Eric Jacobus is one of the true innovators of action short films, his work has hundreds of thousands of views on Youtube, and spawned legions of followers and imitators. Last year he shot up the populatrity scale with his portrayal of Striker in the Mortal Kombat Webseries. In 2014 his latest effort Kicktionary has been featured on hundreds of action websites and even on major news outlets. After years or promising, I finally chat with the man behind The Stunt People, in a one on one discussion about; Mortal Kombat, shaving and action. Grab on to your straight razor, and get ready for some fearless, folical fun with Eric Jacobus!
First up chat a bit about last year, being chosen to portray Stryker in the second season of Mortal Kombat.
You know, when I put my business card in the bowl at the Black Bear Restaurant, I thought I was entering for a free lunch. Really though, the phone call was a complete surprise. I had just come home to the Bay Area after a 7-hour drive from Los Angeles and got a text from Larnell Stovall asking if I'd want to play Stryker in Mortal Kombat. I called him up and said, "Ehh... I don't really play video games anymore." And he said, "Not the game you idiot. The web series." I guess some of my movies had gotten around in the stunt community, so my name came up when they were discussing casting. I ran out the front door and was in LA the next morning. I came from a background of starring in short martial art videos, so to be called onto something as big as Mortal Kombat Legacy was huge.
I thought the series was fun, why the hate, I mean really it was supposed to be violent, curse words and R rating?
That's the can of worms you open up when you make fan films - either you pay lip service to the franchise, or you take a risk and innovate. Kevin innovated and darkened the tone, which was the tone that got him the director's chair in the first place, but there are lots of fans who wanted the "Toasty" guy to pop up, or a "babality", you know the goofy stuff that defined early Mortal Kombat games. I like the goofy stuff myself. I kept asking Kevin to let me turn into a T-Rex and bite Liu Kang in half, but that would've been a weird ending.
Let's Chat about Stryker VS Mileena, yeah she did die in the series, but how would you approach fighting her, would it be like F this and run, would you use the facial folicle charms etc.. haha
I've thought about this a lot, and frankly I wouldn't do anything. Mileena keeps walking around saying she's genetically a Tarkatan this or that, like it's gonna get her some kinda leg-up on a university app. She's also half-Edenian, which is like a human, so she'd be an easy take-down for any riot cop, since last I checked they don't make armor-piercing sais. But the real question is whether she's gonna pull some kinda crap about the cops unfairly targeting Tarkatans, because that's the last thing I need in my career. So, I'd look the other way, but if she jumped me I'd shove a grenade through that grill without hesitation. (ed note- watch for Mileena (Michelle Lee) response later in 2014!)
Changing the chat direction to Facial hair and action, an under appreciated subject, what is your morning beard and mustache regimen?
First thing I do in the morning is look in the mirror and repeat my morning mantra - "I should really clean up my beard...tomorrow." Then I move some hair to cover the small bald spot to the left of my chin. Maybe I'll take a buzzer to the whiskers growing out of my cheeks, and be concerned that there are more of them every day. Maybe get the ones growing off the tip of my nose. Count the new grey hairs. Then I put on my flannel and go cut some trees down. Sheds don't build themselves.
Do you trim using a small scissors, or one of those fancy Wahl trimmers?
I've got an assortment. I've got a buzzer I bought from Ross on clearance which has a battery that needs charging half-way through a shave. So I gotta shave strategically you know. Then I've got my little plastic scissors from first grade to trim stray hairs. Some day I'll upgrade my system but being a physical actor means I'm on a budget. And no, I don't pluck.
Chat in detail regarding cleansing products, what do you use?
Quick wash, warm soapy water prior to? What soap?
If I'm cutting the whole thing off, I use a buzzer to get it to stubble length, and then I go three-blade electric on it. No soap, no product. Just buzz, shave, aftershave. Usually I use Old Spice aftershave, but in a pinch I've mixed rubbing alcohol with water and it did the same job. Once I accidentally drank it because I put it in a mouth wash container.
I use the slim twin, for the 'stache, seems to reach problem and difficult areas, do you have a favorite razor? How about shaving cream?
There's a funny story about that. Way back when I started making movies in 2001, we did a goofy short film called Road Block. My buddy and I both needed to shave for a scene. He had a Gillette Mach 3 Extreme Shaving thing and sliced off his beard in a few minutes, which was a pretty thick beard. Then I used it, and I dulled the razor halfway through. My beard's thick, but my beard hairs themselves are thick too, like they're 2 or 3 hairs in one. I wear out Gilette Mach 3 heads after two uses, which comes out to something like a dollar per shave. By comparison I can get about 3 years of decent shaving from a triple pack of circular shaver heads for $25. So there's no contest in my book - 'lectric all the way. But if I had the money I'd get a straight razor shave every day. When I make my million...
