Death Grip goes to Comic-Con

This week marks the 9th year that The Stunt People will be exhibiting at the Comic-Con International Convention in San Diego, CA.

It all kicks off tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 6pm for Preview Night, and then continues all day Thursday through Sunday for 4 days of bizarre costumes, exclusive releases, star-studded panels, and wall to wall attendees rushing to catch all the latest and greatest in the world of comics, animation and live action entertainment.

And we’ll be right there in the thick of it, featuring Death Grip at our annual Stunt People booth #4015. So if you are coming to Comic-Con this year, come on by our booth to say hi and buy your copy of the Death Grip DVD or Blu Ray. We’ll also have the movie poster on sale, which you can get signed by the cast right at the booth!

What’s more, our very own “independent action film idol” Eric Jacobus is going to be featured on Ric Meyers’ annual (and 15th year running) panel Superhero Kung Fu Extravaganza on Thursday night at 7:30pm in Room 6A of the Convention Center. There, Eric will be showing off some of our exclusive Death Grip footage and talking more about the magic behind the production.

Then on Saturday of the Con (the 14th), we will also be screening Death Grip in the Marriott Hotel – Marina Ballroom D at 5pm. So come join us there as well, and you’ll get to see the full film PLUS be treated to a quick Q&A with our cast!

So don’t miss both chances to see Eric & team featured in Comic-Con’s select schedule lineup, as well as all Con day long at our Booth #4015 in the Convention Center Exhibit Hall!

See you there, in your super duper costume-wear!

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Death Grip Reviews Rolling In – Get your DVD and Write One Too!

Death Grip is now on sale at The Stunt People Store, and we already have four favorable reviews published! Check out what people are saying:

Alex-in-Wonderland says:

This latest offering from Eric Jacobus and The Stunt People is nothing short of amazing, and the groundwork laid by their previous films is finally bearing fruit. Eric has grown and matured as a filmmaker, writer, and actor, and the entire production is first rate. Excellent cinematography and a complimentary musical score mask the film’s impressively lean $100k budget, and you can tell that all of the money is on the screen. Nearly everything is shot in camera in real time, which adds an extra sense of authenticity to the production. The acting is surprisingly good, and bolstered by a script that allows for character development through body language and minimal exposition. And being that the cast is made up almost entirely of stunt people, body language is what they excel at. The fight scenes in the film are excellently realized and hard hitting, evoking the look and feel of classic Hong Kong action cinema. Shot in chronological order one angle at a time, the rhythm and cadence are perfect and the give-and-take progression creates an excellent sense of dramatic tension. The speed, precision, and complexity of the knife fight between Eric and Alvin Hsing is so intense that you almost wish it were slowed down a bit so you could see more of the individual moves. The final showdown between Eric and Johnny Yong Bosch is also extremely satisfying for those who appreciate the skill and craft of thoughtful fight choreography and editing.

Jackie Chan’s “Heart Of Dragon” (1985) immediately comes to mind when watching the film, but it wisely stays away from the melodrama and overwrought sentimentality that weighed that movie down. While the story maintains an appropriately sober and serious tone throughout, brief moments of humor help to alleviate the tension here and there, including a wonderfully realized showdown involving an auto-flush toilet. What’s brilliant about this sequence is that it’s not treated as a gag, but rather an unusual (and absurd) situation that requires a unique solution (another nod to Chan’s genius). The minimalistic dialog does an excellent job of establishing the characters, keeping them self consistent, and maintaining a good pace, but at the expense of not fleshing out the larger world. You leave the film wanting to know more, which I suppose is ultimately a very good thing. Especially in American films, which nearly always tend to divulge too much information. … Definitely worth checking out if you enjoy and appreciate the cinematic flair of 1980′s action cinema.

Dan’s Movie Report says:

Leave it to Eric Jacobus and his fantastic Stunt People crew to come up with a highly original film concept, the theft of a magical coin with a biblical connection, and wrap it around the backdrop of some of the finest fight sequences ever recorded.

… [A]ll of the actors are rather intense and obviously Eric took time with the actors and himself to get the facial and body actions to belay their respective characters’ emotions.

The plot is rather complex for a lower budget film, and requires careful attention from the viewer, there are religious and demonic undertones, but by the end of the film things become quite clear. Follow the coin, and see where it goes!

