Blinking is not an option while watching "The Paper Route." Miss a few seconds of this fast-paced, locally produced short film, and you'll either lose the punch line of one of its brief comedic vignettes or fail to spot one of the numerous cameos that make it a "who's who" of struggling Orlando talent.
In a tight 18 minutes, "Route" takes us through a tranquil neighborhood whose closed doors hide a world of perversion and betrayal. Presented with bare-bones economy, the twisted tales are based in the pages of "The World's Shortest Stories" -- a compendium of fiction works running 55 words or less.
"You're getting two characters a minute, which is kind of amazing," calculates director, writer and co-producer Todd Thompson.
In the ensemble cast are Brett Rice ("Rosewood," HBO's "From the Earth to the Moon") as a gun-toting adulterer and Yvonne Suhor (TV's "Northern Exposure" and "The Young Riders") as a jilted lover. As Suhor's hard-nosed ex-beau, Josh Flaum takes a U-turn from the lily-livered losers he's perfected as a member of the improv-comedy troupe Them.
"It was pretty quick," Flaum says of his morning shoot at Winter Park's Fiddler's Green. "I remember being pretty groggy. But there's so little film work being done here that the more, the merrier."
Not everyone was in and out so swiftly. "The crew had to commit to five-and-a-half unpaid days," co-producer Balinda DeSantis relates. "Everything on the film was volunteered and donated. It's exciting because it shows how eager and aggressive everyone is."
Similar eagerness drove Thompson and DeSantis to lens "The Paper Route" in the off hours from their day jobs on Disney's creative development team. Their enthusiasm was met by Michael Andrew and his band Swingerhead, who supplied the film's score (and will perform at the Thursday, July 22, premiere at Disney Institute).
In the coming months, Thompson and DeSantis intend to travel the film-festival circuit, using the short as bait to secure funding for full-length features. Though their Stars North imprint is a two-man operation, they hope to establish a "boutique production company" to shepherd future outings.
"There's a focus on Orlando right now, and that's one reason everyone embraced the project," the duo assesses. "We're dedicated to making movies in Florida."