'Swim' coach at ease in Florida waters 

By all appearances, Gill Holland may be on his way to becoming one of the key players in Central Florida film. Now think how much he could accomplish if he actually lived here.

The founder and chief executive officer of the New York-based cinéBLAST! -- a multimedia production house and talent-scouting concern -- Holland arrived at Maitland's Enzian Theater last June to see three of his company's cinematic forays compete in the annual Florida Film Festival (FFF). What began as a simple promotional excursion ended in triumph when one of those entries, the raw urban drama "Bobby G. Can't Swim," received the festival's Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature.

But instead of taking the award and taking off, Holland has nurtured the relationships he initiated during his brief stay. He'll again play a part in this year's FFF (June 8-17), this time as a member of the awards jury itself. He's in talks with some of the budding local filmmakers he met last year, mulling involvement in their pet endeavors. And Holland's name will be back on the Enzian's screen this Friday, May 4, when "Bobby G." (which he co-produced) finally begins a long-awaited encore run.

"The great thing is that it will actually be our U.S. premiere," he says. (In a reversal of the usual procedure, the film isn't scheduled to begin its New York and Los Angeles engagements until September.) "Maybe we'll pave the way for a whole new distribution strategy."

The booking is good news for local cinephiles who missed the festival screenings of "Bobby G.," writer/director/star John-Luke Montias' compelling portrayal of a lowlife coke dealer's desperate pursuit of one last score. Fast, unflinching and streaked with grime, it raises high hopes for Montias' next film, "Diablo." ("He just gave me the script," Holland says. "It's more of what you love.")

Montias' oeuvre couldn't be more different than the Orlando-bred projects Holland is looking at. One is Bob DeRosa's recently shot romantic comedy "Gifted" [The Green Room, March 15]; the other, still in the script stage, is said to be a regionally specific tale from the pen of University of Central Florida film professor Mary Johnson. Holland's involvement in both is too embryonic to warrant in-depth comment, but he clearly relishes the chance to listen to emerging voices.

"If you spend four days in a place and you meet one person who's talented, you're happy," he says. "There are very few talented people in the world. There's a lot of that 'right fair to middlin'."

Right fair to middlin'? Such homespun phraseology is the only overt remnant of Holland's upbringing in Davidson, N.C.; the rest appear to have been lost in a brilliant career that's included a three-year stint in the French Film Office, a co-production venture with Jean-Luc Godard and the receipt of multiple Sundance Film Festival awards for producing the 1997 thug-life drama "Hurricane Streets." That pedigree well equips Holland to evaluate the entries in this year's FFF. Though he's not sure which category he'll be judging, he looks forward to rejoining an event he says is among the best organized and most enjoyable of the 27-odd festivals he attends per year.

He won't, however, be bringing along anything of his own. CinéBLAST!'s next four features are still in postproduction, and a good deal of his P.R. energy is focused on "Greg the Bunny," the cable-TV cult hit that's destined for sitcom status on the FOX-TV network next fall. A hilarious property created by cinéBLAST! client Spencer Chinoy, it's the story of a neurotic rabbit puppet (or, as he prefers, "fabricated American") who Holland predicts will land the cover of Rolling Stone by the end of this year. With guest directors like Curtis Hanson ("L.A. Confidential") and an onscreen visit from Gary Oldman in the can, who's to doubt Holland when he says the show is 24-carrot gold?


Outer Fringe


The sighs of contented relief were almost audible when the Orlando International Fringe Festival ended last Sunday. That's not to say the event was trouble-free: Tickets were printed with the wrong show times, houses were oversold and a number of the volunteers conducted themselves with that peculiar mix of befuddlement and arrogance that betrays last-minute training. So what else is new? What counts is that the transition to a new operations team wasn't nearly the disaster it could have been. And the perfect weather ensured healthy traffic throughout the 10 days.

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Murmurs of discontent were of course heard, and I expect them to grow louder in the coming weeks. (Remember, folks, you have my card.) But one opinion that shouldn't change is the general consensus that Heritage Square proved a fine site for the Fringe Central encampment. Now if only more of the temporary performance venues could be located closer to it ...

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Broken Umbrellas?


When the contenders for the Lillie Stoates Umbrella Awards were announced mid-Fringe, some respected names were absent from the list of spotlighted shows. Among the missing: the Eyewitness Theatre Company, Trilemma Productions, Toxic Audio, the Mad Cow Theatre Company and iMPACTE! Productions. A rumor quickly made the rounds that one of the two Stoates judges assigned to the large Red Venue (which housed all of the aforementioned troupes) had suffered a heart attack during opening weekend, leaving many performances unevaluated.

Not so, says Avis-Marie Barnes, executive secretary of the Stoates Awards. The judge who had the heart attack, she clarifies, was covering the Blue Venue at the time and was quickly replaced. (He's OK now, by the by.) So what does explain the slight of so many major groups? As far as Barnes knows, it's merely a case of the two Red Venue judges being unable to agree that any element of the shows they saw (save Mission IMPROVable's "Improv Comedy for the Masses," the venue's sole spotlighted production) deserved recognition. "For all intents and purposes," she says, "both of them were there."


Going ape


One of the universally praised aspects of the Fringe was the "photo with monkey" booth at Fringe Central, where animal-loving theatergoers could have their pictures taken with a frisky chimp for only five bills. Assistant producer Chris Gibson says he resisted the attraction's inclusion until the 11th hour, considering it simply too cheesy to be given the nod. (Yeah, and?) But within days, the monkey had become so popular that customers could be seen showing off their Polaroids like proud parents fresh from a Sears family-portrait studio. Bet on the boffo zoo story to continue next year ... hopefully upgraded into a one-primate show titled "I'm Getting My Shit Together and Flinging It Where I Damn Well Please."

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