Action Kickback #00003 – Thinking Non-Anecdotally

No matter who you ask, a person of any race, nationality, creed, sex, ability, age, income, and species has a gripe with their depiction in media. Whether it’s outrage over Scarlett Johansson playing a Japanese character in Ghost in the Shell, Matt Damon starring in an Asian epic like The Great Wall, or a white guy starring in Birth of the Dragon, or outrage over the portrayal of dumb white guys in commercials, black people at the Oscars, working women on TV, housewives on TV, Russians, Chinese, Christians on Comedy Central, Muslims on Fox, Jews on Pewdiepie, gay people, straight people, sharks, or pit bulls. As media grows more and more global, more and more people who see their groups commodified will have the means to gripe about it. The more people gripe, the more other people will share anecdotes of “the other side”, which will breed more anecdotes of the other other side, etc.

This is the circular state of anecdotal media. One anecdote of injustice on one side must be met with an opposing anecdote of injustice to balance the books. A story of a crooked cop is met with a criminal who walks free, a story of an attack on free speech is met with a racist teacher, a bombing in Istanbul with a bombing in Egypt, Hamilton with Ghost in the Shell. The crowd demands apologies, retractions, boycotts, firings, or some other justice, followed by reciprocal measures taken by the opposing side. Both sides spiral into a battle of anecdotes. Political and social debate becomes totally anecdotal, with one side citing just enough data points to overpower the anecdotes of the opposing side. Anecdotes are dug up from the far reaches of the internet, weighted as heavily as possible with retweets and reshares, and the one who has the unanswerable anecdote wins. Meanwhile, ads are sold on every link. More shares means more ad revenue.

All the while, we’re scared to death of stepping back and claiming that all these anecdotes might be valid. Regardless of which narratives the anecdotes might uphold, can’t it be true that every demographic has valid concerns about how they’re depicted in media? Don’t we all resent being commodified in media? If so, we’re in a null zone where every anecdote equals every other, and our political dialog becomes meaningless. Some anecdotes begin to feel over-weighted, and we have no good reason to share them. If we’re no longer sharing in the narratives of guilt, fear, outrage, and social justice, then social media instantly forgets us.

This is a weird place to be, this non-anecdotal world. We immediately look around for a new narrative to be a part of, new models to emulate, a new institution. Looking on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or any mass media outlet doesn’t give us much to do now except follow sports. (This is to the credit of sports, which still fills its institutional role very well.) There are actually tons of these institutions, though you won’t see many of them re-shared because they don’t generate the ad revenue. Talking with neighbors, people at the bar, or locals in strange places are quick ways to find them.

We’re artists, and stepping out of the anecdotal media game, acknowledging everyone’s shared resentment of their depiction in media, is the first step toward abandoning anecdotal language and taking up structural language. Structural language is where all anecdotes are equal in weight, where Pewdiepie, Spielberg, Tommy Wiseau, you, and I are all equal to 1 and have equal power tell stories. The free market gives us all the tools we need for this. Nobody is prevented from making films in this world.

In 2001, globalism brought Hong Kong films to our doorsteps in Redding, CA, and we saw that there weren’t many cool gwailos (Westerners) starring in Hong Kong films. Gwailos were usually lame, scary, over-sexualized, or whatever outsider trait it might have been. They were your typical voiceless villains. American action at the time was also kind of lame. So we took our camcorders and made Hong Kong films starring us. We told our stories, but we knew that to foster a movement, we had to tell a new kind of story, not one based on resentment, but one that was structural.

Resentful storytelling for The Stunt People would have been stories of Hong Kong people as villains and gwailos as underdogs delivering justice to them. Down with the lame, scary, over-sexualized Hong Kong oppressors! Justice to the gwailos! Resentful cinema is just a mirror of the cinema we resent. “Revenge Cinema” like this is non-innovative as it uses the same language as its target of attack. It’s the exact same as anecdotal media. That wasn’t our game.

