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End scene

An annual film festival wraps up for good


News of yet another restaurant closing in downtown Boise (read this week's Food News) leaves a sour taste in our mouths and sadly, another Boise institution has recently gone dark. This fifth year of the annual True West Cinema Festival was its last.

Though funding played a small part in closing the curtains for good, a larger reason was because its organizers are at pivotal points in their careers, and they, like Jerry Seinfeld when he ended his sitcom, wanted to go out on a high note.

Co-founder and managing director, Josie Pusl explained that it takes so much work and time to put on an event of this kind.

"We're an all-volunteer staff. Our careers are going in different directions, so we all made a decision to focus on our [individual] careers," she said. And the organizers began talking about bringing an end to the festival.

Sponsorship dollars were also down this year and though the festival didn't lose money, Pusl said that, in conjunction with the conversations they'd been having, made the timing right.

Festival co-founder and artistic director Gregory Bayne agreed. He's currently finishing a film and working on a pitch for a television show and said True West was like a "full-time, non-paying job."

Organizers would begin screening submissions, writing grant applications and looking for sponsors as early as January of each year for the late-summer festival.

"I really enjoyed doing it, but I'm finishing a film and [working on] other creative pursuits," Bayne said. "I love how the festival has grown, but I decided I wanted to go out in a nice way. Five strong years is good."

Pusl and Bayne also organize the highly anticipated annual i48 film festival (which costs far less than True West to produce) and are happy to have more time to devote to that.

Bayne said he has been approached by people eager to discuss the possibility of taking over True West, but as any good filmmaker, he wasn't willing to relinquish control. He didn't want to lose the "core aesthetic" that he, Pusl and co-founders Travis Swartz and Heather Rae had envisioned when they began the project and felt that it had evolved more than any of them had even hoped.

In a future issue, Boise Weekly will take a look back on True West and some of the documentaries, feature films and short films that made the festival such a success.