/False— laughing with the fierce Q Queens, making friends while waiting in line for an hour and a half, sitting beside filmmakers at screenings, attending panels led by Criticwire’s editor Sam Adams with other entertainment journalists, and spending a ridiculous amount of money on merchandise.

One major highlight of True/False is the March March, a parade that stretches down 9th street.

The True/False March March parade
The True/False March March parade

I’m not sure what I was expecting from the parade, but I sure was not expecting this. There were people dressed up as Teletubbies, Buzz Lightyear, and Mario. Marching Mizzou played their drums and trumpets. A giant brain was rolled down the street. It was like something out of a really, really weird dream.

DSCN2307

I found an old person at March March dressed as Winnie the Pooh and I was so happy.
I found an old person at March March dressed as Winnie the Pooh and I was so happy.

How lucky am I to have True/False within walking distance from my campus? I can’t wait to continue the festivities this weekend, and I’m looking forward to the next three years.