Thursday, November 7, 2013

A PASSION FOR THE ART: My Interview With Rising Action Hero ERIC ST. JOHN

It's always a treat to interview actors who have something original and passionate that they want to share with the rest of the world. And Los Angeles-based actor Eric St. John is precisely one of those people, aiming to pursue a personal project he is still working on called Out For Blood.

As an accomplished martial artist, it appears St. John taking nothing for granted when it comes to the quality and style of action he is aiming for, which can currently be seen in the promotional trailer pitch for the film that aired last year. And since the trailer pitch aired, things have only continued looking up for St. John, who has taken the time to answer a list of email questions I sent him a while back.

As it stands, Eric St. John was also one of the people who invested interest in my Facebook page when it started out late last year. I shared the trailer pitch at the time, and as interesting as it looks, I think fans might have another memorable hit on their shoulders when it is finally released.

Eric St. John is pushing hard for only the best he will get to make Out For Blood a reality, with all the hopes of delivering a longstanding gem of action on film by its Summer 2014 release. So now, without further ado, here he is on Film Combat Syndicate to tell his story.

Film Combat Syndicate: What motivated you to become a martial artist?
Eric St. John: I entered the martial arts when I was 7 years old. I originally wanted to be a boxer. The only other thing I was interested in as much as boxing, was the martial arts. My folks had a family friend, who was a Marine and a Vietnam War veteran, and had trained while stationed overseas. They talked to him and he said it would be a great thing to do, even for me to get started at the young age of 7. Through his recommendation, my folks found a Tae Kwon Do school for me to begin my training, and so I began. The martial arts became my passion and I spent all of my extra time training at home, while my mom would drive me every day to the dojo to train. I just wanted to learn as much as I possibly could and get better and better as a martial artist. When I reached a certain age, I wanted to get even more involved and wanted to compete. I found an instructor that would really shape my future as a martial artist. His name was Tae Lee. He was Korean and brought his style over from Korea to teach in the US. I feel very fortunate to have trained with him at such a young age. Under his guidance I became a black belt and went on to win the Gold Medal in the Black Belt Division in the Jr. Olympics. I have since branched out to train in different systems, including Muay Thai, Jeet Kune Do, Kali, and continue to evolve. I have had the good fortune to train with some of the best in Muay Thai with Kru Rex (Ajarn Rex), Jeet Kune Do, Shooto, Kali, and Silat with Sifu Yori Nakamura and Guro Dan Inosanto.
FCSyndicate: What inspired you to take that into acting?

ESJ: It was fairly recently that I made the shift to bring my martial arts training and skill into the acting. For me, it is all about having a love and a passion for what you do. As a professional actor, until very recently, I have never had the opportunity to bring my passion for the martial arts into my professional world as an actor. Anybody who is in the entertainment industry knows how difficult it is to get to do exactly what he or she wants to do, exactly the way they want to do it. It is the same for the actor. Many actors, myself included, are constantly are on a daily grind to get the next acting job…and we are rarely in the position to pick and choose what the part is and it is oftentimes difficult, for many different reasons, to determine which jobs to take and which jobs not to take. But to do the kind of roles you really have a passion for, those aren’t always the roles you book as an actor. This is not to be confused with having a passion for acting. The passion for acting as a craft is ever-present for many actors, the nature of the business can be frustrating and can wear the actor down, but the passion for the craft is always there… My first acting coach, Jean Fowler, said, “You’re going to do a lot of jobs you don’t want to do, before you get to do the jobs you really do want to do.” 
I am fortunate, with this movie and specifically this screenplay, to have all the elements in place to allow me the opportunity to infuse the martial arts into the world of acting and uphold the integrity of both worlds. For me to bring the martial arts to my professional world of acting, it has always been about finding the right screenplay first. The screenplay and story are, and always will be, king.
FCSyndicate: What are some of your favorite films (action or any genre)?

