The Billtown Film Festival (BFF) and the Central Pa. Film Office (CPFO) have announced that they will be partnering for the 2014 festival in a collaborative effort to bring more awareness and attention to the festival, which includes not only independent films, but professional and amateur.
Lorena Beniquez, the film commissioner for the CPFO, said that both organizations are in existence for the same passion: film.
"We are both for the cause of film in Pennsylvania. We hope to grow it further," Beniquez said. "I was on the board for the BFF prior to this, and prior to that, Richard James and I have been friends," Beniquez said of the connection between the two. "He approached us. We were delighted that he thought of us. I know there were a lot of people who wanted to run with it; we were fortunate for him to choose us."
Richard James, the founder and creator of BFF, has already begun taking the festival into different directions, and felt that the pairing with the CPFO was necessary to accomplish the larger goals and expectations he has in the future for BFF.
"I think that CPFO has a great group of people. They know a lot about films. Our mission overlaps; we both want to bring independent films to Central Pa. They want it from the production stand point and BFF wants to bring it from an exhibition stand point," James said. "At the very least, we should work more closely together. That's the reason I'm doing what I'm doing."
James is proud of what the festival has accomplished and brought to the city of Williamsport. He hopes to one day bring major Hollywood actors and actresses to Williamsport and continue to expose the area to films they might not have ever had the chance to see.
"I've been looking back at the last four years of the festival and taking stock of what we've accomplished and we've brought in about 50 films that amounted to 20 hours of programming. And these are films that are either by amateurs or professionals, but that wouldn't have been seen on the big screen. We felt there was a certain sense of accomplishment with that," James said. "I want to expand it now. The city needs to take on a greater cultural significance if it wants to be recognized as a modern metropolis. What I hope to do is merge with CPFO to accomplish some larger goals. We want to be able to apply for grants, to upgrade our equipment, to buy movies and to expand our horizons."
Ultimately, James wants to be able to offer prizes to festival participants as well. Many of the film makers might not have had the outlets to have their productions screened, and BFF gives them the opportunity. "The BFF is providing a service to professional film makers to show their stuff. We want to increase our ability to do that with the partnership," he said.
While the 2014 Billtown Film Festival is still in progress, James will be responding the feedback he received at last year's festival. The festival is a year round venture for James; he will be contacting film makers world wide beginning this month. With the partnership with the CPFO, the resources for films and film makers that James will have access to will open up the possibilities for the festival.
"I would like to put out a call for more volunteers. The film festival will need people in a number of different areas, especially people who like movies. We need help screening the films, availability the nights of the festivals, and also to come up with new ideas and make it grow and be successful," James said.
Anyone interested in participating in the Billtown Film Festival can contact James at richard@billtownfilm festival.com.