The Electric Man is independent filmmaking to the core, resembling a one act play

by Gordon Shelly

The Electric Man is an independent film through and through. It is a well-made opus in alternative cinema. It is steeped in dialogue and character development. It’s quirky and mixes genres. It may present an atmosphere modern audiences simply aren’t used to. The Electric Man feels like your friend’s underground band that only you know about and are desperate to share. It plays out like a black box, one act play off-off Broadway.

It’s a little bit drama. It’s a little bit comedy. It’s a little bit science fiction. Mostly, it’s an existential and philosophical journey about its main character, Trace McNeil (Jed Rowen), after a near death experience that leaves him traveling the multiverse of his own existence.

I recently had the opportunity to interview director B. Luciano Barsuglia and leading man Jed Rowen.

INFLUX: How would each of you describe the movie?
Barsuglia: Theatre of the absurd. You nailed it when you said it’s like a black box, one act play, because most of it was shot that way. This was a multi-camera shoot and the majority of scenes are edited as they are shot, as if it were a play.

Rowen: The Electric Man is an experimental film. It’s subversive. Philosophical. Cosmological. I’m very happy to be living in a time period where an underground drama like this, for so long only done in a black box theater in an alleyway, can now be done affordably at a great technical level that can be seen everywhere with internet streaming. Indie filmmaking has come into its own, and I don’t take that for granted. Electric Man proves that avant-garde filmmaking is alive and well.

INFLUX: Jed, you’re basically in every scene of this movie? What is that like?
Being in every scene doesn’t seem as trying as you might think. The pandemic split up the shoot dates that kept me and all the other actors fresh and ready to roll. That whole Covid ordeal had us all just yearning for the wonderful human interaction that is making movies, so we all were just counting the days until the next shoot days. So it wasn’t some grueling fifteen day consecutive movie triathlon. And Brian (Barsuglia) really knows how to run efficient shooting days. That being said, the dialogue was very esoteric, which is a pretentious way of saying there were a lot of big words to memorize. The script was smart as hell. I’m always up for a challenge as an actor, so it was just fun. A by-product of doing a role this challenging is all these other acting jobs I do now are that much easier.

INFLUX: “The Electric Man” is independent to the core, what are some of the challenges of being involved with and creating a movie like this?
Barsuglia: While very independent, the movie did get much bigger than we ever expected. The Electric Man was a product of the pandemic. Wanting to remain creative and productive, this was originally written to be a one or two location movie with only four or five characters. But as the world opened up, people were excited to get involved. We raised a little more money, added some more actors, and expanded the overall scope.

Rowen: The challenges, to be honest, weren’t so formidable at all. Brian runs a great set. The crew was fantastic and professional, and the actors were all a joy to work with, and brought the same enthusiasm I did to the set. The script was great, and the locations were so cool. I think really the only challenges of the movie didn’t really involve me. One time, we were shooting near this construction crew that was making all of this terrible noise. Somehow none of that cacophony showed up in the movie. So that challenge was someone else’s problem to fix. The Electric Man was just like the ultimate fun acting experience. An actor’s dream role, really, where I could finally spread my wings as an actor and show all that I can do. Now, I can get into plenty of misadventures and crazy times I’ve had with indie movies in general over the years. But that would entail you writing a book instead of this short question and answer. I don’t know if you have time for that.

INFLUX: Jed, you share scenes with some well known actors here. Among them, Tom Sizemore, Eric Roberts, and Vernon Wells. What are those individual experiences like?
Rowen: It was a career highlight to work with all the big name actors in the movie. All three of them were just amazing and so much fun to work with. Tom Sizemore was absolutely, forgive the pun, electric in the scene I had with him in the Chapel. He so deeply cared about the character, and was so focused on not just doing a good job, but getting to the meat of the very intense and deep philosophical issues we were dealing with in that scene. I was very impressed with his commitment. And, of course, I was blown away by his performance.

Now the scene with Vernon Wells, that’s an interesting story, as Brian almost didn’t do this scene. It wasn’t something he thought was integral to the story. But he wanted to work with Vernon, and I was, of course, pushing him also to include Vernon, as being in a scene with this iconic, incredible actor would be something I’d always cherish.

Well, as filmmaking sometimes does, it can really surprise you. The scene with Vernon stunned both Brian and I in its dramatic intensity and brilliant comedic moments. It turned out to be one of the true highlights of the whole film. Vernon and I really matched wits, and it took a life of its own. It’s some of my very best work. It just goes to show that you never know where or when the magic of a film is going to suddenly erupt.

Eric Roberts was also fantastic. He’s very down to earth and is all about the acting. He was having a good ol’ time with his role, and it was a real treat to work with him.

INFLUX: Is there anything in particular you would like viewers to take away from “The Electric Man.”
There is a special mystery to this movie that I don’t want to give away here. It’s not buried too deep. It’s actually, come to think of it,  practically showcased in the movie. So it’s not so mysterious, after all. It’s like, hiding in plain sight. But for some reason, no one’s really talking about it in user comments or reviews. I want the audience to find it.

Barsuglia: Give it a chance and be patient. You might like it.

The Electric Man can be watched on AmazonTubi, GooglePlayYouTube, Roku and elsewhere.