ESJ: Bruce Lee’s ENTER THE DRAGON has had the most impact on me as an action movie, because when I saw it at a young age, it seemed to me to be the most realistic portrayal of martial arts fighting on the screen I had ever seen…much more realistic than most of the other martial arts movies at that time. Also, I was competing, and found Bruce Lee and his movies to be very inspirational in that sense…the idea of fighting like Bruce Lee, he fought with speed, accuracy, and fury. He put his all into his fighting sequences, and that energy, I feel, transfers to the audience, I also believe that is why so many people love him and his movies to this day…His energy and passion in those fight sequences. There is a whole new generation that is seeing his movies and discovering him for the first time and I’m sure they enjoy and appreciate him and his movies just as I did when I saw his movies the first time as a kid. He was truly a special kind of actor and athlete. My current favorite martial arts movie is easily THE MAN FROM NOWHERE. Great story, great performances by the entire cast. Excellent movie. I also love BRAVEHEART. Again, Mel Gibson’s passion comes through on the screen and I thought the story was written very well and the movie was just really well done. UNFORGIVEN is a phenomenal movie, one of Clint’s finest performances and a very well written screenplay. I could list so many more from TAXI DRIVER to APOCALYPSE NOW, ON THE WATERFRONT, THE OUTSIDERS, PULP FICTION, THE GODFATHER, and I love TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD with Gregory Peck, to me that is truly an excellent movie and Gregory Peck is awesome in it. That movie really transports you to another time and place and draws you into that world. Great movie. I’m leaving a lot of movies out; otherwise it could end up being a very long list!
FCSyndicate: How did you get involved in the production for Out For Blood?
ESJ: OUT FOR BLOOD is a passion project for me. I am acting as well as producing on this one. The concept started a few years ago. My goal is to have a movie that can stand-alone on three different levels. The story. The acting performances. The martial arts action. 
The story, written by Chris Calzia, is a very original, quirky, and unique action adventure with some very funny characters placed in rather peculiar situations. The story has ancient Asian folklore, mysticism, and the supernatural interwoven throughout. My aim is to adhere to the highest quality of standards in regards to production value and artistic esthetic. I am proud to announce that the award winning Cinematographer, Carmen Cabana, will be our DP for OUT FOR BLOOD.   
The acting performances are key to this movie. We are very fortunate to have a very high caliber of talent onboard, including an Academy Award nominated actor to play a starring role, and I believe this could be another stand out role in his career.  I am not able to name names until all the contracts are in place, but I would love to let you and the fans know whom we have onboard as soon as I am able! The actors and their performances will be what draw the audience into this make believe world, and take them through the journey. The screenplay is written as an ensemble piece with strong character motivations for each of the characters.
We have a few key players that I can mention starting with Morgan Benoit (pictured left). Morgan is a very talented actor, and a true martial artist in every sense of the word. He has worked as an actor with both Jet Li and Jackie Chan, and he was recently Keanu Reeves stunt double for the soon to be released 47 RONIN. We are also pleased to have Surawit “Sae” Kang on board as well. A seasoned martial artist, actor, and stunt man, Sae recently worked on Disney’s THE LONE RANGER with Johnny Depp. Sae has worked with some of the best in the business and has 43 credits to his name. Another heavy hitter we have on board is Joe Perez. Joe is an amazing stunt rigging coordinator and he recently finished working on CHINESE ZODIAC with Jackie Chan on what many people are calling Jackie Chan’s most dangerous and incredible stunt he has ever put on film. 
Finally, the martial arts. My aim with the martial arts in this movie is to showcase the martial arts in a way that audiences have never seen before. I specifically aimed to find actors that are also highly skilled martial artists, so that the actors can all perform their own fight choreography and stunts…giving the movie a greater sense of “realism” and adding integrity and authenticity to the martial arts action. We have been very lucky to find exactly what we were looking for in these terms. We have drawn from a pool of martial artists that have each excelled in various disciplines. With each of these disciplines combined in an unorthodox fashion, what we will see on the screen is a beautiful and brutal, ballet of destruction. 
We shot the trailer to serve as a visual reference for our production package. We had a great team including producers Andrew Pearson and Tom Sweeney and some very talented actors including Thai Edwards, Leepiei Green, George Roberson, and Michael Cannon, to name just a few, and we also had the privilege of working with the very talented martial arts instructors Victor Gendrano Jr. and Steve Brown. We put the trailer on Youtube as a way to share it with everybody, and to our surprise, it went viral and within a matter of months we had over 1 million views. We received interest from investors in Asia that had seen the trailer and we were even approached by two distribution companies who had seen the teaser and wanted to take on the film for distribution. The Internet is truly a very powerful means of communication.
Check it out here:

