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'Orange Is the New Black' Actress Stars in Jackson Heights Director's Film

By Katie Honan | March 17, 2017 8:47am
 SAG-award winning actress Judith Roberts stars in
SAG-award winning actress Judith Roberts stars in "Now," which is showing at the Queens World Film Festival.
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Courtesy Paul Kelly

JACKSON HEIGHTS — Local filmmakers Paul Kelly and Celeste Balducci's film "Now" — which follows "Orange is the New Black" star Judith Roberts as she muses on her life — will screen at the 7th annual Queens World Film Festival this weekend.

Roberts recently won a Screen Actors Guild award for her role as Taslitz, the 79-year-old inmate serving time for murder in "Orange is the New Black" and has appeared in films including "Eraserhead."

Kelly, who lives in Jackson Heights and wrote and directed the film, wrote the script specifically  for her, who he's worked with on other projects.

But unlike with other films, which involve large and expensive crews, he wanted to streamline production. 

"We had already done three films with crews and that's very expensive, very time consuming," Balducci, a longtime Jackson Heights resident and the film's editor, said. 

Inspired by the high-quality but lower-budget films they'd seen over the years at the Queens World Film Festival, he decided to do it all on his iPhone.

"I went to the Apple store at Queens Center and luckily I came across two guys in there who are filmmakers," Kelly said. 

They advised him on a few external things to buy, like a microphone, and he shot it over five days at star Roberts' apartment.

Kelly's script is a long monologue of reflection from Roberts' character, who wonders aloud about her influence and importance. It's already won multiple awards at festivals around the country, including at the Best Shorts Competition, the NYC Indie Film Awards and The Short Film Awards.

"We had some ideas of making it just a piece that had a woman coming to the realization that her life is important at every stage," he said. 

He and Balducci, who first met more than a decade ago at another film and food festival in Jackson Heights, said the changes in the film industry have now made it easier than ever to have your work shown.

"If you want to be a filmmaker now you can just go out and make them and edit them and learn and hone it," Balducci said. "When I was in college, it was film. You had to buy the film and process it and get the machine to edit it and really cost prohibitive."

"All these filmmakers are really going to get a chance, the process has become much more democratic," she added.

"Now" will be shown Saturday, March 18 at 7:15 p.m. at the Bartos Theater at the Museum of the Moving Image.