I hate when reviewers spoil the plot of films, and the events occur in Death Grip, should not be revealed, but I will reveal the action. Eric and his crew have made an epic action film, the fights are stunning, well lit and expertly filmed.

KeAbtium reports:

I was almost immediately pulled into the story.  The film opens with a serious scene with Kenny (Eric Jacobus) about to get his brother Mark out of a mental institution.  Nathan Hoskins plays the roll of Mark and was nothing short of amazing.  They both tell a story with their facial expressions and simple, not over the top dialogue.  Which I feel can be a fatal flaw in low budget films with untrained actors.

There is immediate character investment with Mark and Kenny and their relationship and there is a desire to learn what happened to them to bring them to this point in time.  Along with a great score which reached into your heart during the serious moments and made you laugh at the jokes, it seems like they had re-written the book on action movies with a good story.

The film continued to amaze with great locations, extremely well choreographed fight scenes, heart stopping action and several well timed laughs.

The end fight with Johnny Yong Bosch and Eric Jacobus was memorable, but more importantly it kept you on the edge of your seat.  It was fast, well thought out and well shot.  It is what we have come to expect from The Stunt People, yet so much more.  I wanted to include, that what you seen on screen for all of their fight scenes isn’t sped up or cut and reassembled.  It’s shot in sequence at speed with a single camera which is very impressive.

Lastly, Fictonia raves:

Holy crap, there is so much I can say here.  The fighting was intense and exciting, and genuinely felt real.

The cinematography was beautiful and the picture was sharp and clear, with fantastic use of color and lighting.

The sets and environments were interesting and it was fun and satisfying watching them get destroyed over the course of the many fights.

The story was engaging, and easily bounced around between being funny, touching, dramatic, and exciting.

The acting.  Holy crap, the acting.  I never thought I would say this about a Stunt People movie, but the acting was fantastic.  Nathan Hoskins in particular had an amazing performance as Mark, the main character’s developmentally disabled brother.  With only a few minor exceptions, the entire cast did a fantastic job bringing their characters to life.

… It feels like a long time since I’ve had this much fun watching a movie.  Death Grip was genuine entertainment from start to finish, and one I will be watching over and over.  It’s exciting, it’s brutal, it’s dramatic, and it’s really, really funny. But most of all, it’s an engaging story with characters you actually care about, which is something you don’t often get to say about an action movie.  The DVD and Blu Ray are on sale now in their store, and you should go buy it.  Seriously.  Right now. Go.

Plus,

Scott Brown of the Shortz! Film Fest also comments:

If you are into martial arts action flicks, this one should be on your list of “must sees” Eric Jacobus and The Stunt People have reached a new pinnacle that all other independent action flicks will now be forced to live up to.

Lately we’ve been hearing a lot of people ask us, “What can we do to help your film?”

Well the best thing you can do is buy Death Grip (Blu Ray also available) and write your own review on a blog or whatever other online publishing tool you prefer. If you write for a print magazine or a major website, contact us for a reviewer’s screener copy.

You can also review and rate it on our Death Grip IMDb page. We’d link it directly, but apparently if a bunch of reviews come in from the same initial link, the IMDb review aggregator won’t count those. So please just go to IMDb.com and search for “Death Grip”, and then let us know what you think of it!

Thanks everyone for the glowing reviews so far. These kinds of things really help us push forward and jump into making the next one!

Far East Films interviews Eric Jacobus

Here at Far East Films we’re huge fans of Eric Jacobus and The Stunt People, and as such could quite easily give Eric the kind of overly complimentary introduction that would even make his mother blush. However, I think the biggest compliment we can pay him is that the majority of martial arts movie fans out there will already be familiar his awesome action shorts. If you aren’t though (shame on you!), do yourself a favour and head on over to www.thestuntpeople.com to see what you’ve been missing!

Right, now that we’re all caught up, here’s the great news – Eric has a new feature-length movie coming out at the end of June! Entitled ‘Death Grip’, the film sees him playing a man forced to fight for his life after his brother becomes wrapped up in the dark world of a murderous satanic cult (check out the trailer here). We thought we’d use this as an excuse to get in touch with Eric to learn a little more about the movie as well as talk about some of his past work.

Far East Films: For anyone not familiar with yourself or your work, can you tell us a little about Eric Jacobus and The Stunt People?

