Saving pennies for Jerry's kid

If you want to make Jerry Eisinger happy, how about floating him a little loan ... like $1 million? That's how much the actor/writer says it will cost to bring his self-penned film project, Hope 63, to the screen.

Currently in "the dreadful stage of fund raising" (Eisinger's words), the feature-length romantic comedy is due to begin filming at area locations sometime within the next several weeks. It's a major step for Eisinger, whose career has largely landed on the performance side. In addition to his successes in local theater (he recently co-starred in Trilemma Productions' Hospitality Suite at the Gallery at Avalon Island), he's hosted live shows for Disney and Universal, worked as a stand-up comic and acted as an on-air reporter for broadcast news. "Hope 63" is his first screenplay to go before the cameras. And he isn't even certain he'll end up playing an on-screen role himself.

The undertaking carries a hefty price tag for an independent film, especially in Orlando, where steps are often taken to keep working budgets to the right of the decimal point. But if Eisinger gets his way, the seven-figure purse will allow his firm, Moon House Productions, to attract "a celebrity or two" into the film's cast, and perhaps draw an out-of-town director as well.

The remaining work will go to Central Floridians. "I'm trying to make this a nice conglomerate locally," Eisinger says, "something we're all proud of without it being a caravan from Los Angeles."

At least he isn't risking anyone's money from a thematic standpoint. The film's storyline has a group of mismatched friends hiring an "Italian goombah" to be their dating guru. As you may have noticed, making air-kisses with a mouthful of marinara sauce has been one of Hollywood's favorite audience-courting techniques for a few years now. It sounds as if Eisinger has the teen market covered, too: Included among the film's main characters are a "bumbling idiot" and a 71-year-old whose large intestine is infected with bacteria.

Anybody know what Brando is charging these days? I'm thinking two for the price of one here.

The circle game

Eisinger isn't alone in the woods with this one. His executive producer on "Hope 63" is one Bill Whitacre, the Blair Witch Project attorney who shared the limelight with the Haxan Films five during their triumphant homecoming to the 1999 Florida Film Festival at Maitland's Enzian Theater. Whitacre currently has another promising project in the works: an adaptation of "Hyperspace," the speculative 1994 tome by physicist Michio Kaku. The latter scientist's appearance in the stunning documentary "Me & Isaac Newton" was a high point of last year's film festival; if you missed it, rush out and rent (or buy) the video that's just been released. While you're in the shop, look for a single-volume compilation of Shadow of the Blair Witch and The Burkittsville 7, the "BWP" offshoot specials produced for cable TV by Haxan crony Ben Rock. The version of "Burkittsville" on the tape is the extended director's cut seen at last November's Brouhaha Film & Video Showcase (also at Enzian).

All that indie action, and no part for Philip Seymour Hoffman anywhere? The mind fairly reels.

Cancel your plans

The makeover of the Church Street Station Exchange as an arts hostel continues this Saturday, April 7, as artist Miguel Cancel opens his second-floor gallery, The Loft. Cancel, who caused quite a stir late last year by anonymously installing his abstract sculptures around town, has been working in semisecret at the Exchange for about six months. He goes public with Saturday's 1 "Art Show," which will boast works by more than 21 artists, plus a lengthy roster of live music, poetry and fashion shows. (Times are from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m.) A bicycle run from the Stone Soup Collective to the Exchange will promote alternative transportation. Stone Soup is the beneficiary of the event, whose sliding donation scale is $8-$20.

The festivities will spill over to the first floor, where Cancel has retained another small space that was formerly occupied by Thomas Kinkade, the Painter of Light. (If some other artist ends up taking over the Exchange's flagging food court, he has my permission to christen himself the Painter of Light Meals.) Cancel also hints that a new series of his guerrilla sculptures will be showing up in the downtown area in the days leading up to the show.

That's the spirit

On the eve of Cancel's Saturday soiree, Avalon Island will throw an opening bash for its "Mystic Nights," a juried exhibit of 45 original works with a -- you guessed it -- mystical theme. According to gallery manager Mary Wilson, an all-local retinue of artists has supplied images of Ouija boards, angelic figures and ominous skies. (I bet there's a still life of a hand with an eyeball stuck in its palm. There always is.) The Friday kickoff includes presentations by illusionists, psychics and tarot readers, plus living sculpture by The Cancer Troupe and a special Friday-night edition of the downtown ghost tours led by Orlando Hauntings.

If you want to maintain the atmosphere of foreboding, try to arrive close to the 8 p.m. start time. Too much later, and you may be caught in the crossfire of loud dance tracks that emanate from the surrounding clubs in a triangulation pattern that makes the gallery a little Dealey Plaza of beats. Pretty scary, boys and girls.

Final cuts

Here's a more productive outlet for area DJs: The Florida Film Festival is soliciting 10 to 15 seconds of their music for use in its official 32-second trailer. Mixmasters who wish to contribute to the audio collage may e-mail Craig Richards or Enzian. ... It's been a while since I caught a performance by spoken-word artist Sandra Monday, but she howled back into my world with a wall-wrecking recital of four Allen Ginsberg pieces in last Tuesday's Dead Poets Slam at the Barnes & Noble store on East Colonial Drive. Monday didn't win the slam -- she lost by a narrow margin to an (also impressive) Langston Hughes impersonator -- but the Ginsberg readings showed her peerless verve, diction and rhythmic sense to be as strong as ever, perhaps more so. New motherhood has made Monday a homebody lo these past few months, but she says she's trying to get out more often. You book the gigs, Ms. Monday, and I'll hire the baby-sitter.

They still get minimum wage, don't they?

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