Creating action films without resentment is my small contribution to structural language. I make a decent living doing this full time, and I want everyone to partake. Your entry in the market poses no threat to me – quite the opposite. There are no passwords or special keys to access it, and I’ll give away every secret for free. It’s an empty throne where all can access the center, become producers, and inspire more to take up the task of producing. Your social media profile will be less about anecdotes and consumer stuff, more about structure and producing things. The more people do it, the more people are subsequently inspired to do the same and drive resources away from circular, anecdotal discourse into productive, structural discourse.

All one has to do is abandon their resentments, turn on their iPhone, and tell a story.

 

Action Kickback #00002 – Memory

Modernity, and Globalism by extension, are marked by a resistance to forget. Archiving tools such as cloud storage and archive.org make that forgetting very difficult. But forgetting has always served a useful (and backward) cultural purpose. Ancient societies relied on forgetfulness to cover the truth behind myth. A phoenix rising from the ashes might have been the story of a burn victim, or a mermaid a drowning victim, retold until the victims became mythical, unifying, and cathartic. If the culture couldn’t forget, it couldn’t coalesce.

Human consciousness relies on forgetfulness to convince ourselves that our desires are our own and never learned from others. Obsessively collecting X to feed our “being” until we’re broke is a pathological reversal of our resentment of someone else’s “being” owning a lot of X at an earlier time. Psychoanalysis employs forgetfulness to trick us into believing our desires are our own, yet the unconscious “other” within us must be quelled via certain actions (sexual acts, ritual, etc). We forget so we can have a self of desire, and culture is a culmination of our collective forgetfulness.

Forgetfulness is faced with its worst enemy yet – digital archiving. By extension, human culture and our ego is in peril, but culture has fascinating ways of dealing with these situations.

In a recent interview I predicted that soon there won’t be anything left to discover because everything will have been archived, or at least archivable, and stored across P2P networks. But new data (videos, pictures, anecdotes…) is syndicated through mass media and social networks at exponential rates to generate ad revenue at every turn, drowning out old data, which has far fewer copies and citations. A single data point from today’s news, when syndicated across social networks and mass media, and generating as much ad revenue as it does, amasses a weight millions of times greater than a data point from 10 years ago. When you pile up the last 100 or so anecdotes from your media outlet of choice, a narrative forms that negates almost every other anecdote in history. Great films and books (and people) from 5, 10, 30 years ago start to appear “out of touch” or even “dangerous” if they don’t fit this narrative perfectly, and we begin openly rejecting films and media that we enjoyed just a few years ago.

By comparison, in an archive, all anecdotes are equally set to exactly 1. If all data is instantly archived via P2P networks (we’ll just call it “Insta-Archive”), all retweets, reposts, reshares, and redundancies of an anecdote are channeled into a single data point with weight 1, and new ideas and anecdotes become new data points with equal weight 1. One anecdote, one equal unit weight. Insta-Archive would create search results conforming to a consumer’s personal narrative. In today’s world we seek out content that conforms to our narrative, but in an Insta-Archive world where all anecdotes are set to 1, there would be no mass media current to sway us. Our own interactions would shift our narratives on a daily basis with every new data point. This would theoretically implode the ad industry, mass media, and social media, which rely on selling one of a handful of narratives (there might be three or four at most in America, which coalesce as they pull in global customers), but it would be overwhelmingly good for all customers, and fantastic for non-mainstream anecdotes.

In the Insta-archive internet, old content weighs the same as new content. Archive-Flix would theoretically recommend you watch some Fukusaku after your Miike experience, some Melville and Becker after Nikita. Maybe Netflix and Amazon do this already, but their streaming services have grown more and more modern-biased. Again it’s obvious that positing a theoretical Insta-archive environment is impossible in our world because our content is created based on weighted anecdotes to increase that anecdote’s weight and jump on ad and global market trends. Setting all anecdotes to 1 creates an incentive to produce new things, and consumers can then enjoy all the things out there that had been buried up until then.

