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Library to screen award winning film on Feb. 15

Date: 2/7/2011

Feb. 7, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Managing Editor

LONGMEADOW — A local screenwriter and director will bring his multi-award wining first film, "The Book and the Rose," to Storrs Library for a special screening on Feb. 15.

Jeff Bemiss, a former professor in the communications department at Western New England College (WNEC) and friend of longtime library volunteer Bonnie Gorfin, will screen his short film, based upon a short story by well-known Christian author Max Lucado, beginning at 6:30 p.m. A talk back session with Bemiss will follow the film.

The library is located at 693 Longmeadow St.

"He's shown the film in a couple of libraries in Connecticut," said Adult Services Librarian Barbara Fitzgerald, who arranged for the special screening. "We called and asked if he'd show it for us. We're excited."

Gorfin, who met Bemiss through her late husband Alan, a professor in he mathematics department at WNEC where Bemiss' wife also teaches. She said she first saw "The Book and the Rose" when it was nominated for an Academy Award.

"All of us at WNEC saw the film when Jeff first brought it out and when it was short listed for the Academy Awards [in 2003]," Gorfin said. "It made [the list of] 10 best short films, but it didn't make the cut for the best five."

She said the "beautiful film," which is set in 1942, did, however, go on to win many awards internationally.

"It did pretty well for a short film," the 41-year old Bemiss told Reminder Publications during a telephone interview from his Connecticut home. "It played in 55 film festivals [around the world] and it won first place at 27 of them."

His first project as a director, Bemiss said that, by sheer luck, "The Book and the Rose" became one of the rare short films to receive wide distribution through a Christian film distributor.

"You'll find it playing on TBN or one of the Christian networks around Valentine's Day," he said, emphasizing that his film is not "a religious film or an agenda film, [it's] just telling the story of two people."

There was, however, a religious connection to how Bemiss found the story for his film.

"I was dragged to church one Sunday by my in-laws [and] the minister told the story in his sermon," Bemiss said. "Luckily, I was paying attention."

After the service he asked the minister where the story had come from, then got in touch with Lucado to ask permission to use his story as the basis for the film.

Bemiss is now hard at work pulling together the elements for his second independent film project, a feature-length film based on a short story titled "Second Chance" by science fiction author Jack Finney.

"He's already a superstar author." Bemiss said, listing his well-known books "The Body Snatchers" and "Time and Again."

The proposed film, a time travel romance, has a working title of "A Long Tomorrow."

"We've got the rights, a casting director, a producer's representative, we've even has some interest from actors," Bemiss said. "At one point we even had Peter Fonda attached to it but we couldn't make the fall start date [because of funding] and he wanted to work on another project."

"I can't wait to get our funding and get started on this film," said Bemiss, who, despite his short film success is still considered a first-time director by Hollywood because he hasn't "made a feature length film [yet]."

He's looking at the Feb. 15 screening at Storrs as a potential opportunity to meet with people who might be interested in his new project, or who might know someone who would be.

"You have a Q and A afterward and it's really fun, especially if you have movie buffs [there]," Bemiss said. "I get to tell war stories about the making of ['The Book and the Rose'], then someone will ask, 'What are your working on next?'— and I get to tell them and the word gets around and who knows?"

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