New connections

The Central Pa. Film Office (CPFO) recently welcomed a new member to their advisory board, Susie Gaines, who is originally from the central Pennsylvania area.

Gaines is now living in El Paso, Texas, serving as the head of the El Paso Film Office.

Lorena Beniquez, head of CPFO, had known Gaines for some time and knew that she supported Beniquez and CPFO. Gaines had already extended a helping hand to CPFO and Beniquez knew that now was a good time to invite her to be apart of the board.

“She’s an amazing resource; she’s running a traditional film office in El Paso. We want to learn from her and grow our office into that,” Beniquez said. “She just has this spark to her; she is really dedicated to where she came from. She’s doing the things that we aspire to do.”

Although Gaines is not in the central Pennsylvania area, her ideas and connections can still attribute to the growth of CPFO.

“Our advisory board is structured solely for people who do not live in Pennsylvania,” Beniquez said, naming other advisory board members. Tom Woodruff Jr., Trisha Rae Stahl – an actress from “Glee” – and independent film maker Meghan Punsonneault, all of whom are on the advisory board, do not live in the area but have connections to it.

“All the people on our board are actually from here, but they’ve gone elsewhere. That gives us the opportunity for them to act as embassadors,” Beniquez said.

Gaines said although she does not live in this area anymore, she still keeps up with the area and reads articles in the Sun-Gazette.

“Three years ago, I saw an article that the film office had been working on a project. I wasn’t aware there was a film office. I reached out to Lorena and wanted to congratulate her on the project,” Gaines said. “When I reached out, she told me that she was just trying to get it started and there was so much that she didn’t know and didn’t know what to do. I wanted to help her. We quite a bit on organizations, budgets, things like that.”

The mentorship came easily to Gaines, who belongs to the Association of Film Commissioners International and has taught and mentored new film commissioners.

“This was a natural thing for me to do, especially for this area. The area has great backdrops and settings,” Gaines said.

While Gaines has not met with the CPFO advisory board formally yet, she is excited to see what ideas they have and is happy to lend her expertise wherever she can.

“It’s an honor for Lorena to ask me to be on the advisory board. It’s my pleasure to assist them in any way that I can. I love my hometown and I can’t wait to see it prosper,” Gaines said.

The El Paso Film Office has had a part in an impressive list of projects, including recent movies like “The Counselor.”

Not only has the advisory board for CPFO grown, but the film office itself is looking forward to more and more growth and opportunities in the future.

With an upcoming fundraiser on Academy Awards weekend and the possibility of being part of the film project “Hotel 33,” rumored to be filmed in Williamsport, Beniquez is hopeful for the future.

“We are still calling all crew, actors – anybody that has anything to do with film, send us your information.”

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