It’s true we’re entering an age when there’s nothing left to discover and nothing can be fully forgotten. But the ad and mass media structure that ignores anecdotes in the interest of “catering” is a disaster. That structure, in the interest of surviving, buckets all “outsider” opinions into a dangerous group replete with “internet trolls” and other mythical imagery, atomizing their narratives, while converting as many “insider” customers to its narrative trend as possible. Every new insider who pushes the narrative means more ad revenue. But recently the “outsiders” acquired the means to broadcast outside of these networks, and when they realized they outnumbered the “insiders”, interesting things happened.

It’s vital now for this new group of “outsiders” not to capitalize off the same tactics as the “insiders” used against them. Stand up for archiving and always be against forgetting.

Thanks To Everyone Who Created Blindsided

Today we’re releasing our new short film Blindsided, an exciting event not only for marking the third film of the JB Productions franchise, the first 2 being the Rope A Dope series, but also for representing a turning point for this humble stuntman, who started a stunt career in 2001 as a do-it-all-because-I-have-to filmmaker, wearing all hats, and proceeding to shed one hat after the other through various projects, until the moment of finding himself working alongside an incredible team that functions like a fine camera. Whatever role I might have played in Blindsided, all credit is owed to the following people:

The director, Clayton Barber, also my business partner and mentor, introduced me to storytelling with Save The Cat, a huge help in not only creating story but understanding the tradition of the feature film format. Clayton’s ability to find good story has been responsible for all our great short films. His inspiration helped create the Blindsided script, and his direction is why I was able to deliver any lines whatsoever. He always reminded me of who Walter Cooke was. Thank you, Clayton.

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David No is a fantastic stuntman and veteran filmmaker, but he demonstrated his producer skills by putting Blindsided together in ways I’ll never understand. He actually has two phones, one for each ear, one for dealing with shooting locations falling through, and one for everything else. I’m not sure he sleeps either. His deep understanding of martial arts cinema of the world ensured every level of the production would produce a quality action film in the end. David set an example for the team by demonstrating that there was no ego on this shoot, as he dedicated himself solely to producing and shooting, from shooting and editing the initial pre-viz to producing the post-production process, even doing some color and editing himself.

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Roger Yuan, a veteran stuntman and actor, was so good to us to lend us his time as a performer, but he topped it off by coming to every pre-viz session to create the choreography that would end up on camera. Roger helped craft Walter’s movements and it was an honor to work with someone who knew cinema like Roger did. My favorite piece of advice from Roger was, “Smooth is fast.” It calmed my nerves when using the wiley blind cane, which I knew nothing about up until the moment we rolled cameras. While shooting Roger made performing a simple task, always finding the truth of the scene and never walking over anybody, even though he fills huge shoes and has decades of experience on most of us.

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Nicholas Verdi, also a stuntman, and filmmaker, made himself available to not only play the villain Nico but also to act as director of photography. He brought a classic sentiment to the shooting style, often running behind the camera to check lighting when necessary, then running back in front to do his scene. Nick’s a hell of an actor, and as anyone knows, a fight scene needs two players. This performer looks only as good as the people around him, and Nick sold every second.

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Khalid Ghajji, also a stuntman, is a world class breakdancer, boxer, and basically the ideal martial artist, cast in the role of one of Nico’s gangsters. We learned this in China working on Heart of a Champion, when in 4 days of his final fight scene Khalid made zero mistakes. In an alternate universe, Khalid would be doing windmills and 540s in the Blindsided fight scene. But in this world, he was given a character who loses his knife and grabs a broken skateboard, and he perfected it. If you gave Khalid a popsicle stick and two broken legs, he would perfect that. That’s what it means to be a perfect stuntman. Shitty stuntmen do 540s when they’re armed with popsicle sticks.