Eric Jacobus: I run an independent action filmmaking group called The Stunt People in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA. Way back in high school, I was on a very different path, going for a physics degree while working as a computer programmer at my college – a nerd if there ever was one. But then one night, I happened to catch the finale of Jackie Chan’s ‘Police Story’ on TV, and I decided I wanted to drop Physics and try my hand at making my own action films. I started The Stunt People with Chelsea Steffensen and Ben Brown in 2001. Ben had a camera, I programmed the website and forum and could figure out the editing, and Chelsea knew martial arts, so we had everything we needed to make an action film. But our mission hasn’t been just to make Hong Kong-style movies. We want to make American films with killer action, and we look to Hong Kong’s more formalized camerawork and editing to make that a reality.

Today The Stunt People are a group of over thirty skilled stuntmen and women who bring a wide range of skills to the action film genre, from various martial art styles to parkour, acrobatics, tricking, and stunt falls. We’ve filmed over a hundred short films and worked on a dozen feature films, from major productions like Love Aaj Kal (2009) and Discovery Channel’s Time Warp to our own films like ‘Contour’ (2006) and ‘Death Grip’ (2012). We’ve also inspired dozens of stunt crews around the world to try their hand at making their own action films. It’s been my dream to make quality independent action films, and with The Stunt People I’ve have been on the cutting edge of that.


FEF: I’ve always felt you have a fantastic eye for crafting out action sequences. Somehow you manage to make them both physically impressive and exciting. Would you say that this is something that came naturally, or have you fine tuned your style over the years?

EJ: It definitely didn’t come easily. I did have an eye for the technique early on, so I could choreograph in the “Hong Kong-style” even before I started martial arts at the age of twenty. But after learning how to do proper martial arts from a technical standpoint, a choreographer has only accomplished a small fraction of his job. The major task is translating martial arts into a fight scene. I like to say my job is less about choreographing, and more about translating. Most of the handwork and footwork I come up with has no real-world application. It’s all for the camera. Then I’m able to look at it, tweak it, make it sell.

But I’d say that the most important part is bringing out the human element. If an action scene is only about martial arts, you’re only selling yourself to that small fraction of the world that understands martial arts. What made Jackie Chan stand out was that everybody could enjoy his material. When the performers have real motivation driving them, and the fight scene itself has a story arc, then you’ve got a winner. I avoid working on productions that don’t give me this kind of control, since the fight just falls apart without all these elements. With each project I realize how critical this human element is, and it makes the fight both physically and emotionally exciting.

FEF: What fight scenes or stunt sequences have acted as an inspiration to you?

EJ: I’ve been inspired by anything Jackie Chan’s done, since I feel I resemble him the most of all my idols. He’s not agile enough to slip out of encounters like Yuen Biao, but not big enough to be a physical force like Sammo Hung, who always punctuates his scenes with powerful moves. So Jackie uses his head to win fights, which makes him universally appealing.

The American action films of the 80s, mostly the Schwarzenegger ones, were the epitome of American action. The entire production revolved around the action, which was shot in a way that was easy to follow. It was as if the clearer and bigger the action, the better.

Beat Takeshi is also a brilliant action star who’s also a minimalist. It takes a genius to be an action star at the age of 60 and rarely throw a punch. A lot of what he does is off-camera, which shows respect for the audience. He trusts them to get it, and they do. I take inspiration from each one of these icons.

FEF: Your first full length feature film, ‘Contour’ was great fun and the action certainly surpassed the majority of big budget Hollywood outings. What would you say are your main memories of making the film, and is there anything you would have liked to do differently?

EJ: ‘Contour’ was a blast to make, if only because it was such a long trial. A lot of my time between shoots was spent trying to make ends meet or figuring where to sleep that night, since I didn’t have a job. I’d carry my laptop, camera, and hard drive everywhere so I could plop down on someone’s floor and edit what we shot that day. It felt rough at the time, but oddly enough I treasure those moments the most. It gives good context whenever the going gets tough. Aside from that, bonding with the cast and crew was invaluable, and they became my brothers from then on. Even though some of us haven’t seen each other in years, it’s easy to reconnect, like we’ve been through a war together.

‘Contour’ had its share of flaws. The acting was goofy, the story was hastily thrown together two weeks before shooting (often during shooting too!), but I made ‘Contour’ for one reason: I saw that action films weren’t being made well in 2005, and I wanted to prove that someone could do the job for $5,000. And we did it. Despite some negative reviews, I wouldn’t change anything. It was a learning experience that made me who I am today.

