It's the summer of 1986. Erik (Andrew Eakle) is the shy, quiet type—but far more passionate than most teenagers when it comes to God and rock-n-roll. His dream comes true when he is asked to run sound for his favorite band, 316—a Christian hair metal band.
After a blistering performance at a church camp talent show, 316 is introduced to a flashy Christian Rock promoter with a plan. Glad-handing, Lord-loving Skip Wick (Brian Baumgartner) wants to take the band on the road—promising the boys a jam-packed summer of paid Christian rock gigs and a shot at making a real record in Nashville. But most importantly, Skip’s offer represents the ultimate chance to “make Jesus famous.”
Complications arise when a woebegone pastor’s (Judd Nelson) daughter, 16 year-old Sarah (Shannon Hutchinson), stows herself away in the band's RV after a church performance in Alabama. Once discovered, Skip must keep recalcitrant Sarah along for the next couple of weeks on the road—which turns out to be plenty of time for the talented girl to emerge as the band’s muse, head-turning opening act, and Erik’s first love.
ELECTRIC JESUS is a wistful coming-of-age music-comedy reminiscent of THE COMMITMENTS, THAT THING YOU DO, and SING STREET—a rock-and-roll movie about a band that never quite makes it. While the screen band’s music is a weird mash-up of 80’s hair metal and Sunday school, ELECTRIC JESUS wears its heart on its sleeve, ala THE BREAKFAST CLUB, LADY BIRD, and ALMOST FAMOUS.
CHRIS WHITE has written and directed three micro-budget features: showbiz comedy CINEMA PURGATORIO (2014, co-writer, director, actor), and broken family dramas GET BETTER (2012, co-writer, co-director, actor) and TAKEN IN (2011, writer, director). He co-wrote the screenplay for SIX LA LOVE STORIES (2016), and has written and directed for the multi-award-winning, web series phenomenon, Star Trek Continues. White has write-directed many acclaimed short films-collecting his most recent for a 5-film, "southern gothic comedy" anthology called UNBECOMING (2016, writer, director).
I was raised by devout Southern Baptist parents and fully immersed in (and committed to) Evangelical Christian youth culture—which included Sunday School, Bible studies, summer camps, retreats, choir tours, ski trips—all of it set to an ‘80s Christian rock soundtrack.
This immersive religious culture is difficult to explain to many of my friends today—but it’s even more difficult to explain why I loved it. The fact that something so alien to most of the world is so vivid in my memory...and kind of embarrassing to talk about now... It makes me feel odd.
Just listen to a Christian hair metal anthem of the era—let’s say Stryper’s “To Hell With the Devil”—and you’ll start to understand. Honestly, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I revisit that time in my mind, but either way, there’s no looking away.
Turns out, my Christian friends and I were a lot more like all of you than I’d thought. Who can’t relate to being young and wistful, devoted to a big unifying idea…and in love? Who doesn’t remember the moment or the moments when you saw your youth, your naiveté...your hope slip away?
We’ve all been young. We’ve all had plans and dreams and loves that didn’t work out the way we’d hoped. And from time to time, we think about it. We remember.
ELECTRIC JESUS was born out of years of looking back, reconstructing, re-discovering moments and memories I’d long since left behind that suddenly fascinated me. I missed being a Christian youth group kid. I missed the certainty, the comfort…I missed Jesus.
But then, as I wrote and eventually as we shot the film, a bigger revelation came to me. I’d been operating under the illusion that my churchy teen years were all about me—that I’d been the sole protagonist in an origin story about me…that coming of age was something that happened to me, while everyone else was just kinda along for the ride...my co-stars.
So that’s what ELECTRIC JESUS came to be about to me: believing in something so much it all gets too big to fail, all the while completely missing the existentially huge story that’s happening right under your nose. And only being able to realize that several decades later when it’s too late to do it over.