It’s been a long time coming since the last indie action roundup, and since there’s been so much good stuff released lately just featuring various Stunt People members and associates, it’s time to resume the madness and show you exactly how indie action videos are superior to Hollywood’s latest stream of ooze (though Captain America was a pleasant surprise).

I gotta hand it to Ed Kahana first. His latest film Relic Hunt is an Indiana Jones-type action adventure with a killer fight scene plus some motorcycle stunts. Features Lucas Okuma, Bryan Cartago, Alvin Hsing, and Caitlyn Corson.

Next is Dennis Ruel‘s feature film Unlucky Stars which is nearing completion. Check out Steve Yu, Vlad Rimburg, and Jose Montesinos, along with Shawn Bernal, Manny Manzanares, Sam Hargrave, Roy Chen, and Ken Quitugua.

Last is Clandestine, the latest Thousand Pounds production which successfully raised a big chunk of change on Kickstarter. This fight features Brenden Huor facing off against a crowd that includes Alvin Hsing, Bryan Cartago.

Fugu Talk saw our preview at Comic-Con 2012:

There was one Donny Yuen film, some awful stuff that ranged from fun to unwatchable, and a really impressive indie effort from The Stunt People that reminded me of the old Jackie Chan films, both in terms of action and physical humor. I liked the clips so much that I searched out their booth on the exhibit floor (turns out they were adjacent to Troma) to buy the DVD, which has a lot of interesting and inspiring special feature bits on the history of The Stunt People and the development of Death Grip (the star/writer spent six years on the script!)

Martial Arts Movie Junkie Kelly Miller:

The fights are fast and intense. I absolutely loved some of the longer takes and little stunts that were sprinkled in. What make the fights truly shine, though, are the situations that are created. Each fight has its own personality and feel, and it’s apparent that a lot of thought went into these. One of my favorite fights is one that takes the term “toilet humor” to a whole new level. If you like fights, you won’t be disappointed.

UMUSTBEBORED – DEATH GRIP: A must watch for kung-fu movie lovers!

The fights are phenomenal.  Eric Jacobus not only stars but also directs DEATH GRIP.  He and his Stunt People crew understand how to perfectly shoot and execute a fighting scene.  These guys have it down to a science.  There are no wires or fast edits mixed with excessive shaky cam.  We see everything in sometimes long continuous takes.  The fights are fast and they leave a lasting impact.  You can tell what is happening.  … They are way better than the fights you would see in a Bourne film or any other big budgeted mainstream film.

Sound good? Buy the DVD or Blu-Ray (both are all-region!) today. Domestic orders ship almost daily, and international orders (we ship everywhere) ship twice a week. All funds go straight back to us to pay for making the film. This way, we can get started on our next projects that are currently underway.

DEATH GRIP: A must watch for kung-fu movie lovers!

The premiere for Death Grip on June 30th, 2012 was a night I’ll never forget. Two years of solid labor suddenly morphed into something real and alive. The audience reaction was incredible. They got every joke (and a bunch of others, which I didn’t expect), screamed at the gore, and cheered after every fight scene. They ate up the DVDs and shirts, people said they wanted to invest, and we’re expecting a bunch of reviews to flow in soon.

And now I’d like to extend a thank you to everyone for making Death Grip happen.

Cast – The overwhelming response was that while the action still beat everyone’s expectations, the acting was the ultimate surprise. The most frequent comment I received was, “I came in expecting just some action movie, but it was like a real movie.” The cast did an incredible job at taking Death Grip far and above the schlocky action film genre and into a new ballpark. Johnny, Nathan, Chelsea, Shaun, Amberly, LaChe, Cynthia, and Sean, I wish you could have made it for the show, but due to a combination of prior engagements and leaky car batteries weren’t able to attend, and the audience missed you all.

Crew – The audience was convinced that Death Grip was made for a few million dollars. This is largely thanks to the efforts of our amazing crew that squeezed every bit of production value out of our budget as they could thanks to their superb grasp of the art form. Drew Daniels (DP), Brett Perry (composer), Brad Wagner (sound recordist), Phil Gorn (sales agent), Justine Jacob (legal), and Matteo Grilli (sound designer and mixer), we missed you all.

Donors – The overwhelming support of our donors helped us meet our budgetary needs and showed us that there’s plenty of hope for the independent genre film. Thank you all. We’ll be sending out donor packages this week, with a short delay for those who requested the Blu Ray upgrade.

