The days of video stores are long behind us, as are the days of distributors throwing literally EVERYTHING at the booming DVD market. In those halcyon days, independent distributors were lining up to partner with (see: take advantage of) indie filmmakers and help chains like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video fill the gaps in their shelves between big Hollywood releases. For those of us brave enough to wade through this swamp of content, the occasional diamonds felt like a gift from god.
For every 10 unmitigated disasters, there was a gem like Mean Guns or Extreme Heist to incentivize further exploration. Sadly those days are lost to time; a fading piece of nostalgia that older millennials will lament to future generations. But maybe those days aren’t totally lost. The torch of obscure video store treasures may have been passed to an unlikely new champion… Amazon Prime!
From the beginning, Amazon Prime felt grittier than the other big dog of streaming, Netflix. It was a bit more dangerous, a bit less scrupulous in the content it allowed on the service. Sure, this lower bar of entry lead to a glut of inferior content but it also created a far more lawless environment that was ripe for obscure gems to be discovered.
Then, in 2016, Amazon opened the floodgates further with Amazon Video Direct. Now all filmmakers had full access to the service; an unconditional home for films created outside the system. The benefits it offered, while limited at times, were quite tantalizing: you could reach a whole new audience with your films without the need to find a Distributor or pay an Aggregator. Additionally, Amazon offered to payout 50% of revenue earned from paid sales / rentals and up to $.15 per hour streamed through their Prime service.
Naturally this lead to an absolute tsunami of micro budget horror films and borderline softcore porn, but it’s also become home to an increasing number of independent action films… Provided you can find them. Amazon is terrible at directing its users to said indie action films, though it’s not not hard to see why. Indie actioners are as niche as niche gets and there’s little incentive to promote them.
Despite this indifference, there is a technique to finding these films that’s reminiscent of the old days of video stores: referrals. Much like that cool, slightly snobbish video store clerk, Amazon offers a system of referrals that can lead you to similar movies that may help scratch that itch: “Customers who watched this item also watched.” Finding one movie you love can lead you down a rabbit hole of similar content from which you may never emerge (it’s important to come up for air every so often, trust me).
In closing, Amazon Prime is definitely a viable platform to find and even distribute independent action films (features AND shorts). It most definitely is in need of higher quality content, but the same lack of barriers that allows shovelware also welcomes excellence.
Here’s a list of indie actioners to get you started. Good Hunting!
This 2014 action-drama, directed by and starring Eric Jacobus, is the real deal! While the tone is much more grim than the usual Stunt People fare, the action is on point. Death Grip is the story of Kenny Zemacus (Jacobus) as he tries to get his life together and reconnect with his autistic brother Mark (Nathan Hoskins). Kenny’s attempt at reconciliation is jeopardized when he is dragged into conflict with dangerous cult and must go toe-to-toe with their evil leader played by Johnny Yong Bosch (Power Rangers).
Don’t let the mockbuster title fool you, this film is actually Rising Fear; a film for which we gave a stellar review. Created on a $6000 budget by writer, director, producer, editor, and star Tom Getty, this film is a master class in resource based filmmaking. America Has Fallen / Rising Fear follows former-Marine, Ryan Taylor, who is framed for a devastating terror attack and must race against time to clear his name…. and save the President!
A campy blast from the past, this 2001 action-grindhouse movie is a scrappy delight. Writer / Director Aaron Yamasato has created a gory, ridiculous love letter to Sonny Chiba and Tokusatsu heroes. Two friends stumble onto a centuries old conflict between two vengeful Samurai. After donning their clothes and brandishing their swords, they receive abilities they never thought possible. Those abilities will come in handy when they have to fight against the evil syndicate that is trying to recover the swords for their own agenda.
Directed by and starring martial artist D.A. Jackson, Prodigal is an action packed retelling of The Prodigal Son. Jacob (Jackson) returns to his hometown to start a new life, but his old life of violence follows close behind. Now, the criminal organization he turned his back on wants him and everyone he loves dead. Brutal fight scenes and crazy stunts ensue.
Writer / Director / Producer / Star, Nathan Hill has created the action movie equivalent of The Room. It’s the kind of action film that feels like it was made by someone who had only ever had action films described to them and it defies classification. All you need to know is this: The film’s IMDB page proudly states that would-be action star, Nathan Hill, did all his own stunts AND sex scenes…. You’ve been warned.