Sci-Fi meets crime drama meets Tamara. I have to be honest, I am not a sci-fi fanatic; however, I love film and my friend told me that an acquaintance of hers was in a movie debuting at the North Hollywood Cinefest Film Festival. She, my friend, is in Chicago, I am LA adjacent, so it was most fitting that I attend the premiere.
Holy robot, thank goodness I did, it was awesome! Holy robot, you say? Yes, “Ghost in the Machine is a 2017 independent film set in 2024 where humanoid robots are common in society. The mob reprograms a female android to think and feel so they can use it to kill people.”
I was invited to this premiere on behalf of one of the main actors, Sal Rastegar. Sal plays mob boss, Isaac Lynch, and what a mob boss he is. Isaac Lynch is ruthless, especially when it comes to money.
I would find out that Rastegar was most certainly playing against type as he is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. In fact, in a later conversation with Sal, he said that it took him a good three days to detox from Isaac—no more nightmares, mobs, blood, it was finally out of his system.
Sal and I met for a few moments before the premiere when he handed me my ticket. I’m a pretty good judge of character and could tell that he was someone I wanted to talk to further.
There was an informative q&a after the film and I was able to glean some interesting information about this low-budget, indie, sci-fi, crime thriller. Interestingly enough was the fact that Brock Humphrey, the writer, director, producer, and editor of the film managed to shoot Ghost in the Machine in eight days in Austin, TX, from a script that was born from his brain simply because he wanted to make a movie.
Humphrey said that he had always been interested in sci-fi and crime dramas, so he did some research and found a way to make a film about robots fit a budget he had already allocated for a movie. That’s pretty unconventional in the movie world, but I’m guessing that Mr. Humphrey is as unconventional as he is talented.
Equally as talented as the director is Arianna Guerra who plays Maya, the robot; Oryan West as Cameron, the fellow that built Maya; our friend, Sal Rastegar, playing Isaac Lynch, the evil mob boss who ordered Cameron to build Maya with thoughts and feelings so she could kill for him, thus making him loads of money, and a host of characters as talented as the main cast.
As I said, this is one indie film you will want to keep on your radar.
Sal and I lost track of one another after the q&a, but, fortunately, I was able to meet up with him for coffee a couple of days later, which actually turned out to be more suitable as I was able to get to know this corporate trainer turned actor much better than spending a few minutes with him in a movie theater that was rushing us out.
I had done a little research on Sal and found that his resume contains quite a few hitman and “mean guy” roles. “Do you find yourself getting typecast a lot because of your look and the previous characters you have played?” I asked. “A little bit,” he said, but he doesn’t mind playing the bad guy. Rastegar likes playing the villain because “there’s so much you can do with the character; there are so many levels and places to go with ‘bad guys’.”
I asked Sal if he was going to stick with these types of roles and he said that he had heard from someone in the business, whom he respected, that bad guys don’t last and you have to have a little good guy mixed in your bio. I’m sure we’ll see some of that from him in the future, but for now, he seems pretty content with his resume builders.
Sal’s performance in the film was impressive and naturally begged the question, “How long have you been acting?” “Two and half years.” Wait, what? Rastegar has been acting for two and a half years, has an agent, a manager, and five films under his belt. That’s quite impressive. I have friends out here in LA who have been acting for much longer than that and have never had an agent, let alone a manager. Our friend must be doing something right.
Sal said that he believes his business background has helped him be successful in acquiring agents, networking, and meeting people who can provide stepping stones for his acting career.
As I said before, Mr. Rastegar was a corporate trainer, quite accomplished I might add, before he joined the entertainment industry. I asked what prompted him to leave the corporate world and a job he both liked and excelled in. He took an acting class on a whim, just for something different, to get out of his head, and voila, Sal the actor was born.
“Did you study Meisner, Method, Stanislavsky, Stella Adler…?” “No, not really,” replies Rastegar. “Wow, well then what is your approach to a character if you don’t have a certain technique you rely on?” Sal says that he looks at the character and gets into his skin. He reads the script, the story 10-50 times, sometimes more, however long it takes for him to inhale the character’s essence and then that’s it.
In talking about the different acting methods, Rastegar said that he has discussed this with acting friends and colleagues and says that his way is much easier for him and way less complicated than relying on methods and techniques to make his character come to life. Simplicity works for him, and judging by his IMDb page and upcoming works, it works for everyone else, too.
Before I let Sal ride off into the sunset, I did ask about his impending projects and what the future holds. He has another film premiere most likely in May, a project in Chicago in which he will co-produce and act, and I just found out that Sal will be back in LA mid-May as he is in talks to co-produce an 8M independent film with two academy award nominees. It sounds like a busy month for Sal Rastegar and I think that’s just fine with him.
Sal did leave me with one final thought when asked what lies ahead: While he is working hard on his future and finding and securing open doors in the entertainment industry, he really believes in living in the moment and letting the Universe work its magic.