Storming the Gates for the slain truth

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Before you hear it anywhere else, here's a shocking piece of news: Bill Gates is dead.

Well, not in our reality. Here, the bespectacled boy-king is still hale and hearty, ever on the lookout for new precepts of fair competition to shatter. But he's a certified stiff in "MacArthur Park," a digital film feature coming this summer from the Winter Park-based GMD Studios.

In GMD's speculative drama, computer mogul Gates is assassinated during an appearance at a Los Angeles charity event. A single gunman, Alek Hidell, is charged with the crime. But a portion of the population begins to suspect that the actual killer has not been named -- and that the Los Angeles Police Department played a part in covering up the truth.

The story isn't about Gates per se. Instead, "It's a meditation on police corruption," says Brian Clark, GMD's president. "What if a JFK-level crime happened in a city like Los Angeles?"

Shot on location last spring and now in postproduction, the obviously fictive piece is augmented with footage of real-life personalities and events. Clark's team captured a number of relevant proceedings on video, including the Democratic National Convention and the Rampart hearings, which cast new light on the LAPD's history of framing suspects.

According to Clark, about 20 percent of the film is "reality-hacked. We really like that word," he chuckles. "Or 'borrowed.'"

The low-budget (about $350,000) "MacArthur Park" is the first film project for GMD, an online and offline production firm that numbers the Independent Film Channel and the Bravo! network among its clients. In the director's chair is Brian Flemming, whose comedy "Hang Your Dog in the Wind" won an audience award at the 1997 Florida Film Festival at Maitland's Enzian Theater. The collaboration between the L.A.-based Flemming and GMD has been a media-age marriage buttressed by physical commutes and Internet communiqués.

"We've been treating Los Angeles like a remote location," Clark says. (Yes, and so have most sensible people.)

No distribution deal has yet been inked; Clark and company are more interested in taking the finished film on the festival circuit, especially to this year's Toronto and Seattle gatherings. In the meantime, a full four websites are being launched to flesh out the "MacArthur Park" mythos from a variety of angles. The first two, MacArthur Park and Citizens for Truth, are up and running, with Citizens for Action and Bill Gates is dead to follow in a few weeks.

Elsewhere on the web, the project is already stirring up controversy. An article posted on the independent-film site indieWIRE (of which GMD happens to own 42 percent) inspired outraged responses from 'net surfers, some of whom fretted that the film's Gates-slaying storyline would inspire a copycat crime.

If you've never worked on a Windows system, you don't understand why that prospect is less than tragic. But I was still shocked by the reactionary hand-wringing, and so was Clark.

"This is not a violent film," he defends. "There's nothing from an assassin's perspective." Clark expects an MPAA rating of PG-13 for language: "South Park," he says, "makes us look modest."

Hear that, Sen. Lieberman? You can turn off your computer now.

Double your double-wide

Plans are going ahead for an expanded, touring version of the stage comedy "Trailer Trash Tabloid!," whose stand at the Parliament House met a sudden end last fall [The Green Room, Nov. 16]. As you may recall, stars Michael Wanzie and Doug Ba'aser walked out on the show when they learned it had been sold to an unnamed producer -- one whose vision of "TTT's" future supposedly didn't include them.

With the new version edging closer to the casting stage, that anonymous producer has finally come forward. He's none other than Skip Stewart, "TTT's" costume designer and self-described "single largest investor." Stewart says he bought the show from writer/director Lewis Routh for a five-figure sum and is now working out the visual elements (scenery, lights, sound) that will make its road-bound successor a far more elaborate undertaking.

Wanzie and Doug's contributions have been excised, but Stewart means no insult to the comedy duo, who he calls "phenomenally talented people." What's more, he never stipulated that they couldn't be cast in future productions of "TTT," he says.

Perhaps his diplomatic overtures will make things easier for Stewart in his current job: crafting the wardrobe for "Precious Lizzie," a musical co-written by Wanzie. But they don't clear up the muddied "Trailer Trash Tabloid story," which now seems to have four sides. Maybe five.

"Or six," Stewart agrees, "depending on who dreams what."

Don't call it a comeback

Will Trilemma Productions be able to continue its intended season at the Orlando Science Center's Darden Theater? If you have an answer, you know more than Trilemma president Jim Morris, who says he's made a dozen inquiring phone calls to the OSC -- plus e- and snail-mail missives -- all to no response. And despite the center's public comments to the contrary, Morris maintains that the OSC indeed raised the idea of a rent increase before the break in communication [ The Green Room, Dec. 28].

"We will not produce there if the rent is raised by $1," he vows. OK, 50 cents?

Following the dead

Starting Saturday, Jan. 20, the walking tours of haunted downtown locations that were introduced last Halloween will become a monthly fixture. This time, however, the Orange County Regional History Center won't be an overt sponsor. That role has been assumed by Guinevere's, the coffeeshop adjacent to the recently opened Gallery at Avalon Island: Tours will depart from Guinevere's at 8 p.m. on the third Saturday of every month. For reservations, call (407) 992-1200.

Guide Michael Gavin will follow each excursion with a free, open-forum discussion at Guinevere's at 9 p.m. To spiff up his presentation, he's soliciting stories from Orlandoans who have had encounters with the living dead. Call (407) 482-6428 or e-mail to submit your own tale ... and try to come up with a better anecdote than seeing Foreigner at Pleasure Island.

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