FCSyndicate: I noticed a few complementary comments below the Youtube video, one of which likens your concept trailer for Out For Blood to films like Ong Bak and 300. That said, how do you plan on approaching the stuntwork and fight choreography suitable for the film? And how do you feel knowing fans are crediting you right next to Tony Jaa and Frank Miller?
ESJ: I am honored and humbled to even be mentioned in the same sentence as Tony Jaa and Frank Miller. Within each of their chosen disciplines, or art forms, these are two of the most influential and talented artists of our time. We were all was very happy that we received so many positive and encouraging comments from the fans and are truly grateful for one comment in particular by a very influential and talented man in our community, Mr. Del Weston, founder and creator of AOF The Action on Film International Film Festival. His words of positive encouragement for our movie mean a great deal to us. 
Our approach for the stunt work and fight choreography has two components the first is the actual fighting. We are drawing from and combining many different fighting styles. Each character has a set of fighting skills that compliment and match that characters personality, traits, and characteristics. So for example the old "Master" in the movie has a strange way of speaking and behaving, he's kind of crazy in his words and  actions and at the same time playful and childlike, but he also carries with him this great wisdom fighting experience that he has accumulated over the years. So his fighting style and approach fits his personality, he draws from many styles of Kung Fu and he has the ability to mock his opponent and laugh as he transfers fluidly from one style to the next and sometimes he even narrates to his opponent the name of a particular attack before he delivers it. All of the main characters follow this approach of the fighting style complimenting the characters individual personality and also what they are going through in the story at any given time. As the character evolves, so does the characters fighting technique and ability.  
The other component will be the stunt work and visual effects. My aim is to have a slightly heightened sense of reality for most of the fights, except for one character that will have a very heightened sense of reality in that his skill level and abilities are somewhat... Supernatural.  
Also, similar to what we did in the trailer, we will employ some camera techniques, speed ramps, ultra-slow motion and some visual effects to achieve the stylized look that we are after.
FCSyndicate: Looking on your Facebook page, I also see you were involved in the production of the film, Bullet with Danny Trejo. What was that experience like?
ESJ: Working on BULLET was a terrific experience. People have asked me, “What is Danny like?” and after working with him I can describe him in one phrase “Professional Actor.” Danny is a total pro. He is an Actor in every sense of the word. He is a very nice guy and he is a total professional. He is also very funny! He was fun to be around and fun to work with. He is an actor that likes to work and it shows.
FCSyndicate: What is it you love about action movies?
ESJ: The thing I love about action movies, if they are done well, is I feel they tap into something primal within the human psyche, they allow you to sort of experience a kind of primal energy that most people don’t get to experience or access in their daily lives…Which I think is ultimately why we love movies so much…It’s that movies act as a conduit for us to experience a part of ourselves that we don’t get to experience during the normal course of our daily lives…And it is in a safe environment, it is just pure imagination….And it’s that experiencing that we are after when we go to the movies. If you take a movie like BRAVEHEART for example, the first time I watched it in the theatre, it really moved me! I felt like I could conquer the world as I walked out of the theatre, it made me want to aspire to do something great, to stand for something great, just as William Wallace had. I felt the same way when I saw THE MATRIX for the first time in the theatre…I remember walking out just shaking my head thinking “Whoa! That was Incredible!” And when I was just a kid sitting in the living room with my father in front of the TV and Akira Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI came on, I was glued to the television the entire movie. I was completely drawn into that make believe world, I wanted to be one of those Samurai, I remember thinking as a kid, what is it about these guys that makes them different, why am I so drawn to them? What kind of character do they have, and what is my own personal character like? How could I become more like the Samurai? It sounds funny now, but that movie really, really moved me the first time I saw it as a kid!
FCSyndicate: What are some other projects you are working on?
ESJ: Well, as I mentioned earlier, I recently played the role of “Estes” in the action movie BULLET by director Nick Lyon (pictured left b/t Robert Blanche and Eric St. John) with Danny Trejo, Jonathan Banks, and John Savage. It’s due out later this year, and just last week I shot a trailer for an upcoming movie called NIGHTFALLS by director Minh Collins. It’s a really cool werewolf movie that will be shooting this year in New Orleans. There is one other movie that is in the very early stages of development that I hope will be a sort of career vehicle for me, it’s a real ass kicking type of action movie that I am veryexcited about as well. I don’t know how much I can talk about it at this point, but it is called THE MERCENARY.
FCSyndicate: Who do you hope to work with throughout your career?
ESJ: I will name a few people I would love to work with, that I’m sure a lot of other actors would love to work with as well, but some of the actors I want to work with also happen to be some of my favorite actors…Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Mel Gibson, Jean Reno, Mickey Rourke, I would like to work with Mark Wahlberg in some capacity, as far as directors I hope to work with, my tops are Michael Mann, Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and Zack Snyder.
FCSyndicate: What are some things you've learned along the way?

ESJ: The biggest thing is that movie making is a communal effort. There are so many moving parts involved in the making of a movie, before, during, and after the actual physical production of a movie. The best part is that usually everyone involved has some degree of passion for what it is they are doing in their particular department…and with the action movies, especially with martial arts action, I have found that you need to keep in tip top shape, because it is a lot of hard work and very long hours and can be physically exhausting if your not prepared.
FCSyndicate: What can fans expect from Out For Blood?
ESJ: At best, I would like to say, the fans could expect the unexpected with Out For Blood. It is a very unique story and the actors that have signed on to do the movie are quite diverse, so my hope is that they walk away with a thrilling and fun experience with the martial arts display having an energizing effect. Ultimately I want the audience to be moved.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank Eric for sharing his time and insight on the film industry and the action genre, and letting fans in on what lies ahead for Out For Blood. As per all my interviews, I always tell my subjects to speak as freely and as much as they wish with every question. This helps keep it fun and enjoyable for both the subjeft and I, and it invites my readers to get to know some of these fine professionals on a slightly more personal level. I am slcertainally very happy to be able to get to know Eric through his craft and share my platform with him, for all of you to read and enjoy as you wish. 

The concept teaser for Out For Blood is solid, and sets up what I feel is beginning to look like a noteworthy piece of action cinema that fans will likely enjoy. Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below, or on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest!

Good luck Eric, to you and yours! Talk again soon! :-)

You can currently find Eric St. John on IMDb, Facebook and Twitter. You can also catch actor Morgan Benoit in films like The Forbidden Kingdom and the new gritty martial arts pit fighting crime thriller, Barrio Brawler, now available where movies are sold.

Danny Trejo's grindhouse sequel thriller, film, Machete Kills, comes out in theaters October 11. Keanu Reeves returns to the big screen in the upcoming samurai fantasy epic, 47 Ronin on December 25.
A PASSION FOR THE ART: My Interview With Rising Action Hero ERIC ST. JOHN
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