The Visionary* *(Tesla)

2005, 22 mins. (Columbia)
Director: Joel O. Shapiro
Writers: Al Davidian, Joel O. Shapiro
Producer: Sushil Tyagi
Editor: David Fishel
Director of Photography: Kev Robertson
Production Designer: Glen Hall
Composer: Paul Hogan
Cast: Tuomis Hil, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Victor Warren, Bob Ari.
In Joel O. Shapiro's The Visionary**(Tesla), Nikola Tesla finds himself inside the sort of fantasia in which Fellini might feel at home. It's not just Tesla the genius that intrigues Shapiro, but Tesla the showman.

Shapiro credits a course he took at his alma mater, San Francisco State, on "the nexus between science and art" with inspiring his fascination with Tesla. "I then spent years researching him and his life, and the more I learned, the more of an enigma he became. But this I do know - he's the most important inventor of the modern age."

An interest in film that began with classes in
Super-8 filmmaking at the Portland Children's Museum, in Oregon, may explain why The Visionary**(Tesla), which was Shapiro's MFA thesis film at Columbia University, shows a taste for magic - appropriate for a subject fired by a vision that seemed to some people to be a conjurer's trick. "With Nikola Tesla," says Shapiro, "you can't escape his obsession with wireless transmission of energy. Tesla's claims and experiments in this field can't be officially proven (at least that I'm aware of), but it was the cornerstone of his life's ambition and, I feel, the key to his character." Shapiro's own career history comprises shorter works, documentaries, and experimental films. "Technically, I guess The Visionary is my first film."

Shapiro worked with an adviser named Ken Fink, "who made sure we were accurate in our representations of Tesla's ideas. I also received assistance from Dr. Ljubo Vujovic from the Tesla Memorial Society and many people in the 'Tesla community.' "

"I wanted to show how," says Shapiro, "though he had already transformed the world with alternating current, he was consumed with the desire to completely remake the world's energy systems into a wireless model that anyone, anywhere, could tap into. Tesla spent all of his money and personal capital on the project - eventually resulting in his professional demise. One can't stop thinking about how different the world might be had Tesla been able to realize his vision."
Online Resources
Biography of Nikola Tesla, Wikipedia