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Brett Sheerin, also a stuntman, originally came on as a stand-in for shooting pre-viz, but when the other performer couldn’t commit to the part, Brett was an obvious choice since he had already recreated the part from the ground up. When he owned it, he perfected it and began innovating, finding new ideas everywhere, and always being a pro. Brett was also expecting the delivery of his second child during the last day of shooting but he never let that break his focus.

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Steffen Schmidt, our composer, a professional, sat through a dozen arduous meetings where we would tear apart the latest draft of his soundtrack and often leave nothing but scraps. In the end Steffen became the ultimate composer because he never rushed anything and instead let the music find the film, first by creating the perfect theme song, and then with Clayton’s input letting that theme song drive the rest of the soundtrack. Steffen created magic.

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Johnny Marshall, our sound designer, took the final cut and score, locked himself in a cave or some catacombs in the middle of the planet for a couple weeks, and emerged with the final sound design, with every punch and kick sound perfectly tuned, all dialog mysteriously “frontal”, and all mixed so you could enjoy it in a theater or on an iPhone in a crowded subway car. I’ve never seen or heard of anyone doing this on the first draft before. Can someone confirm that Johnny Marshall is actually human?

Tim Connolly, a veteran stuntman, not only has the most epic beard of any man, but is also the kindest tough guy on the planet. Tim lent us all his equipment, including his cameras and sound gear, and even operated B camera for the entire shoot. I liked throwing jabs at Tim because he’s a nice guy. Then I’d run away because he’s 6’2 and kicks like Van Damme. Thanks Tim, you’re so rad.

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“Hippie Frank” Frank Strick, veteran of the film industry, is one of those guys you hire to play a part, in this case the “bum”, but when you realize how gifted he is with people and the production process you hire him to do whatever’s left undone. By the end of the shoot he was running the set, taking notes on a piece of cardboard he found, calling the shot list, keeping schedule, always treating everybody with respect, and at the same time never to be disrespected. Faced with an extremely limited schedule during the second day of the fight scene, Frank’s attitude and work ethic allowed us to finish with hours to spare. People like Frank are nothing short of superheroes who fix all your problems, and after it’s all done they vanish to do cool things.

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Pete Antico, yet ANOTHER veteran stuntman (there are more stuntmen in this project than people on screen), sports the most expensive outfit in the shoot, thus effectively donating $500 to the budget. Acting with Pete was like being in an improv troupe. Every take was different. As the editor I would have hated him for that, but the takes always got better, and the final take was always magic thanks to Pete. It’s an honor to act with a man like Pete.

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Walter Raineri, our blind consultant and real-life action hero, is the man I train with in the end credits of Blindsided. Walter’s insight into how the blind perceive the world not only crafted the script and performance but gave me some real-life insight that I’ll never forget. Grant Corvin was generous enough to help out for the day I met real-life Walter and filmed the entire meeting. It will make for a great behind-the-scenes video in the near future.

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Renae Moneymaker, a stuntwoman, originally acted in the liquor store scene, but the scene was a late addition, and though her performance was perfect and charming, the scene wasn’t right for the final cut. She’s a world class stuntwoman and she should at least throw a kick next time. Or fight with a popsicle stick.

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Laura Aika Tanimoto, the art director, pulled off a genius move that I didn’t notice until I watched the dailies. There’s an upside-down painting in Walter’s apartment that’s clearly visible when he’s rolling dice. That was Laura’s doing. She envisioned the Walter character trying to fit in with the sighted world and doing his best by buying art and accidentally framing it the wrong way. An art director who knows the character knows the entire film. Laura was also instrumental in crafting the pie scene. During the fight scene, Laura and her assistant Daniel Alverado were always ready during the fight with extra blind canes, some lighter than others, some with the sections taped together, and some with knives embedded.

