Time for a parting "Gift"

Moving is an enormous drag. You have to shoehorn your every belonging into marked cardboard boxes, fill out reams of change-of-address cards and then blow your remaining cash on beer bribes that'll convince your good-for-nothing friends to help haul your stuff toward its new home.

The process was even more involved for Bob DeRosa. At the same time he was making arrangements to leave Orlando for good, he had to pull together a feature film.

The movie is "Gifted," and seeing it edited last week into a rough-cut format was the latest milestone on a career path that will take DeRosa to Los Angeles later this month -- thus putting the coda on his long tenure as one of Orlando's most prolific writers, actors and proponents of the arts. Though a 20-minute excerpt from "Gifted" will be shown June 16 at Maitland's Enzian Theater (as part of the Florida Film Festival's works-in-progress program), having a full-length version finished before he hit the road was as much a matter of personal pride as professional scheduling.

"I accomplished pretty much everything I wanted to do in this town," DeRosa says. "The last thing I needed to do was direct a feature film. Now I've got a rough cut done that I'm very happy with."

Shot in an intense two weeks last February, "Gifted" tells the story of a young woman (Mandy Moss) who is able to predict the romantic destinies of everyone but herself. DeRosa wrote as well as directed the film, which he hopes will eventually play the festival circuit. He's currently seeking finishing funds -- which he needs to secure "a bang-up sound mix" and a top-flight musical soundtrack -- and crossing his fingers that the Enzian screening will inspire an investor or two to open up their wallets.

If it does, it'll be karmic payback for the artistic currency DeRosa has invested during his two decades as an area resident. A founding member of the improv troupe THEM, he's also the author of numerous short plays that have been performed at venues like Art's Sake Studios and (the sadly defunct) Performance Space Orlando. He's been a regular staffer at Enzian events like the Florida Film Festival and the Brouhaha Film & Video Showcase. Just as important, he's an inveterate culture booster who's always been quick to chat up someone else's show -- then buy a ticket. No one will ever call him an "angry loner."

"Everything that, quote, ‘I have accomplished,' there's been amazing people involved," he says. "Orlando creates talent and creates artists. It's a wonderfully supportive environment."

Of course, "A Wonderfully Supportive Environment" is not the official slogan of the L.A. tourism industry. But DeRosa already has a number of familiar collaborators waiting for him in Cali, a cabal of fellow refugees who call themselves the Orlando Mafia. (If plans hold, their ranks will eventually swell to include DeRosa's THEM teammates; the group's Will Bowles made the move last month.) One of those expatriates, actress Lena Bouton -- who appeared in DeRosa's 1997 short, "God Laughed" -- is producing a compilation of four of his one-act comedies that will open there June 29.

Having his work reaching a stage just as he arrives in town is a healthy sign for DeRosa, who aims to earn his daily bread via a potpourri of writing and acting jobs. To help, he's secured high-powered management and a sympathetic agent.

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But typically, he has a few more hometown gigs ahead of him before he catches his plane. In his third and final year with the Florida Film Festival, he'll conduct public interview sessions with guests Joe Pantoliano and Jason Lee. And he'll take the stage with THEM June 14 at Midtown Tavern for an evening of funny business that will be his final performance as a local. You can do the "wonderfully supportive" Orlando thing and stop by to bid him bon voyage. Or you can just suck up to him now, while you still have the chance.

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Feel the Byrne

One Florida Film Festival guest DeRosa won't be interviewing is actor Gabriel Byrne, who has been booked for the June 17 "Sunday brunch" time slot. Byrne's screen credits are irrefutably strong, but the mob scene I'm expecting relies on the oft-stated opinion that he's Zeus in shoes -- which has been the point of divergence between me and 95 percent of the women I have ever met. (Sure, it was the Byrne thing. That's it.) For further shocking admissions and freely offered stereotypes -- not to mention continuing coverage of festival happenings both momentous and arcane -- keep your browser set to www.orlandoweekly.com while the 10-day indie blowout is under way.

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Dirt, cheap

The Orlando Museum of Art will open its doors to emerging talent June 15 with SOIL! The New Art for Orlando, a one-night-only showcase of works by University of Central Florida students. Hosted by the museum but funded by the school, the free-admission event will spotlight youthful advances in a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, drawing and photography.

The show is the thesis project of UCF student Elana Rubinfeld, who says she toyed with the idea of imposing a central theme -- like the OMA's place in the community or the role of the young local artist -- but ultimately decided that she "didn't want to box [the artists] in. It kind of restricts the whole reason they're doing art."

Instead, spectators can expect to encounter a subtle, nonmandated motif that arose merely from the contributors' shared background -- something along the lines of being a progressive force in a plastic environment. Rubinfeld herself may have a piece in the show; the one she's currently considering is an installation-type performance in which she would auction off Barbie dolls. The proceeds, she says, would be used to fund "something more creative," like the collaborative project she's thinking of undertaking with guerrilla artist/media manipulator Mark Taylor Michaels.

Also on the menu at OMA are short films (both "abrasive and heartwarming," Rubinfeld says), live original jazz music, light catering and a cash bar. The event will be followed by an open-forum discussion June 18 at 02 Elements.

Though SOIL! relies heavily on senior members of the UCF student body, its status as a rite of passage doesn't extend to Rubinfeld: Running the show has forced her to delay her graduation until fall 2001. And just when those U Can't Finish jokes were starting to die down.


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