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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now for the film!