Family – Our families gave us extra support when we needed it the most. From financial help to location services, the Jacobus, DeGregorio, and Ahn families were invaluable to the production.

Fans – To readers of this blog, members of The Stunt People Forum who have pushed me since day one, the Facebook community, our Press contacts, and all the other forums and blogs out there putting the word out, we couldn’t make a splash without your support. Many of you came from a long distance to see the show and it as a pleasure to see you all!

Friends – To all the good people who lent support whenever it was needed, from handing out fliers to pushing us on social networks to just bringing people to the show, we thank you!

Investors – To the executive producers who truly believed the independent action film could hold its own in the market, we hope (and expect) to make it worth your while in spades, setting a precedent with Death Grip.

Local BusinessesFlips N Flops Gymnastics, Tiger Claw, Arthur Freyer Lighting, Jonah Hendrickson, Petaluma Historical Museum, The Seasteading Institute, Ongaro & Sons, Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church, Yusan Sushi, Arizmendi Bakery, Historic Bal Theatre, and Victory Warehouse were all instrumental in the making of this film. We feel an even stronger sense of community after your help, so thank you for making the Bay Area the perfect location for Death Grip.

Thanks to all of you, Death Grip is sure to make an impact. Now let’s see some reviews 😀

Last we heard from our sales agent Wonderphil, a company in India has purchased the rights to distribute Death Grip in India. Will it be subtitled? Will it be dubbed? Will we have to shoot a pickup of a dance number for the ending? No telling, but in any case, Death Grip will be released commercially in India. The deal finalizes in August, when they will pay and take delivery.

A company in Germany also called last week and plans to make an offer within a week or two. I understand Germany often dubs and changes the titles to action films. Jackie Chan’s Project A is known as Der Superfighter and Wheels on Meals is called Powerman. Maybe they can call this one Deathman or Eric the Killer Body. Or something equally catchy. J. J. Timbro suggested Meatstorm.

France, South Korea, and Turkey also requested a dvd, so packages went out yesterday. The future’s looking good for Death Grip.

The latest series of events in Stunt People history have made it painfully obvious to me that you have to be a huge player to get any momentum in the entertainment world.

  • Materials – Getting a printing company to make 1,000 DVDs on time when their regular clients print 50,000 is like pulling teeth. Printing 1,000 units through a smaller printing company will cost you far more since it’s not as streamlined and requires more man-hours.For example, I’m trying to make DVDs and the people at the press are utterly unresponsive after running into multiple errors with the discs and hard drives I sent. I’m not convinced these are my errors and I’ve seen no attempt on their parts to figure out what to do next, but since they’re not making much money from this deal compared to the 50,000 disc runs they’re used to, they have no incentive to respond to my emails very quickly. I’ll end up on the phone with them today, probably a lot.

    I recommend kunaki if you’re doing single-layer DVDs or CDs. Quick, cheap, and easy.

  • Distribution – If you’re indie, you rely on a core, fan audience, but once your film is done, sales agents tell you not to make too much noise, for fear of hurting international sales. If international distributors get word that your film is “old” or has been released already, they may drop their deal. The alternative is to stay silent and avoid getting too much press for your film, and avoid showing it to people until some distributor picks it up, which these days might take years. Getting people to review your film and showing it to the world before its eventual release requires stealth and will result in a lot of aches and pains.

    For example, I went ahead and edited the IMDB listing for my last feature film (starts with “cont” ends with “or” … see that shit? stealth, though don’t be surprised if I have to edit this damn blog too now) to give it its new alternate title. An hour later, our distributor contacted me saying, “Hey just a quick note, just in case you’ve been telling people about the old title of the movie, don’t give out that information, because it will kill the film.” When I told him about the IMDB update I made, I think he had a heart attack. Currently I’m trying to cancel that, which is incredibly difficult if, again, you’re a small fish.

  • Being Talented – If you’re talented, and you make a big splash, the way The Raid has, you’ll get noticed. Then you become a big star, right? No. You get hired to work behind the scenes on the remake of your own film.

This isn’t meant to be a bitter blog post. It’s a snapshot of how the industry works, and why only the hugest conglomerates survive. Conglomerates are no more evil than Manzanita in California or killer whales in the Pacific, or mold on your bread, they’re just the things that survive. And I’ve got no interest in fighting the system because, like it or not, we’re all knee-deep in it. In fact I like the system. It made many of the world’s best action films.

