Ragtag Film Society was named the 2018 Small Business of the Year by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. RFS is the 26th recipient of this prestigious award. Earlier this year, small businesses were nominated for the award by the business community and Chamber members. From those nominations, five finalists, and the winner, were chosen by an anonymous selection committee comprised of businesspeople that work exclusively with small businesses. RFS was chosen from a group of five finalists that included Buchroeders Jewelers, Inside the Lines, Kilgore’s Respiratory Services and The Connection Exchange.
About 20 years ago RFS began screening independent films in downtown Columbia. Ragtag is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization with an emphasis in film exhibition, music and visual arts. Throughout the year, the organization operates a two-screen cinema and the world-renowned True/False Film Fest. Its mission is to champion independent film to enhance both the local community and the global film industry.
“We believe we have the opportunity to help audiences engage with film in a thoughtful environment,” Executive Director Tracy Lane said. “Cinema can educate, generate empathy, inspire charity and leads to conversations that motivate fruitful action.”
Lane said not everything has been smooth sailing. They’ve had to adapt and make sure they kept up with all of the technological advances of today’s world. In 2012, the Digital Cinema Initiative challenged all exhibitors to go digital or close its doors for good. They had built the business up to the point where they had a healthy following that would help them move into the digital era. They were able to raise $200,000 with a capital campaign in just ten weeks. That helped the community’s only independent cinema to be competitive in the market.
“We now screen many more films, giving our audiences a much broader range of options for view every single day. This technological advancement has contributed greatly to our ability to grow and diversify our audience and expand our daily showtime schedule to nearly twice what it was,” Lane said.
On top of it’s thriving product, Lane makes sure to give back to the community that has been so kind to them. RFS distributes more than 1,000 ticket vouchers annually to students and community members. This outreach helps provide access to individuals that may otherwise not be able to view a particular film.
The other aspect of RFS is hosting the four-day True/False Film Fest. The individual that handles this is Executive Director Jeremy Brown. Brown said the fest has become an “alternative homecoming.” In a study conducted by the City of Columbia, in 2016 the Fest brought in more than $2 million to the local economy and tons of positive national attention to the city. Thousands of visitors attend the Fest each year are able to experience one of the best arts experiences in the country.
“Ragtag Film Society is a gem for the Columbia business community,” Chamber President Matt McCormick said. “Any company that can bring in visitors, revenue and have the local following that it does, while giving back to its community, is something that not every community can brag about.”
The Columbia Chamber of Commerce was established in 1905 and is a voluntary, member-supported organization of business, industrial and professional people who are dedicated to developing, promoting and maintaining a sound and healthy economic climate for Columbia. The Columbia Chamber of Commerce is recognized as a 5-Star Accredited Chamber by the United States Chamber of Commerce.