If you haven’t yet seen Blindsided: The Game, which is now streaming for free on Youtube, you are missing an excellent piece of martial arts action cinema to ever be offered for free. Yes, you read it right, the producers, writers and studio that produced Blindsided: The Game are allowing audiences to see this action packed movie for free even thought it is well worth the price of a paid admission.
One of those producers and writer is Eric Jacobus, who also stars as the lead character, blind martial artist Walter Cooke. We here at Entertainment Zone had a chance to do an exclusive interview with Jacobus about his multi-faceted role in Blindsided: The Game.
Entertainment Zone: As one of the writer for Blindsided: The Game, what appealed to you most about the concept of creating the storyline of the blind man, Walter Cooke who was also a skilled martial artist?
Eric Jacobus: Blindness opens the flood gates for action concepts. Limitation is what makes the artist blossom. It gives us the opportunity to really explore this character and bring to the screen something new. Sound design factors in heavily too, because that’s a subliminal part of blindness most people take for granted.
EntZone: As an actor with martial arts skills, what drew you to the concept of playing this type of role?
Eric Jacobus: The director, Clayton J. Barber, and I imagined this concept in a hotel room in Austin a few years ago. He was so passionate about doing an American Zatoichi film. So Shintaro Katsu’s portrayal of the lovable Zatoichi samurai was a huge inspiration, as was Rutger Hauer’s depiction in the American 80s retelling Blind Fury. We knew we had to toe this same line, the lovable blind swordsman, but with apple pie.
EntZone: Was this concept harder, or easier for you to play than you thought it would be? If harder, what aspects were the most challenging to you in the role.
Eric Jacobus: The difficulty was in how to limit Walter. We’re tempted make a character’s limitation (in this case, blindness) into a superhero ability. In Daredevil, they turn his blindness into some kind of echolocation power where he fights people in the dark and does back flips. Walter still moves cautiously. We wanted him to connect with people on a deeper level. He bonks his head sometimes or runs into chairs. He pushes Ace off the rooftop but then approaches the edge and realizes, “Wait a minute… I’m on a rooftop?” People love that stuff. Clayton and I had to navigate the world carefully and make sure we didn’t play all our cards immediately.
EntZone: How long did it take you to get accustom to playing a blind man? What, if any, specific training did you go through to achieve such a realist look and feel to the character of Walter Cooke? When you were ‘in character, did you find yourself being treated differently by others around you.
Eric Jacobus: I spent some time with an athlete in San Francisco who went blind later in his life, and I had the opportunity to walk around blindfolded with him and experience life without sight in San Francisco. People are extremely helpful toward the blind. This man, named Walter coincidentally, told me of a time when some thugs on the street stopped mugging someone just to go and help him. You can hear people’s voices directed toward you as you approach dangerous situations like railroad tracks, and a vacuum surrounds you as you get closer. When at the last minute you feel the braille bumps and turn away from disaster, the voices return to their normal ambiance. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. That was a huge influence in the sound design of the film.
People are also totally off their base when interacting with the blind because the blind don’t play by the same cultural rules as the sighted, so it throws the sighted into confusion. We start wondering why we chose the shirt we wore today, or why we’re attracted to the women we’re with. That’s the beauty of the Zatoichi films. He throws everyone off base because they’re suddenly in the presence of a man who lives on the periphery of culture, where we lose sight of what’s fashionable and begin facing hard truths. Why do I want that car? Why do I care what color my shoes are? Real-life Walter lived by these hard truths and rattled off a litany of rules he followed for every situation. It stopped being about coveting the goods others have or lusting after women we otherwise wouldn’t care about and became much more grounded. So Blindsided’s Walter lives this, and everyone is thrown off because of him. He flips the world upside down, not because he’s supernatural, but because the world of fashion and culture has no rock in its Godlessness, and that’s the world we know so well and put Walter into.
To become Walter, then, I put the sunglasses on and read my lines. I never opened my eyes while in that character, unless I was doing a fight scene (for the sake of our stuntmen!). Everything else was by feel and memorization. The character would come alive in every word I said then.
EntZone: Honestly, Blindsided: The Game is one of the best action films I’ve seen, so with such a great script and such great production values and top notch acting, what led to the filming being released for free?
Eric Jacobus: We know the realities of the distribution game. Clayton has produced for many years and I’ve produced some feature films myself. Once a budget action film is swept into the mainstream distribution channels, it tends to get swallowed up by and bundled with bigger projects. If we wanted Blindsided: The Game to be seen, we knew we had to release it publicly, and then we knew we could make a real impact. The goal isn’t to profit from this one endeavor, but to demonstrate that there’s still a high demand for this kind of entertainment. We’ve achieved that, and now the distribution channels are more open to us. Some roadblocks have been cleared. Deferring a bit made a huge difference.
Entzone: Is there any plans for Walter Cooke to return in further adventures?
Eric Jacobus: Let’s say there’s always a pie in the oven.
EntZone: Thanks for taking the time to do an interview with Entertainment Zone and our readers.
Eric Jacobus: Happy to do it! Thank you.