Do you use products to keep follicles in place while shooting a difficult action sequence
Sweat will mess up your face after a fresh shave, so I'll never clean shave before a fight. Besides, you never wanna get hit after a fresh shave. Your face will peel off like wet chicken skin.
Switching directions again chat about the many cool things from the 80s you collect, and, Laserdiscs, how did you get started with that collection?
I guess living in the 80s made an impression on me, but everyone seems to love that period. I like today's stuff too - Netflix, internet, screens that weigh less than 50 pounds - but Laserdiscs... those are never coming back. They take up too much space, and the cover art is totally pre-globalization, the kind of art that hipsters wanna replicate. You know, less emphasis on big heads and backdrops, more full bodies and moments from the film, lots of colors. Every cover now is blue, green, and yellow. A few Laserdiscs also never made it to DVD, like my subtitled Cantonese anamorphic print of Drunken Master 2. And you get the big cover art, uncompressed sound. Laserdiscs also turn movie-watching into an event, since a 12-inch disc is hardly portable, so it's like an LP - you gotta spend time with it and flip it over halfway through. We're so damn mobile now, so it's nice to sit down in the family room and just focus on one thing.
What other things from the 80s do you collect, I noticed many video games, and of course cheesy 80s films?
I'm collecting big-box PC point-n-click games from the 80s and 90s, back when they used hand drawn characters and backdrops. Complete LucasArts collection, most Sierra adventures, dorky stuff that makes my wife's eyes roll. But I collect em because nobody else does; they're just going into dumpsters and not getting any love. Everyone's collecting cartridges, which explains the crazy price that stuff is demanding now. So... I'm selling my carts!
Everyone's making action videos, but not many people spend time writing out innovative concepts. It's as if their time on camera is too valuable to waste on story, and they've gotta get their kicks and falls in. I get it - I just wanted to get to the damn fight scene when I started out too, but that was back then when an indie fight scene caught people's attention. Not anymore - they're a dime a dozen now. If you wanna stand out from the fray, step away from making stunt reels and demos and just write one cool concept out. Your single kick will go a lot further if it's got a cool idea behind it. And please for the love of God, no more movies about guys in suits fighting over a briefcase.
Chat about your latest project Kicktionary, concept, idea, formulation etc...
I did it for the same reason I did First-Person Darth Vader - nobody else was doing it. And the Kicktionary required an even smaller cast - me! I realized though that directing me is a big pain in the butt. Now I know why I pissed off so many people back in the day.
By naming each kick, gives the fans a reference point, how did you decide to do that?
I respected the naming conventions, starting from widely accepted names (roundhouse kick, side kick, etc.), then into the martial art-specific titles from Taekwondo, Karate, Capoeira, and more. Tricking martial arts also has pretty defined titles, so I went there next. If I still couldn't find the kick, I'd reference the actor who did it, like Hwang Jang Lee who trademarked tons of kicks, or Casanova Wong. If it's not in movies, then I reference video game characters. I'd open it up to Facebook friends too, who were usually able to find a name for it. I managed to name em all, but in the future, when all else fails I'll just do Eric Jacobus Kick 1, Eric Jacobus Kick 2, and so on.
Good press for you on this one, will of course spawn imitations, what do you think?
Good, I wanna see em! It'll give me ideas for Volume 2.
What are some of the future concepts you have in the works?
We've got Rope A Dope 2 coming up, and our straight-up actioner, Make Peace or Die has a script we're shopping around at the moment, trying to come up with the right package.
Chatting about additional projects, "other peoples" films, what are you working on or is it in the NDA area as of now, like hmm, can we know or not?
ABCs of Death 2 is the one I'm most excited about. It's coming out later this year, and I star in the first segment of the compilation.
What else is going on, looks like marriage is in the works, congrats!
She's the one! We just acquired a beehive too. All we need are a couple more guns and a bomb shelter and we're ready for the apocalypse.
Advice to younger short film makers, Youtube, Indigogo etc...
Don't follow the crowd, listen to the losers, work hard every day, and don't pick at your beard because it might not grow back.
Thank you for taking the time out of your rigorous grooming schedule to conduct this detailed interview. Eric rules the earth of the action short and is a follicle hero to many.
Follow Eric and his extreme action antics @ ericjacobus.com and youtube.com/stuntpeople as well as my Facebook page facebook.com/ericwjacobus and twitter @ericjacobus