The big guys are, however, sweating. The market is volatile as ever, and the people in high positions are clinging to their spots, which explains why nobody would ever just GIVE Evans and Uwais starring parts in a new film. Since the studios can’t make action films like The Raid, they just co-opt the people who can. And being co-opted is a valid decision, because the alternative is a lot of cancelling IMDb changes, sneaking around while trying to release your film to your fans, fighting with disc printers to get your stuff done on time, and making roughly 25% of the salary of a stuntman. It’s not glamorous by any means.

But that hasn’t been the decision for me and I don’t plan for it to be in the future, despite opportunities that have presented themselves. I like the stuff I do, I like my audience, and through all this I’m still convinced that this is the best way to do it.

Lawson posted his top 10 fights of 2010 and picked a few that aren’t available online, including the finale from Dogs of Chinatown a(4:24) and my fight against Ed Kahana in Detective Story (8:19). We’re honored to be featured! Hats off to all the other indie guys in there:

The Young Masters: http://www.youtube.com/user/youngmasters/featured
Jabronie Pictures: http://www.youtube.com/user/jabroniepictures
Rising Tiger Inc: http://www.youtube.com/user/BoloMcTigerThunder/featured
The Mag Fighters: http://www.youtube.com/user/MagnificentFighter/featured

This weekend I spent about 48 hours finishing up the Death Grip behind-the-scenes featurette The Life of Death Grip, which clocked in at 75 minutes. I also finished authoring the DVD and the Blu Ray masters and shipped them off to Signature Media this morning. If all goes as planned, we’ll have 2000 DVDs and 1000 Blu Rays to sell at our June 30th Theatrical Premiere. We’ll also have shirts. And if you’re in California, please come to the premiere. You’ll like this film, I promise.

I made the cover art after I finished the BD and DVD masters, so I ended up squeezing more onto the discs than it actually says on the artwork itself! So here’s an updated list of special features:

Blu-Ray: Even though the printing company will only burn a single-layer Blu Ray disc, which limited us to about 2 hours of videos, this version still has its share of special features and I loaded it to the brim, utilizing almost all of the disc. All special features are in 1080p HD.

  • Full film in 1080p HD
  • Commentary with me and producer/co-star Rebecca Ahn
  • The Compound – a 13-minute short action film, from which we cut the old teaser for our IndieGOGO campaign to raise funds early on
  • A deleted fight with Johnny Yong Bosch, which was part of our IndieGOGO campaign
  • A deleted fight with Yun, which was reshot in favor of a longer fight
  • Bullet Time
  • Outtake Reel – 14 minutes of outtakes
  • Paper Pushers short film
  • 2 small Easter eggs

DVD: This one’s a dual-layer disc, meaning it holds twice as much information as a regular DVD, but like any DVD it’s in standard resolution instead of the ultra-crisp 1080p you get in the Blu-Ray version. I used 5mbps VBR 2-pass encoding, and the film codec we shot on has a lot of bit depth, so it still looks damned good. I loaded this disc to the brim and had almost no space to spare from the 8.5 gigabytes available.

  • The Life of Death Grip – This will be the reason people might choose the DVD over or in addition to the Blu Ray. It’s a 75-minute behind the scenes look at all aspects ofDeath Grip, from casting Johnny Yong Bosch to budgeting, location scouting, and tons of making-of footage for the fight scenes in the film. Includes interviews with Johnny and two more industry pros, J. J. Perry and Shahar Sorek.
  • The Compound (same as above)
  • Outtakes (same as above)
  • The Art of Throwing – All the throwing outtakes from the film
  • Commentary with me and Rebecca (same as above)
  • Deleted fight with Johnny (same as above)
  • Deleted fight with Yun (same as above)
  • Deleted scene at a sushi restaurant
  • Deleted scene with Mark
  • Deleted segment of the end fight, which made Kenny out to be a little too ruthless
  • Deleted segment of the care home, which gives away too much of the film
  • Alternate car scene, which was funnier than we wanted at that point in the movie
  • Paper Pushers
  • Bullet-Time
  • Easter egg

Now we wait for the printers to get the shrink-wrapped units to us while we make the soundtrack CD for the donors, print Death Grip shirts, print new retro SP shirts (the “Our Pain Is Your Pleasure” ones), and attempt to get 800 people to our premiere.

The DVDs and BDs will be for sale at The Stunt People Store on or around July 1st.