‘Electric Jesus’ takes over the Skatin’ Rink for a major motion film

Published 6:30 pm Tuesday, September 3, 2019

VALLEY — The magic of filmmaking took over The Skatin’ Rink in Valley Tuesday afternoon.

The set of Electric Jesus stopped in Valley for its one-day shoot at the skating rink, which is meant to take viewers back to the mid-1980s.

“The whole movie is like a trip back into 1986,” Director Chris White said. “I grew up in the 80s so on a day like this, I look through the camera, and it is like ‘oh my gosh.’ It’s like my life is flashing before my eyes.”

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The movie centers around a Christian rock band, and White says it’s about looking into the past to find something that will help today.

“I was never in a Christian rock band, but I was in a Southern Baptist youth group, and I went to a lot to Christian rock shows,” he said. “This has been a dream for a long time to step back into the past when I was a kid. At 16 years old, there were four things I loved. I loved rock and roll, I loved my girlfriend, I loved my friends and I loved Jesus.”

Not only did the film set up shop at the skating rink, but the actors and crew did their hair and makeup and ate meals at the Valley Community Center.

Shooting in Valley was scheduled to last for only Tuesday, and White said his crew would be back Wednesday to clean up.

Among the movie’s stars are appearances by Judd Nelson, best known for portraying John Bender in “The Breakfast Club,” and Brian Baumgartner, known for his role as Kevin Malone in the television series “The Office.”

Baumgartner is originally from Atlanta, so he’s glad to be close to home for work.

“We have had a lot of fun,” Baumgartner told The Valley Times-News. “Everybody has been great. The script is super interesting, so that is why I came down.”

As a kid, Baumgartner said he used to go to Callaway Gardens but on his trip this time, he hoped to make it a little further west. He said he grew up as a big University of Georgia fan but never made the trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium to watch Georgia play Auburn.

“I was going to maybe go on Saturday, but it looks like our schedule isn’t going to allow that,” he said. “I talked to a big Auburn supporter about going over there, and I told him I would consider going over there as long as they promise not to point the fire hose at me.”

As for the skating rink in Valley, Baumgartner said the location was perfect.

“I was the age of some of these kids that are here today and that was it for us,” he said. “Old Jelly Beans in Atlanta was very similar to this.”

He said it’s great that the location existed to give the film a realistic feel.

“It is fun to go back and find authentic things like this,” Baumgartner said. “It is cool to find those authentic locations and settings to help tell the story.”

Skatin’ Rink owners Jason and Carmen Turnham said they had enjoyed the opportunity to get to know the cast and crew.

“That has been very fun,” Carmen Turnham said. “They are a bunch of wonderful people to work with. It is bringing back a lot of memories for them.”

She said most of the cast had told her that the rink is similar to ones they grew up skating in. Additionally, she said she’s looking forward to seeing the rink on the big screen when the film comes out.

“It will be something we will be able to keep for our children and say that’s the skating rink you grew up in right there,” Turnham said.

One of the leads in the film, Will Oliver, who plays Jamie, the lead guitarist for a small-town Christian heavy metal band, is from Columbus.

“It is a dream come true,” he said about acting in a film in his hometown. “You grow up and you dream about a moment like this.”

He said most people think you need to be in Los Angeles for other cities, but he feels blessed to have a film come to his hometown.

“Nobody would have ever thought a movie would come to Columbus, Georgia,” he said. “It is still unbelievable at times.”

He said he’s lived in Columbus his whole life and acted in middle and high school plays. He developed his craft at the Springer Opera House in Columbus and later went to school at Co-lumbus State University.

Wanting to translate his craft from the theatre stage to film, he studied under Sara Lynn Holbrook at the Springer Film Institute and jumped at the role in his hometown.

“On the theater stage, your main objective is to make sure everybody hears you from top to bottom,” Oliver said. “In film, there is overacting. It has to be sincere and all and translate to the screen.”

Holbrook, who works on the set as the child labor coordinator, extra and local casting coordinator and intimacy coordinator, said she was glad to lend the institute’s services, and its local knowledge of Columbus. Her husband also works on the film.

“It is a small budget, so we wear many hats,” she said.

As for the extras, there were dozens of young children as extras.

“For them, it is a learning experience,” she said. “You always observe even when they are not doing anything. They are super excited.”

Holbrook said the young aspiring actors and actresses are learning the difference between film and theater.

“For theater, you rehearse all the time and then you do the show but with film, it is different energy,” she said. “It’s more of a hurry up and wait and do the same thing over and over again but find a way to keep it fresh and new each time.”

She said it’s good for them to see all the different people and concepts that go into creating just 30 seconds of a movie.

“It is exciting that they get to see everything we talk about in the classroom and then actually live it in real life,” Holbrook said.

White said it would be ideal for the movie to be in theaters nationwide about this time next year, but he couldn’t be sure until the film is finished shooting. He said Tuesday was the ninth day of shooting and they plan to shoot for 20 days.