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BUDDING DIRECTOR BOOSTS BUFFALO

He may become Buffalo's own version of Steven Spielberg.

Like filmmaker Spielberg, who picked up the camera early in life, Eric J. Battin, of Orchard Park -- at just 21 -- has interned with actor Michael Douglas for the film "Sentinel," to be shot this summer in Toronto.

The award-winning cinema student's audio documentary work has been aired on National Public Radio. And Battin this month has been filming his own movie in the Buffalo area, using locations like the Buffalo Zoo, the Broadway Market, Orchard Park Ambulatory Care Center and the old Buffalo Alternative School downtown on Oak Street.

"I love Buffalo and the locations around the city are ideal -- it's just a dream come true," says the Orchard Park High school graduate who won the Best Film award from Ithaca College.

Battin hopes to enter his Buffalo picture, "West Jefferson," in the Sundance Film Festival. He promises it will be "a roller coaster ride," with a future screening at the University at Buffalo.

"Furthur Films, Michael Douglas' company, called me. I jumped at the opportunity," says Battin.

As with other motion picture prodigies, Battin knew as a boy just what he wanted to do.

"I was always running around the house pretending I was the next Clint Eastwood," the young man remembers. His father, James, an actor himself, would take him to college plays.

"I was in awe at the spectacle," Eric Battin recalls. "I get my love for film from my family."

At 14, at Orchard Park High, Battin recalls, he "began evaluating my skills as a filmmaker here. I placed myself into just about all the technology and media classes I could, and found myself staying extra hours every day just to touch up an edit I had done in class. I absolutely loved the precision work."

After graduation, he studied communications at St. Bonaventure University and then transferred to Ithaca.

"When I walked into my first class at Ithaca, and the professor started talking about screenplays, independent pictures, 'Citizen Kane' and Hitchcock, I knew I was in the right place," he recalls. "I found myself anxiously waiting to get my hands on that old World War II Bell and Howell camera just to shoot something -- anything! I chose the college because of the opportunities the school gave its students in getting a 'hands-on' education so early on with camera equipment."

Following college graduation next month, Battin plans to get a master's degree in film production from New York University.

"I think Buffalo has great potential, so rich in art and history," says Battin. "We just need it to be exposed on the silver screen for people to see. Buffalo can be such a thriving city cinematically with its resources, landscapes and people. The independent arena of filmmaking would thrive here. We just need a way of opening it up to national appeal, making it accessible."

Have an idea about a local person whose life would make a good profile or a neighborhood issue worth exploring? Write to: Louise Continelli, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or e-mail lcontinelli@buffnews.com

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