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Sharon Zhang, our wardrobe pro, had a vision from the beginning of Walter and created what you now see. Costuming is a nightmare, but Sharon makes it look easy because she’s so good at it. She even painted Walter’s shoes. Twice. That’s crazy.

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Jair Holguin was our script supervisor. I never understood the need for this role, until I underwent the hell of syncing external audio and picking shots for the edit and received Jair’s notes transcribed in a spreadsheet, complete with shot and take numbers, file numbers for video, file numbers for audio, and detailed information about every shot that he gleaned from random notes thrown around by Clayton, David, Nick, and myself. I thank you Jair for shaving off hours hacking off days of work in the post-production process because of your work.

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Parker Amberg, our assistant camera, is a prodigy. David would point to something he needed, but before he could mouth the words Parker would have it in his hand. Parker’s like a hitman you bring onto a shoot to annihilate 10 hours of work in no time and save you huge headaches.

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Karen Pang, hair and makeup, and a fitness model to boot who makes an appearance as the jogger, made us look sexy. That’s not hard with someone like Nicholas Verdi, but for me it’s a monumental undertaking usually reserved for people armed with pruning shears and die grinders. Entrusting the entirety of that task to Karen was a wise decision. Thus, everyone looks sexy in Blindsided.

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Don Le, our co-producer, was instrumental in getting the project going from the start. Don’s got that “first push” way about him, where once he gets the cart moving, you better run after it because it’ll finish without you.

Nate Votran, behind the scenes camera operator and stills photographer, followed us around for 5 days documenting everything. He even loaned us his equipment. His attitude is fantastic and I can’t wait to show what he filmed.

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Andrew Lewis, our colorist, slaved away for weeks trying to mask the insane lighting discrepancies of the outdoor scenes. I have no idea how coloring works, but I know when it doesn’t work, and that’s when people notice things. Don’t know how you did it, Andrew, but you did.

Zach Chamberlain, another stuntman, did our on-site sound recording. The sound came out fantastic. Thanks for all the hard work, Zach. Special thanks to Christina Connolly for coming out and filling in when Zach was booked.

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Master Andre Lima was extremely generous in allowing us the use of his Lima Taekwondo schools. Master Lima is a TKD extraordinaire and his story is inspirational. At lunch he told us, simply, “Show up on time, do your work, and you will succeed.” (Having a phenomenal work ethic like his helps too.)

Gil Sanabria, our titlist who also did titles for Rope A Dope, never disappoints and always gets things done super fast.

Jenna Tower, key art photographer, shoots magic. Sometimes she has to shoot schlubs like me, but she makes the best of it and snapped the coolest poster photo of all time.

Kenny Sheard, another freaking stuntman, came and helped pre-viz the action and brought his awesome attitude and epic beard. Kenny claims to be new at stunts but we all think he might have been making action films during his military tour.

Edward Kahana, the last stuntman in this post I swear, dedicated his time to helping create Walter’s style during pre-vizzing sessions in the park. Ed’s good at coming up with choreography ideas, and we happened on a bunch, about 2% of which ended up in the film. That’s not bad! Ed is a dear friend of mine and was the best man at my wedding, and he’s an amazing griller, but most of all he’s been instrumental all of my projects since 2003.

Allen Quindiagan, another stuntman (I lied, there’s more) and production assistant, made time to come and help with the shoot. Allen also dedicated tons of time to some of my side projects and is busting his ass daily as a stuntman in LA.

John Adams, composer of the “Q’s Blues” song playing in the background of the liquor store, stole my heart with his track. I’m a closet jazz fan.

Many thanks to Rafael, Carmine, and Ralph Santos of Grace United Methodist Church in Long Beach for granting us use of their parking lot on such short notice.

Thank you Ron Stehler, Paul Tek, and Nick Nipha of Wine Mess Liquors for being so cool and letting us take over your store for a day and even come in for reshoots.

Cold Steel was kind enough to sponsor our knives, which were fake.

Eone was kind enough to sponsor the blind watch, which was real.

