Regular users of the Lynx bus service know that fear is often part of the experience. Will the crummy shock absorbers send standing patrons hurtling to the floor in a broken-boned heap? Will the crazy old woman in the third seat halt her conversation with no one in particular to stab the nearest rider in the neck?
Thanks to Derrick Jones, there's a new apprehension to add to the list: that a gang of criminal low-lifes will hold up line No. 10 at gunpoint, absconding with every valuable on board.
No, it's not a script treatment for "The Taking of Osceola One Two Three." It's the key plot point in "BusJack," a direct-to-video short that director/co-writer Jones plans to market to a finer store near you.
Despite its sensational premise, "BusJack" is something of a public-service film. Told in flashback, it profiles a conflicted hood who declines to take part in a robbery that sends his pals (one played by Jones himself) to the pen, and is scared so straight by the incident that he becomes a counselor to troubled youth.
Peaches outlets in Central Florida are being solicited to vend VHS copies of "BusJack" in tandem with its eight-song CD soundtrack on Monsta Phat records, a label run by Jones' school chum Marcus L. Also targeted are mom-and-pop stores in Milwaukee and Gary, Ind.
For Jones, who works under the name D'Jarell, the project is an important step in a film career he's sought since moving to Orlando from Milwaukee in 1997 to study at Full Sail. (He later switched to Florida Metropolitan University's Orlando College - North, whose schedule made it easier for him to fulfill parental duties.)
With an FMU diploma recently added to his wall, Jones knows that he has dues to pay and more lessons to learn. "BusJack" is a rough work: Its advertisement as a "digital motion picture short" hints at its membership in a genre of self-starter cheapies that often look like recruiting films for a pyramid scheme. And the decision to dramatize the crucial bus-jacking as a blackout sequence (no visuals, just audio) may have buyers returning their tapes as faulty.
"Lynx made it financially impossible for me to get a bus," Jones says. (He refers to insurance costs, not escalating fares.)
Still, a few promising performances are turned in by the underexperienced cast. To employ the vernacular, the film is on the positive tip. Better, it adds a fresh perspective to an Orlando filmmaking cadre that's thus far overwhelmingly white.
I look forward to the "ultra-low-budget feature" he predicts as his next move. And I share his disappointment that radio station 102 JAMZ is "showing no love" for his efforts. Remember, Ms. B: Sooner or later, we all take the bus.
Hot on the heels of its involvement in Rob McKittrick and Dean Shull's "Waiting" (The Green Room, Nov. 16), the LivePlanet multimedia concern is opening more doors for local film talent.
Its Project Greenlight, an online scriptwriting contest, has nonprofessional scribes competing for a whopper of a grand prize: The production of their written work as a feature by Miramax Film Corp. -- on a budget of no less than $1 million -- with either themselves or a member of their submission team as director. An accompanying HBO series will chronicle the whittling down of 30 semifinalists to one winner, then document the production of the standout script. (Uh-oh ... sounds like "Making the Band.")
THEM's Bob DeRosa has joined the fray with "Gifted," a romantic comedy/drama whose "supernatural twist" is its lead character's ability to predict the fate of any couple she meets. Even if he doesn't win, DeRosa plans to make the film himself; a potential obstacle is his script for Stars North Films' "Shooting Blanks," which will make him instantly ineligible if it goes into production before the contest wraps.
iMPACTE! Productions' Tod Kimbro has entered an adaptation of Electra at the Wiener Stand, his tragicomic theatrical work from the 1999 Orlando International Fringe Festival.
"It's pretty much the play," Kimbro says of the faithful translation. Completing his team of hopefuls are director Chad Lewis and creative producer Meghan Drewett (who acted the lead role in Electra's stage incarnation).
At press time, registrants to www.projectgreenlight.com were voting on the submitted scripts, with a final winner to be named March 1, 2001. If he comes in second, Kimbro says he'll "definitely" demand a recount. By hand, natch.
Elvis is king:
While DeRosa weighs his options, one of his THEM brethren, Ian Covell, is taking a quicker route to LivePlanet's heart. "Naked Elvis," a script Covell co-wrote with comic actor Trey Stafford, is currently being mulled for purchase by the start-up entertainment firm. The pair's ace in the hole? Sandra Marling, the Universal-based go-between who first brought "Waiting" to LivePlanet's corporate predecessor, Fusion Films.
Described by Stafford as "a comedy about the repercussions of an orgy," "Naked Elvis" is an expansion of "Tickets to Vegas," a playlet he and Covell turned out for last February's installment of the Play de Luna performance series at Winter Park's Art's Sake Studios.
Stafford is ready to hop a plane to L.A. the minute LivePlanet phones with the go-ahead. But Covell is more circumspect.
"Let's just put it this way," he clarifies. "I'm still planning on getting up and eating breakfast at Denny's for the next couple of months."
Walk this way:
A belated thumbs-up goes to the Orange County Regional History Center for hosting last month's walking tours of haunted downtown locales. It was a kick to learn the more morbid details of our area's past, particularly how many current nightclubs rest on the sites of former funeral homes and/or embalming parlors. This, we were told, is why visitors to the Blue Room's second floor are often said to feel unwanted and ill-at-ease. (I've had those same misgivings at the bar.) Hopefully, the History Center will follow through on its tentative plans to make the tours a year-round affair.
Award-winning horror author -- and Orlando-area resident -- Owl Goingback has equal plaudits for a similar Halloween excursion he undertook in St. Augustine. He was so inspired by the outing, in fact, that he's basing a novel on the subject. Its heroine is a St. Augustine ghost-tour guide who confronts a "great evil" loosed by three Cassadaga witches.
Goingback's more immediate plans include the April 2001 release of "Tribal Screams," a self-narrated CD compilation of two short stories, and the May publication of "Evil Whispers," a novel set in a fish camp along the Wekiva River. In Whispers, the spirit of a voodoo sorcerer possesses a 10-year-old girl, who goes around "carving up people" to bring him back to life.
"It started as a children's novel," Goingback says -- but his agent made him abandon the idea. That butcher.