Halloween safety tips for parents

Halloween is a fun time for kids and even adults, but children face special risks on that day that parents that parents should keep in mind. The American Academy of Pediatrics has released a list of recommendations for a safer holiday for the little ones. The highlights are summarized here.

Trick-or-treaters by the fireplace
Trick-or-treaters take a quick break to pose for some pictures. Photo by Cyndi Cheek.
  1. Bright and reflective costume colors are the best. Costumes should also give kids freedom of movement, particularly around their legs and be short enough to prevent snagging and tripping.
  2. Halloween often involves candles and other sources of open flame, be sure to use flame retardant material and follow the advice above on keeping costumes short to avoid accidental contact with fire.
  3. Masks often block eyesight, so favor makeup instead. Be sure to test the makeup on a small patch of skin in advance to make sure there are no allergies.
  4. Don’t use long, sharp or pointed props with your kids costumes. Children like to swing things around and the longer something is, the more it can reach and the sharper it is, the more damage it can do. A long and dangerous prop (even glass) could easily hurt the child or others in the event of an accidental fall.
  5. Be sure children have some form of identification and know how to dial 9-1-1 in case of separation or getting lost.
Wonder Woman and Steve
Wonder Woman and Steve from Minecraft demonstrate the use of short costumes and bright reflective colors. The mask on Steve might not be the best idea due to the limitation on vision. The sword, although it is long, is foam and will not cause injury in the event of a fall.  Photo by Doug Deal.
  1. Consider dispensing candy in a place away from trip hazards. Children will be wearing masks and have draping clothing and forcing them to go up stairs could result in falls. Also, tight squeezes between bushes can catch on loose clothing and also trip a child. Also, make sure their is a clear path through decorations and light the way with glow sticks or spotlights so children can see where they are going.
  2. Keep wet leaves and other debris off sidewalks and pathways.
  3. A parent or other trusted adult should accompany all young children at all times.
  4. Get some small flashlights for everyone in your party, including escorts. These will come in handy in case anyone is lost or a pathway is too dark to walk through carefully. Also, the light can be used to alert passing cars to your presence, especially by pointing the light toward the ground and away from the drivers eyes.
  5. For older children going alone or in a group of friends, set a schedule and agree to an acceptable route.
  6. Only knock on doors with a porch light on that are clearly welcoming trick-or-treaters.
  7. A little bit of reflective tape can go a long way on costumes and treat bags.
  8. Carry cell phones for emergencies.
  9. Use the sidewalk whenever possible, but in the many neighborhoods without sidewalks walk on the side of the street facing oncoming traffic and stick to well lit areas or use a flashlight.\
  10. Do not cut across yards and down alleyways. There can be unseen hazards in the dark and especially isolated places like alleyways.
  11. Don’t assume drivers see you, give them a wide berth and avoid cars as much as possible.
  12. Tampering is rare and the fear is overblown, but still examine all treats before the children start eating them.

Get Involved in Preventing Mosquitoes

(NewsUSA) – Sponsored News – Across the country, families are embracing the warmer weather and spending more time outside. This year, as families prepare to host a variety of outdoor gatherings, mosquito prevention and protecting against mosquito bites should be top of mind.

Mosquito PreventionMosquitoes transmit numerous diseases and are often described as one of the deadliest animals on the planet. This year, the Zika virus has made the mainstream news and has become a cause for public concern, especially for women who are or planning to become pregnant. As it is unknown how Zika will spread, particularly in the U.S., practicing caution is warranted.

“Proactivity and public cooperation are huge components of mosquito prevention,” said Cindy Mannes, vice president of public affairs at the National Pest Management Association. “Homeowners play an important role in helping to reduce mosquito populations and can work to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds throughout the season.”

Fortunately, there are several important measures the American public can take in protecting against the diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. The NPMA is urging homeowners to help in eliminate mosquito breeding grounds on their properties and practice vigilance in wearing proper attire to protect against bites:

* Remove all sources of stagnant water. Standing water can be found in areas such as gutters, buckets, flowerpots and bird baths. Mosquitoes only need 1/2 inch of standing water to breed, so it is essential to minimize these areas to reduce offspring.

* Wear an insect repellent containing DEET or another EPA-registered ingredient to help prevent mosquito bites. The NPMA, in partnership with the CDC, developed an instructional video on how to properly apply insect repellent.

* Minimize outside activity between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active. Also take proactive measures during the day to protect against daytime biters like the Asian tiger mosquito, the main carrier of Zika.

* When outdoors, wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants, socks and closed-toe shoes.

* When hosting guests outside, keep the air moving. Using a fan where you and your guests may lounge makes it less likely mosquitoes will land on you. These pests are not strong fliers, so circulating air can make an outside gathering more pleasant.

By following these tips and actively working to prevent mosquitoes on the home front, you will help reduce the risk of you and your family getting bitten by mosquitoes this season.

Film Festival’s casting workshop helps budding actors

Do you want to be an actor? Well, just like with any other job, you really have to sell yourself.

On July 23, the third day of the Macon Film Festival, casting director Cynthia Stillwell held a casting workshop at the Tubman Museum on Cherry Street in Macon titled “Answering the Needs and Desires of Actors in the Southeast Film & Television Market!” The first step to becoming a success in the movie industry is to “just say yes,” Stillwell said. It all starts with putting yourself in the right mindset and opening yourself up to opportunities. From there, you have to ask yourself a few questions. “What is my product?” and “What makes my product special?” You really have to determine how you want to present yourself and what makes you stand out.

Macon Film Festival 2016
The Macon Film Festival occurs this week and there are many film and TV industry themed events. Image courtesy of Macon Film Commission.