Tasha Day and Emily Scott of Long Beach for helping with putting production on track, Luke Lafontaine for your knife expertise, 87eleven Action Design for loaning out props, David Hoang, Nam Luong, Park Pantry, Don and Cindy Stokes for your constantly accommodating me in my many trips to LA, my wife Chiara for her love and support and watching 72 drafts of this film, and the families of all involved.

Special thanks to the following folks who contributed subtitles:

Arabic – Sari Sabella
Chinese – Grace Wang (thanks also to Pete Lee)
Dutch – Elwin Rijken
French – DL MacDonald & Michèle Wienecke
German – Alvin Vojic
Greek – Manos -The Bro- Kipouros
Indonesian – Dave Christian
Italian – Zak Lee Guarnaccia
Japanese – Ian Erickson
Norsk – Andreas Vasshaug
Polish – Uzi
Portuguese – Helton Carvalho
Russian – Rustic Bodomov
Spanish – Dario Susman
Swedish – Christoffer Frank
Tagalog – Joey Min
Thai – Boripat D
Turkish – Tanay Genco Ulgen
Urdu – Nick Khan
Vietnamese – Lee Entertainment

And thank you Kan Shimozawa, Daiei, and Shintaro Katsu and for creating the iconic Japanese underdog Zatoichi and Phillip Noice and Rutger Hauer for Blind Fury. Your work will forever inspire us.

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Now for the film!

TekkenGamer.com interviews Eric Jacobus

How do you even become a stuntman? Is their training or a school you can go to?

These days, if you put a reel together of the insane stuff you’re willing to do, you’re a stuntman because someone will probably come knocking. The term is so loose now, so it probably annoys the veteran stunt guys who take very calculated risks in specific fields, like driving, horseback, high falls, burns, and all that stuff that requires some schooling. When you meet those guys you can also see the difference in quality of the individual. They came up during a time when we didn’t worship ourselves the way we do now through social media and all the modes of expression. They just got the job done, whether they were the star or not. That’s the other side stunt performers should focus on.

Check out the full interview here: http://tekkengamer.com/meet-eric-jacobus-actor-stunt-double-and-the-guy-who-broke-the-internet/

Watch Eric Jacobus die hilariously in ABCs of Death 2 – Now Streaming on Netflix!

cropped-screen-shot-2014-10-03-at-11-21-55-am2.pngYour Netflix subscription just got cooler. ABCs of Death 2 is now available for streaming, so be sure to check out at least the first segment “A Is For Amateur” where Eric Jacobus puts on his best Bruce Campbell face and dies hilariously. Then watch the rest of it, because ALL of the shorts are damn good. Damn right.

Stream ABCs of Death 2 here: http://www.netflix.com/WiMovie/70295077

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Eric Jacobus is both tough AND sensitive in Sensitive 70s Turtleneck Tough Guys!!

Jose Montesinos (Barrio BrawlerThe Deadly Finger) and Brett Stillo (OwnedSouls of Splendor) present this homage to the Leonard Nimoys and Burt Reynolds of the world, about a time when tough guys could cry, in a place where chest hair and free love reigned. Eric Jacobus stars as the hard-as-nails FRANK COX, along with Montesinos as the ladies man RAYMUNDO BALA, and Troy Carbonel as the master of words CHEEGAN JONES, in…

Sensitive 70s Turtleneck Tough Guys

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With DeeDee Luxe as MADAM, Lisa Younger as FOXY
Produced & Directed by Jose Montesinos
Co-Produced & Directed by Brett Stillo
Written and Exec. Produced by Brett Stillo & Jose Montesinos
Fight Choreography by Dennis Ruel, Eric Jacobus, & Jose Montesinos
Stunts by Ray Carbonel, Sari Sabella, Matthew Zipkin, Ed Kahana, Tao Sabella
Edited by Jose Montesinos
Music by Brian Rodvien