From making action shorts on his own dime to participating in the groundbreaking “ABCs of Death 2,” Eric Jacobus has carved a niche for himself on the independent scene. I talked to him about his experiences in the industry, including getting hurt doing stunt work, the differences between short and feature-length films, making “Star Wars” fan films, his newest film, “Blindsided,” and much more!
Justin Oberholtzer: What inspired you to start making action films?
Eric Jacobus: I was first inspired as a child watching the Vaudeville greats of the 20s and 30s. They were entertainers to the highest degree. Jackie Chan was the Chinese version of these entertainers. The way he mixed action with comedy and storytelling was really inspirational, so you could say it started when I saw his films in my late teens.
JO: The first feature length film you’ve directed was “Immortal,” co-directed alongside Chelsea Steffensen. Do you prefer the short film format?
EJ: I directed 2 more after that which were much better, Contour and Death Grip. Those were much more commercially successful and higher quality. The feature film format is the ideal storytelling mode these days. If it were easy to keep making them, I’d just focus on those, but often you need proofs of concept and practice sessions, and short films are good facilitators for that.
JO: You’ve made a couple of Darth Vader short films. Do you have any more “Star Wars” shorts planned?
EJ: We’ll see. I think the market is so over-saturated with Star Wars fan films that, unless a great new idea comes along, like how we combined the first-person perspective with light saber fighting, I don’t plan on it.
JO: You starred in the “Assassin” segment of “ABCs of Death 2.” What was that experience like and how stoked were you and the crew in having your short chosen for the film?
EJ: The short was pre-approved by the producers and allocated a budget. I was really fortunate to be brought on board, so I have to thank Clayton Barber, the coordinator, and the director E.L. Katz. It was my first horror film where all I did was yell and get hurt, but it’s still a fight scene, only it’s man vs. environment. Crawling around in a vent for 2 days was a blast.
JO: Your latest short film is “Blindsided.” Care to explain it?
EJ: We wanted to do a blind samurai film in America based off the Zatoichi and Blind Fury characters, so we crafted a story around it.
JO: What can action fans expect from “Blindsided?”
EJ: Only the best!
JO: What has been the biggest hurdle in producing your short films?
EJ: The hardest part is standing out in the crowd. There are so many great short films made every day, it puts enormous pressure on us to make something original. In the end Clayton has shown me that taking inspiration from great films and putting our own spin on them is a solid start.
JO: Do you feel the open world of the internet benefits filmmakers or stunts them?
EJ: You’ll always have short-term issues whenever markets globalize, much like filmmaking has. People who were once easy targets as movie villains are now customers. So it forces filmmakers to be smart in that capacity. But that same globalizing force creates technology that makes it easy for someone in Indonesia or Uganda to make films competitive on the marketplace. There really are no barriers to entry now, and the one way to differentiate one’s self is with a good story, so maybe this era of filmmaking will finally do away with all the gadgetry and focus primarily on story.
JO: Have you ever had to turn to crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo to help fund any of your projects?
EJ: We’ve had moderate success with crowdfunding, but our recent efforts have been privately funded.
JO: Have you ever sustained a serious injury on any of your films? If so, how did you go about handling it?
EJ: My worst was a herniated L5 disk. I believe that was in 2003 from botching a front tuck, and it took 4 or 5 years to fully heal, with multiple bouts of sciatica in my right leg. There were 6 months in there where I couldn’t sit down. Every doctor in the Bay Area tried some method to fix it – acupuncture, acupressure, massage therapy – but nothing was working and I was fighting the idea of surgery tooth and nail. Then I met an old dude who had had the same injury and he gave better wisdom than any of the doctors which was, “Your spine wants to go back to normal.” So I bought a back brace from Uline for thirty bucks, wore it for a few weeks, and the disk went back in. I haven’t had a repeat of the injury ever since. I also stopped sitting while working and bought a standing desk from IKEA in 2011 and have been using it non-stop ever since. So yes, I’ve been standing for 6 years. It’s great.
JO: What is your personal favorite film?
EJ: I’ll pick three – Hana-Bi, Chaplin’s 1am, and Big Trouble in Little China. And Return of the Pink Panther. Okay that was four. And Total Recall.
JO: What’s in store for you next?
More adventures with Walter.
EJ: Any advice for aspiring filmmakers?
Study the classics!