This year, the Billtown Film Festival (BFF) has teamed up with Lunafest, a "traveling film festival," that has shown films "about women, by women" throughout North America.
Lunafest will take over the first night of the three-day event, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. April 19, 20 and 21 at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St., presenting nine, high-quality short films.
Admission will be $5 and 85 percent of the proceeds from ticket sales on April 19 will be donated to the YWCA, 815 W. Fourth St., and 15 percent will be donated to breast cancer research.
"It's a win-win situation for the community," Richard James, the founder of BFF said.
James started the festival three years ago after receiving an email from someone who wanted the City of Williamsport to hold more film-related events.
"I wanted to build appreciation," he said. "It started out as an experiment to see if people really wanted this."
The local community responded with enthusiasm for the first festival in 2010 and interest has only continued to grow, according to James.
"Our goal is to become the region's resident authority on independent films," he said. "There are literally hundreds of fine films that rarely get seen by the public. We believe that there is a small demand for these types of films. In the near future, we hope to hold juried competitions and to award prizes. But we must start out with baby steps. Our first step is to become a financially viable organization."
The festival this year also ties in the themes of the last two years, women and the environment.
"We wanted to showcase films that supported art, women and the environment," James said. "The mix is broad, but in all of the films, the three themes are apparent."
James wanted to give the festival a seamless feel, but still keep the films diverse and offer a wide range of films, including narrative, animation and documentary genres.
James sets his hopes high for attendance at the Billtown Film Festival.
"I want to triple our number from last year," he said. "We can really help the community with attendance."
He, along with a committee of seven to ten members, selected the films.
"I scoured the internet and looked at other film festivals' winners like Tribeca and Sundance," James said. "It gives me a sense of what's going on in the film world."
This year, there are a number of films that will be shown, including "Project Unbreakable," by Grace Brown. The film features women who have been abused holding signs with quotes from their abusers written on them.
"It's a moving piece, and it's a visually affecting piece for the audience," James said. "Not every film showcased in the festival will be 'Hollywood.' Some are only five minutes long, but they can change your life."
James recalled last year, after watching one of the films, a woman came out of the theater in tears.
"I like those kinds of films, the moving ones," he said.
This year, the festival will also include a mini-art show in the CAC lobby with works of art from area residents. The exhibition will feature a range of artists, including Hughesville High School student Brant Snyder. His film "Ballad of Earth" will be shown.
"We want to be able to show upcoming artists, and showcase the appreciation of cinematic arts. Having young people in the festival will improve the appreciation," James said. Other artists included in the festival will be Lynn Estomin, a professor at Lycoming College, Lorena Beniquez, commissioner of the Central PA Film Office, and John Yogodzinski, co-owner of the Grey Art Gallery.
This experience has also been a creative outlet for James. As a retired graphic designer, James is excited to bring the cinematic arts to Williamsport.
"Bringing the community together gets me excited. This is a new way of expressing my creativity." he said. James attributes the growing success of the BFF to its committee.
"They are dedicated individuals, they give great feedback. I can't say enough about them," he said.
Each night, the doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the festival will begin at 7 p.m. The concession stand will be open. For more information about BFF, visit www.billtownfilmfestival.com.
For more information about Lunafest, visit www.lunafest.org.