FEF: What would you say are the biggest challenges you face as an independent film-maker?

EJ: Getting money and name talent have definitely been the greatest challenges. Everything else comes easily by comparison, but those two are the hardest, especially since they tend to depend on one another. Without one, it’s hard to get the other, so you have to be smart and play the balancing act. Everyone faces this same struggle. It’s all just a lot of hard work, there’s no magic ticket. Don’t ever listen to anyone who says, “I can make ya a lot of money, kid.” The truth is you just have to put in the work.

Besides, I treasure the hard work! It’s the most memorable part! You wouldn’t be interviewing me if I were an overnight success!

FEF: What’s the motivation to risk your life/health in independent action films? Does it annoy you that the genre is still looked down upon, despite the best efforts of those involved?

EJ: I’m motivated by the surprising absence of quality independent action in the market. Independent martial art films just don’t get made, and there are two reasons for this. First, they’re expensive to make, and indie filmmakers would rather shoot a drama for a tenth of the cost, or they shortchange themselves on the action and resort to cheap tricks that give the genre its negative reputation. Second, as a stuntman or choreographer trying to find work, it eventually becomes a decision of whether to move to Hollywood. This is an absolutely valid decision. I have all the respect in the world for people like J.J. Perry and Chad Shahelski who are bringing the best game to the big budget action market that we could ever hope for. The market needs them as well as all the stuntmen and women who break their backs to entertain us. I choose to stick it out as an independent filmmaker because that’s the demand I’m targeting. As more people target it with me by bringing quality action to the viewer, we’ll bring more legitimacy to the market and people will take the genre more seriously.

FEF: Have you ever received any serious offers to work on a big Hollywood production?

EJ: People have offered, and I always take the offer seriously, but nothing has been quite right for me. In all the times I’ve had offers, it’s never been the right fit. I’ve not found an instance where I could really use my skills and vision effectively on a production. The Hollywood system just works differently, and it’s massive and slow to change. So as an independent player, much like a start-up business, I’m able to stay agile and innovate more easily than the big guys.

FEF: Tell us about ‘Death Grip’? What themes are you keen to tackle?

EJ: ‘Death Grip’ is my second feature film. It’s about ex-criminal Kenny Zemacus who decides to clean up his life. He starts by taking custody of his autistic brother Mark, but when he takes Mark on a last-minute catering gig at a museum, Mark unwittingly involves them in a murderous satanic cult and their dangerous plot to steal the museum’s showpiece — the silver Coin of Judas. When the cult kidnaps Mark, and the coin with him, Kenny has to chase them down to save his brother and clear their names, ultimately bridging the gap that’s existed between them their whole lives.

It’s a story of Kenny’s battle between innocence and desecration, loss and forgiveness. The conflict between Kenny and Mark manifests itself in the tone of the film. We went for more graphic violence this time, but still kept some dark humor, creating a contrast that highlights the mismatched relationship of the two brothers. And it’s this relationship that drives all the other themes and conflicts in the film, and gives it its depth.

FEF: Comedy often seems to play a big part in a lot of your projects but the trailer for ‘Death Grip’ indicates that this is a slightly more serious affair. Was this a deliberate switch in style?

EJ: ‘Death Grip’ started out as a straight action-comedy, but we decided to add in some more serious elements. Kenny’s character got grittier, his background became more shrouded in mystery, and he resorted to more violent means to win fights. There’s still humor, though. An autistic brother like Mark acts as a sort of pie-in-your-face, making us feel like we take life too seriously sometimes. With the context of Kenny and Mark’s relationship, we can switch between grim reality and comedy in a more natural way, and we use that clash in the fight scenes.

We also knew that from a market perspective it made more business sense to do an action thriller. Action comedies can tend to be very “local”, and therefore hard to sell at a low budget level internationally. So we made our comedy less off-the-wall and more physical, so it would translate better for non-English speakers.

FEF: Johnny Yong Bosch of ‘Power Rangers’ and ‘Broken Path’ fame is amongst the cast for ‘Death Grip’, how did that come about?