Ms. Stillwell further advised to set goals for yourself. You should say that in three months, you will do one thing, in six months, you will do another, and in a year’s time, you will do something else. It is important to say that you will do these things instead of just hoping for them. If something sidetracks you, get back to your goals as soon as possible. If you don’t get a part, don’t blame yourself and, most importantly, do not give up. Keep trying and the law of numbers will eventually catch up to you.

In Stillwell’s one-on-one workshops, she gets in your face and pulls out your feelings. Scenes and character motivation is discussed in great detail. The best way to study a scene is to connect with it through something that has happened in your own past. An actor must have a “treasure trunk” of emotions from which they can pull. These work best when the emotions are natural and real.

At the age of 7, Cynthia Stillwell won the Little Miss South Carolina pageant. It just so happened that a Disney representative was in the audience and after the competition, he told Stillwell’s parents that Walt Disney was looking for new Mouseketeers and he thought Cynthia would fit the part. However, Stillwell’s mother said no. She wanted her daughter to live a normal life. That event lead Stillwell to “just say yes” in life. That path lead her first to theater, and then into the movie industry. After splitting her time between Savannah and New York, she began operating out of Los Angeles and New York for many years. But all the recent success in Georgia has brought her back here.

Over the years, Stillwell has created what she calls a “tapestry of faces” from which she can bring in talent. She gets to know people personally and sees what makes them unique. Using this method, she has been able to put almost 500,000 people to work throughout the years. This figure is no mistake – she has provided principal actors, background actors, and crowd scene actors to many feature films.

One of Ms. Stillwell’s goals is to get directors to realize that there are more than enough capable and talented actors in Georgia. It doesn’t make sense to fly an actor all the way from LA, cover their travel, and other expenses when you could easily hire a local actor. But she cannot accomplish this goal alone. Aspiring actors need to send their headshots and resumes to her so she knows who is available. Cynthia Stillwell can be contacted on her website at www.stillwellcasting.com, on Twitter @CSCasting (https://twitter.com/CSCasting), or on her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/CynthiaStillwellCasting.

Further links:



“Billion Dollar Baby” event discusses the Georgia movie industry

Tubman Museum
Macon’s Tubman Museum was the venue for Macon Film Festival’s “Million Dollar Baby”, a panel on the Georgia film industry. Photo by Doug Deal.

Approximately 50 people attended the “Billion Dollar Baby” event during the Macon Film Festival. A panel of 8 experts from the film industry, education and community organizations each gave a brief presentation of their role in bringing movies to Georgia. The panel was hosted by the Macon Film Commission’s Terrell Sandfefur and took place Friday afternoon. Other members were: Alison Fibben, Clark Cofer, Elliott Dunwoody, Jeffrey Stepakoff, Jeremiah Bennett, LaRonda Sutton, and Shelbia Jackson.

Discussion was held in the Peyton Anderson Rotunda inside the Tubman Museum where panelist Elliott Dunwoody explained how the movie industry got a head start in Georgia with a lot of help from Burt Reynolds, who starred in Deliverance (1972). Today, shows like the Living Dead, various reality shows and movies like Avengers: The Infinity War and Furious 8. All counted, there are at least 33 different TV and movie productions being filmed in Georgia.

Part of the discussion focused on how ordinary people could help bring these productions to Georgia. One of the most important aspects is the skills set of local residents. Movies and TV productions not only need actors, they need electricians, sound engineers, hair and makeup stylists and scores of others to round out the production. These “non-glamorous” roles are critical to the success of any production and producers are more likely to film in areas that have enough skilled workers to meet their demand. Organizations like the Macon Film Commission can furnish you with more information on opportunities to learn the business or apply your skills.

Billion Dollar Baby
“Billion Dollar Baby” was attended by 50 plus people from Macon and as far away as Massachusetts. Photo by Doug Deal.

Another big part of the equation are the tax breaks and credits the industry can take advantage of which are made available by the state government. If a studio has a presence in Georgia and uses local Georgia companies, they can receive a tax credit for a portion of what they spent. Further, by displaying the peach logo you may have seen in the credits at the end of a movie, studios can receive additional credits. Such publicity encourages more films and series to consider Georgia.

The Georgia film industry is hot–by some reports it is hot enough to rank as the third busiest location in the United States for film and TV productions. That heat is generated by a partnership of industry executives, economic development organizations, various film commissions, state and local governments, and the people of Georgia.

Find out more from at the Macon Film Commission. The film festival activities continue this weekend. Saturday July 23, check out the casting workshop, also at the Tubman Museum from 1 to 2 PM.

For any of the many other Film Festival events, please consult their schedule.

What happens when you are charged with a felony?

What happens when you are charged with a felony.
Infographic on what happens when a person is accused of a felony. Graphic courtesy Deal Law Firm of Macon.

Deal Law Firm  of Macon created this infographic on what generally happens when you are charged with a felony in Georgia. The number of step are more than most people realize and it is not as simple as it appears on television.

Normally, the first step is an arrest, in which you can be held for up to 72 hours before seeing a magistrate judge who will set a bond. The magistrate judge may deny bond in certain cases, depending on the charges, your status on probation, or other factors.

The case is then referred to a District Attorney who can bring charges before the grand jury. The grand jury is a group of your fellow citizens that hear the evidence against you and determine if the DA has enough evidence to go to trial. This is one of the most important checks on the power of government, as the grand jury can decide to “no bill” the case and the state may not proceed to a trial. This is rare, as a DA will rarely take a case that has no merit to the grand jury and the grand jury is instructed to view the evidence in a favorable light for the prosecution.

Continue reading “What happens when you are charged with a felony?”