Gravity: The closest thing to space travel

On February 20, 1962, I was in Junior High School, when John Glenn blasted off to be the first American Astronaut to orbit the Earth. That was over 51 years ago. I doubt if I will ever get a chance to fly into outer space; to view the Earth from hundreds of miles away and to experience weightlessness. For most earthlings, space travel is just a dream. The closest thing to actually orbiting the Earth is the viewing the film Gravity by Alfonso Cuarón.

Generally I am afraid of heights, but this film did NOT make me feel queasy. I was quite comfortable viewing the Earth from 600 miles up.

I saw the 3D version and I have to admit I was dodging space debris in my seat.

I was amazed by Sandra Bullock’s performance. (I had to remind myself that this was the same woman that has difficulty driving a bus on LA streets in the movie Speed.)

I really dug this movie. The cinematography was incredible, the acting was superb and the story was exceptionally well written.

How Tom Woodruff, Jr. got started

For those of you who don’t know, Tom Woodruff, Jr. is an award winning special effects artist and creature actor that has worked on the great sci-fi Alien and Predator franchises. He is from the Billtown Film Festival area. We like to call him our “dreams can true-made it in Hollywood” guy. He won an Academy Award (best effects, visual effects) in 1993 for Death Becomes Her. He has also worked on such films as Starship Troopers (1997), The X Files (1998), The 6th Day (2000) and the Thing (2011), just to name a few. Tom and his partner Alex Gillis at their shop Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc. are producing a new practical effects film, Harbinger Down.

In the clip below, Tom discusses his career. He advises people to be enthusiastic in their work, but we couldn’t help but notice that Tom also exudes an air of self-confidence that allowed him to excel at his craft. Check out the video and find out more from the Stan Winston school website:

 

Check back here for updates and more news about Tom and his projects.

New doc on the Drug War

Hey what are you doing Wednesday night at 7pm? Nothing? Okay listen, do yourself a favor and check out this movie that will be play at the Community Arts Center in downtown Williamsport. Sponsored by the Department of Criminal Justice-Criminology at Lycoming College. ADMISSION FREE!

The House I Live In A film by Eugene Jarecki –

Grand Jury Prize Sundance Film Festival 2012

Here what the movie’s official website says:

40 Years, $1 Trillion, 45 Million Arrests: This is the War on Drugs.

Forty years ago, President Nixon called a press conference to tell the American people that their “public enemy #1” was drug abuse. He then proceeded to declare an all-out war on drug users and sellers, with resounding repercussions on criminal justice policy and on vast numbers of Americans.

Subsequent presidents, drug czars, and local politicians have followed Nixon’s lead, fueling an unprecedented boom in the country’s prison population and waging an ever-escalating campaign against what many consider to be nothing more than a public health problem.

The war on drugs has been a failure practically, morally, and economically. The result of this law enforcement approach are stark: today, there are more than 500,000 people incarcerated for drug offenses; billions of dollars are spent annually on narcotics enforcement; treatment is still out of reach for millions of people; and drugs are more available and cheaper than ever before.

But there is also a growing recognition that the course of the past 40 years must change, and there is increasing momentum for drug policy reform from all levels of government and civil society.

DRUG WAR STATISTICS
• Over the past 40 years, the War on Drugs has cost more than $1 trillion and accounted for more than 45 million arrests.

• In 2009 nearly 1.7 million people were arrested in the U.S. for nonviolent drug charges – more than half of those arrests were for marijuana possession alone. Less than 20% was for the sale or manufacture of a drug.

• Even though White and Black people use drugs at approximately equal rates, Black people are 10.1 times more likely to be sent to prison for drug offenses. Today, Black Americans represent 56% of those incarcerated for drug crimes, even though they comprise only 13% of the U.S. population.

• In a 2010 survey, 8.9% of Americans over the age of 12 had used illicit drugs in the past month.

• Today, there are more people behind bars for nonviolent drug offenses than were incarcerated for all crimes, violent or otherwise, in 1970. To return to the nation’s incarceration rates of 1970, America would have to release 4 out of every 5 currently held prisoners.

• Between 1973 and 2009, the nation’s prison population grew by 705 percent, resulting in more than 1 in 100 adults behind bars today. In 1980, the total U.S. prison and jail population was about 500,000 – today, it is more than 2.3 million.

• The U.S. incarcerates more people than any country in the world – both per capita and in terms of total people behind bars. The U.S. has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet it has almost 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population.

• In 2011, every 8 state employees worked for a corrections agency.

• In 2009, it cost an average of $78.95 per day to keep an inmate locked up, more than 20 times the cost of a day on probation.

Christian Concert on screen

The Cinema Center Digiplex in Williamsport will be showing SURGE, a Christian Music Concert Wednesday, October 9th, at 7pm. The 90 minute screening will feature, Acquire the Fire, Casting Crows, Newsboys, Ron Luce John Gray and Lecrae!

SURGE is a high energy interactive movie theater event fusing music comedy and inspirational messages. Tickets are $12.50.

Movie theaters are not just movies anymore. Tell Les the manager that BFF sent you!

Making a difference.

Sometimes you just have to sit back and wonder, “Did we do this?” In today’s Williamsport Sun Gazette, it was reported that a new anti-human trafficking agency has been created. That’s wonderful news.

But we wonder if the screening of Tricia Lou’s & Phoebe Frear’s film, Remember to Forget Me at the 4th Annual Billtown Film Festival in April 2013 had anything to do with bringing awareness of the problem to the general public.

 

Here’s what the filmmakers said on their Facebook page – ”

Remember To Forget Me is a 30 minute video a year in the making. It has been created to raise awareness on Human Trafficking through artistic film. Not to dehumanize but to enlighten.
There are more slaves today than in any other time in history. An estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked every year. These children have names, faces, emotions and lives just like the rest of us. Remember To Forget Me is a 30 minute video a year in the making. It has been created to raise awareness on Human Trafficking through artistic film. 
Five facts about Human Trafficking:

1.Every 30 seconds someone becomes a victim. 
2.Approximately 30,000 victims of sex trafficking die every year
3.Over 50% of trafficking victims are children
4.Human Trafficking is a 32 billion dollar industry
5.An estimated 161 countries are reported to be affected by human trafficking”

Okay, we won’t take any credit for the creation of a special anti-slavery agency in North Central Pennsylvania. But it good to know that maybe, just maybe, the use of film as a tool of positive change has made a difference. End slavery now!

BFF and CPFO engaged… May they live happily ever after

It was officially announced the Billtown Film Festival and the Central Pennsylvania Film Office was joining forces on Thursday September 5, 2013 in the Showcase section of the Williamsport Sun Gazette.

Both Richard James, founder of BFF and Lorena Beniquez Film Commissioner for Central Pennsylvania Film Office are excited about the collaboration. Both organizations will be celebrating their 5th anniversaries in 2014. You can read the article here. A big thanks to Bethany Wiegand for her superb writing!

BFF website back in business

Hello. We had a few SNAFUs in the last few weeks but we’re back and ready to celebrate all aspects of film, video and movies. Check here as we will share information about the film industry, independent films and videos, and the doings at, our new partner, the Central Pennsylvania Film Office (CPFO).