EJ: I met Johnny at Comic-Con in 2008 and related my experience working on ‘Contour’ to his experiences working on ‘Extreme Heist’ and ‘Broken Path’. I gave him a copy of Contour and we exchanged emails for a while. When we were looking for someone to play the villain Torch, we thought Johnny would be a perfect fit. So I tried to figure out how to ask him, thinking there was some proper way to do this. After over-thinking it for some time, I just emailed him and asked, and he responded with an enthusiastic, “Let’s do it!”

We honestly couldn’t have picked a better person for the role, and for our team. Johnny speaks that same “language” that we use as indie action guys and also understands our production method. So it was very natural working with him and made the production that much better as a result.

FEF: What can we expect in terms of action for ‘Death Grip’? Have you aimed for any specific style?

EJ: ‘Death Grip’ is superior to ‘Contour’ on a technical level, since we’ve grown as a team and in the variety of styles we now use. We have a knife fight, a 15-on-1 fight, a fight in the dark, and a fight where we destroy a bathroom. We played with mixed martial arts, added some Hapkido throws, some long takes, and still maintained the Hong Kong style.

But the main goal in making ‘Death Grip’ was creating a good story that people would care about, and then implementing fight scenes that meshed seamlessly with that story. The audience won’t just be watching the fight. These fights will draw them inside Kenny’s head to connect with his motivation and feel the energy of the fight itself. And we did this in some pretty cool ways. Each action scene has its own human element in it, something special that will connect with audiences in a way that I frankly don’t see done very often. I think this sets ‘Death Grip’ apart from other action material that’s out there right now.

FEF: For those of us not based in the U.S., how will we be able to see ‘Death Grip’?

EJ: We’ll release the DVD and Blu Ray in July, which will be available on both www.thestuntpeople.com and www.deathgripmovie.com.

FEF: What’s next for yourself and the team?

EJ: We’re pushing to get the next film going, this time with a bigger budget and some more name cast. We actually have four concepts that we’re developing right now, each with a really strong story and its own unique element that sets it apart from your everyday action film. These aren’t just guys trading blows. There will be something special about every action scene and every character. In the over-saturated indie film market, this is how we plan to stand out.

Far East Films would like to thank Eric Jacobus for taking the time to speak with us. The theatrical premiere of ‘Death Grip’ will take place on the 30th June at the BAL Theater in San Leandro. Tickets are available now from TicketWeb.

Eric Jacobus Gives a Tour of Contour

As we put the final touches on the Death Grip movie, and prepare to release the DVD with our theatrical premiere, we are also preparing some fun extra features to add to the DVD. Among those will be an extensive behind-the-scenes on the making of Death Grip, including interviews with director Eric Jacobus, producer Rebecca Ahn, star Johnny Yong Bosch, and other key cast & crew, plus exclusive footage taken on the film set!

To whet your appetite for this special bonus tour of Death Grip, Eric wanted to share the similar making-of featurette from his previous feature film Contour (2006). Since the Contour DVD is being re-released as The Agent without any special features, we figured it’d be alright to show you this behind-the-scenes “Tour of Contour” for free!

This should give you a good idea of how much we plan to share with you on the equivalent exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of Death Grip. And if you like this video, consider buying the original Contour DVD at the Stunt People online store!

New Stunt Reel for Alvin Hsing, Supporting Cast

If you haven’t heard of Alvin Hsing yet, you will very soon. A rising star in the film action/stunt scene, Alvin Hsing joined the cast of Rise And Fail after working with The Stunt People on Detective Story and Ness. Check out his latest stunt demo reel, with plenty of spills and spins that you may not have seen from the Stunt People realm.

Alvin may be The Stunt People’s latest key member, but how about it’s oldest? Well that would have to be The Stunt People founder Eric Jacobus, the writer & director of Rise And Fail. So we thought it’d be fun to show you Eric’s demo reel as well, even if it is slightly more outdated.

Post inspired by The Actionist Blog.

An Action-Comedy Short to Ring in the New Year

Happy New Year, Rise And Fail fans!

To celebrate, the brains AND brawn behind Rise And Fail have released a fun short video for you! It’s about a guy who walks into an office for a job interview, but discovers that before he can get the job, he’ll have to undergo the ultimate test.

Watch Eric Jacobus, Edward Kahand Jr. and Dave Yoo (with Rise And Fail‘s Director of Photography Drew Daniels behind the camera) as they bring you… Paper Pushers – A Hitman Comedy!

Check out more fun videos like this on the Stunt People’s Youtube Channel.