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Blow-Up 

Flick Chick

The inflatable sex doll refused to float. In June, filmmakers Nora Jacobson and Steve Goldberg bought a $30 latex approximation of the female form at a Colchester adult store. Their hope was that the helium-filled creature would rise into the air while riding on the back of a bicycle pedaled by their lead character, a man mourning the death of his wife. As the camera rolled, however, the inanimate object failed to cooperate.

"She's kind of hideous," says Jacobson, a Norwich resident who has been collaborating with Goldberg on his as-yet-untitled, and partly autobiographical, project. "When Steve took her home, she was so frightening-looking that he put her in the basement."

Although largely featureless, the doll has "all sorts of orifices, like under her arms," Jacobson notes. "Someone suggested we attach balloons to make her fly. That didn't help, but she looked better with all those balloons."

This phase of the shoot, on the bike path along Burlington's waterfront, drew the attention of a policeman - whose wariness turned to amusement once he realized the sex doll was involved in a worthy cinematic endeavor rather than a sleazy crime.

"This is really an experimental narrative," Jacobson says of the work-in-progress. "It's not a conventional, three-act drama. The material is raw, funny, dark and uncensored. Steve plays a protagonist named Sid who's on a journey to make contact with life again. To him, sex is like the antithesis of death."

Goldberg's wife, singer-songwriter Rachel Bissex, died six months ago from breast cancer. She starred in Jacobson's film, Nothing Like Dreaming, as the mother of a teenager struggling with the loss of her best friend in an auto accident.

Dreaming has been on tour throughout Vermont this summer and will land at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts for screenings on August 11, 13, 14 and 18. After a friend of Jacobson's sent him a DVD copy, curator Bo Smith decided to book the picture, which the weekly Phoenix plans to review. An interview with her will appear in the Globe.

Jacobson, meanwhile, has added another credit to her impressive resumé: In July she was director of photography on "The Singers," a short directed by Sue Bettmann of North Middlesex. The piece is adapted from an Ivan Turgenev story, with the 19th-century Russian setting transposed to 21st-century Vermont.

"It's about a farmer who travels across a mountain to observe a singing contest that takes place in a tavern," Jacobson says. "Coincidentally, he's also grieving after his wife's death. In contrast with Steve's improvisational approach, Sue began organizing months before."

Bettmann, who crafted the documentary Beyond 88 Keys about central Vermont classical pianist Michael Arnowitt, has provided "The Singers" with a country music milieu and some old-fashioned contra dancing.

We're looking for people to just go crazy and have fun," suggests Deb Ellis, board president of the Vermont Interna-tional Film Festival. She's referring to a competition for wildly creative 30-second public-service announcements that promote the event, slated to unspool October 13-16 in Burlington. The three winning spots will be shown on TV and used as trailers during the fest, which addresses issues of human rights, peace and the environment. For more details, call 660-2600 or email emailto:info@vtiff.org.

The Hollywood trade papers recently announced that Lamoille County screenwriter John Fusco has signed a seven-figure deal to adapt Wolf Brother, a popular novel by Michelle Paver. The director, Ridley Scott, previously joined forces with Rutland-born wordsmith David Franzoni on Gladiator.

Fusco, who penned the 1992 Indian-themed feature Thunderheart and the 2003 ABC miniseries Dreamkeeper, found that his expertise came in handy. "The project was offered to me because of my connection to Native American culture and my spiritual ways," he explains in an email.

Wolf Brother traces far-flung civilizations in an earlier millennium. "It is actually set in Northwestern Europe 6000 years ago," Fusco notes. "The author drew on oral histories from various indigenous peoples, including the Inuit of Greenland."

Fusco started the script late last week, despite an already busy schedule. "I have a movie set in ancient China, and another set in Texas during the Great Depres-sion," he says. "They are both getting close to pre-production."

But Fusco acknowledges a personal reason for focusing on the Stone Age saga of a 12-year-old boy befriended by a wolf cub: "It's my young son's favorite book and he really wanted me to do it."

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