When your neighbors start wearing capes again, it either means that the superhero boom has hit Central Florida or Stevie Nicks is coming to House of Blues. Relax, everybody: We're safe for the moment from the beshawled, Peruvian-snarfing white-winged dove. The costumed karma right now belongs to "Shadow Raven: Fading Thoughts," a digital-video sci-fi/adventure that's being shot locally to capitalize on the renewed bankability of men in tights.
Creator/producer Frank Zanca, a former promotional producer for WFTV Channel 9, is actually jumping on his own bandwagon with "SR:FT." He has been trying to get a Shadow Raven project made for about 15 years. A 1995 deal at Disney-MGM Studios fell apart, he says, in one of the production scams endemic to the Hollywood East gold rush. Over time, he has released a comic book and a card game based on his futuristic hero, an intelligence agent with such superhuman powers as exceptional night vision. But to really move the merch, you need a media tie-in, so Zanca has been compiling 30 minutes of new footage for use as either a TV pilot or "half of a movie" -- i.e., a visual appeal for finishing funds.
Some aspects of the project are predictably humble: The cast and crew volunteered their services, under what is delicately known as the "deferred payment" plan. A recent spate of weekend shoots, however, turned out to be more elaborate than I had anticipated. Granted access to the roof of the downtown Southern Community Bank building, Zanca and crew pulled off a crane shot of the downtown skyline that should look suitably impressive on the screen. One week later, the project moved to Ocoee's Health Central hospital (where the "SeaQuest DSV" TV series used to be filmed) for the completion of some action scenes. As Zanca strolled across the set carrying a Tupperware dish full of fake plasma -- "Tell me that doesn't look like real blood," he challenged a colleague -- a stuntman took a series of falls from a third-floor balcony to get a murder sequence looking just right.
Know what it sounds like when a stuntman falls two stories into an inflatable cushion that's taller than you? Like he fell without the cushion. Six times, the plunging pro's body alit with a sickening "WHUMP!" Six times, the force of his landing blew the leaves off nearby potted trees and sent them scurrying across the floor. The only thing missing was John Morgan rushing toward the stuntman in hopes of scoring a juicy personal-injury claim.
Cynics are saying that Orlando filmmaking is hurtling back to the dark ages, so it's good to know that some folks will still risk a broken neck for it. Follow the progress of "Shadow Raven" at www.destinyhorizons.com. If you've recently slipped or fallen, visit www.forthepeople.com.
Gash on delivery
For moviemakers who would like to shed blood for their art but just don't know how, the answer may be found when the Vans Warped Tour 2002 pulls into Orlando Speed World Dragway Aug. 2. Our friends at Troma Entertainment are following the tour with a sideshow of goodies that includes movie screenings, live performances, creative seminars and effects demonstrations.
"Learn how to rip someone's arm off or crush a head for less than $5!" the ads promise, going on to point out that that's less than 1/1,000th of Leonardo DiCaprio's hair budget. And then there's Troma's take on the traditional face-painting booth: "Give Someone You Love a Massive Head Wound!" As if you'd waste a gift that good on a stranger.
Smackdown from the knees down
It looks as if the Back Booth is becoming Orlando's capital of white-trash spectacle. Aug. 9 brings the arrival of "hardcore midget wrestling," with 4-foot-4-inch brawler Puppet (who calls himself "the most hardcore midget ever") doing battle against the 3-foot-8 TEO (Total E Outstanding). For the record, these guys willingly refer to themselves with the umbrella term "midget," though the roster for their Rok'Um Sok'Um Tour includes one P.O.D. (Pissed Off Dwarf). A search of the tour's website, www.bloodymidgets.com, turned up no usage of the P.C. nomenclature, "little person." Feel free to berate Puppet or TEO for perpetuating demeaning terminology; just warn me first, so I can secure a cozy hiding place behind the bar.
Gentility returns to the BB (sort of) Aug. 23, when the club plays host to Miss Tammy Faye Starlite, the artist behind such country hits as "Did I Shave My Vagina For This?" and the pro-life anthem, "God Has Lodged a Tenant in My Uterus." Starlite is actually Tammy Lang, a Long Island performance artist who assumes the persona of a pious but substance-abusing songbird as a send-up of heartland hypocrisy. The question is not if Miss Starlite's act has resonance here, but if we genuinely need to import it.
Told ya so
After 11 years as a June staple, the Florida Film Festival is indeed changing its position on the arts calendar [The Green Room, July 4]. Next year's dates are March 7 through 16, a seasonal shift designed to maximize the festival's appeal to potential guests. (But do we even want to trifle with lightweights who can't handle 200 percent humidity?) As a result, some of the other annual events at Maitland's Enzian Theater have been shifted around a bit. The Jewish Film Festival remains in October (20 and 21), but the South Asian Film Festival moves from February to April (12 through 14). Most significant, the Brouhaha Film & Video Festival, the Enzian's annual roundup of Florida-made films, will now take place in late spring (May 31 and June 1) instead of November. That change gives the state's budding filmmakers an extra six months this go-'round in which to max out their parents' credit cards ... I'm sorry, I mean "complete postproduction chores."
Emmy day now
Orlando can claim two nominees for the 54th annual Emmy Awards. SAK alumnus Wayne Brady is nominated in the category Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program ("Whose Line Is It Anyway," not his eponymous solo series), and "American High" is a contender for Outstanding Nonfiction Program (Reality). "High," which aired here on WMFE-TV Channel 24, was co-produced by University of Central Florida film professor Jonathan Mednick, who passed away last year at age 43. The nominees list at www.emmys.com, though, cites only the show's executive producer, R.J. Cutler; hopefully, Mednick will be mentioned from the podium should the award go to "High" and not its competition, which includes MTV's "The Osbournes." To do anything less would be a f***ing shame.