Independent filmmaker Eric Jacobus is currently in early, albeit deep development with action comedy feature, Katzenjammer. The film, which was announced back in February in a since deleted Facebook post, signals a major pivot for Jacobus into the animation arena where he will apply his longtime craft in filmmaking, action and stunts for the first time.
Katzenjammer will center on Lester Katz, an electric violin virtuoso bent on rescuing his childhood sweetheart, pop idol Vanessa from the evil clutches of a major studio that now claims her as its most-prized commodity. To accomplish this, he enlists the help of his adopted father, Abe, in order to infiltrate the studio by competing in its fierce audition system. In doing so, when his own burgeoning success puts him face to face with the studio’s dark underbelly, Lester must contend with his own long lost fame and recognition as an orphan, and is forced to choose between rescuing his true love, or becoming a godlike celebrity.
The etymology of Katzenjammer deals in several roots of inspiration for Jacobus; The word itself is German for “cat’s wail”, or can take on several other meanings like “ruckus” or “hangover”. In talking with Film Combat Syndicate, Jacobus elucidates this as a character design point for the film’s protagonist, an electric violin prodigy named Lester, and the relationship he shares with Abe.
“It’s supposed to evoke a raw musical energy that [Lester] creates when he’s truly inspired, the product of being involved in dangerous situations.” Jacobus tells Film Combat Syndicate. “It’s how Lester survived on the streets with nothing but a violin for all his childhood.”
Comparatively speaking, Jacobus describes Lester’s journey as a paradox people who, like him, work in entertainment face.
“In my own life, being in entertainment while raising a family is like an elaborate system of pulleys. You want it all, but when you pull one lever, another one goes up, and vice versa, until you just make a decision and say, ‘Okay no matter what happens, I’m pulling this lever because it’s the right thing to do.'” says Jacobus. “Things started to make sense in my life after that. It’s that ambivalence, the balance of ambition and family, that inspired the story of Katzenjammer.”
Jacobus dove further in detail on the project with Film Combat Syndicate in an email sent to us on Thursday, citing his current part-time studies in anthropology as the driving force behind the film’s villainous studio, which he bills as “a mile-high pyramid that’s growing slowly and devouring everything around it.” He credits using Rene Girard’s theory on pyramids and tombs being stoning monuments as part of his inspiration, adding “The concept is ridiculous on its face, but animation allows us to symbolize how monolithic entertainment studios have really become, and so we can just go overboard with everything.”
Jacobus also rebuffed what he deemed as recent trends in archetypical revenge thrillers, where heroes are motivated by immediate tragedy. He points to Liam Neeson’s portrayal as ex-Green Beret and CIA officer Bryan Mills in Pierre Morel’s Taken (2008), as the exception, where the hero isn’t operating as a “violence machine”.
“I wanted to tell a different kind of story with Katzenjammer, one where the hero fights to start a family.” he says. “He’s not a reactive hero but a proactive one. It’s a world where things are hopeful, and funny. I think people really want this, but studios are rarely willing to deliver it. Look at what they did to Solo! Least-funny action hero ever, and it would’ve been so easy to make him funny.”
Jacobus’s history is like second nature for almost any action movie fan, while others who are new to his work are surely in for a fascinating discovery. He began his career more than twenty years ago, striving to take his affinity for Hong Kong action cinema and using it to help break new ground for aspiring creators in a growing online community. Following suit with the likes of Zero Gravity, he founded The Stunt People in 2001 and drew immense praise from fans with an accumulating digital library of action-packed shorts and features, that showed improvement as the years passed – many of which are available on his Youtube channel.
To date, some of Jacobus’s most celebrated works include shorts like Stephen Reedy’s ’06 MTV Movie Awards’ mtvU Student Filmmaker Award-nominated ninja comedy, Undercut, as well as Paper Pushers, Detective Story, Rope-A-Dope 1 & 2, Blindsided and Pizza Time, and SuperAlloy’s Cabin Fever and Kung Fu vs. Zombies. His best known feature film and TV credits are Contour (a.k.a. The Agent), Micah Moore’s Dogs Of Chinatown, Action Kickback’s Death Grip which also starred Johnny Yong Bosch, John Moore’s A Good Day To Die Hard and Machinima webseries Mortal Kombat Legacy – Season 2.
Additionally, he has often served as action director for his work, including most of the above; He also directed the action for Vasan Bala’s celebrated Toronto hit, The Man Who Feels No Pain (Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota), as well as Fendou Liu’s boxing drama, The Heart.
Not to be outdone, Jacobus is also no stranger to motion capture work, applying himself to such games as Sony Interactive’s “Spider-Man” and “God Of War”, and Warner Bros. Interactive’s “Mortal Kombat 11”, among others. Jacobus has long since taken to his own pursuits in motion capture launching his own facility, SuperAlloy Interactive in Las Vegas, Nevada, which will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in bringing Katzenjammer to life.
“There’s a big benefit to doing this.” stated Jacobus, who also mentions he and his team will be utilizing their Xsens suits to produce the film’s essential physical performances to couple with those of the pending voice cast, in addition to implementing 3Viz™, a mo-cap pre-visualization method he developed with SuperAlloy co-founder Zac Swartout.
“It’s a huge time-saver.” he adds. “The Xsens system is perfect for this because it’s so fast. You just hit ‘record’, do the motion, stop recording, and move on, and the quality of the data out the gate is already fantastic. I’ve done mocap shoots solo with no crew like this.”
As expectant as fans may be of how the action will bode for Jacobus’s debut here, in no uncertain terms does the multi-faceted artist make his biggest guarantee. Compared to the demands and logistics of live-action productions, he credits Katzenjammer for providing him a space to write the kind of movie he’s never been able to write before, allowing him to “create something independent at heart, but on a blockbuster scale”. It’s a project that definitely goes above and beyond what Jacobus still hopes to achieve for continuations of his aforementioned fan favorites, Blindsided and the Rope-A-Dope shortfilm series, all which saw the involvement of fellow filmmaker and industry stunt/fight coordinator Clayton J. Barber (Creed, Black Panther, Judas And The Black Messiah) as producer.
“Clayton and I stay in regular contact.” he said. “I learned storytelling from him, so without his influence I wouldn’t have been able to put Katzenjammer down on paper.”
I am told the screenplay is already completed while he and producer, fellow stunt professional Robert Dill (The Last Ship, Henry Danger, Netflix’s Lucifer) work to make the proof of concept needed to draw in potential investors. With most of his attention on Katzenjammer for the forseeable future, Jacobus is utilizing the rest of his time for other projects, including what he describes as “a low-budget animated South Park-style action comedy series inspired by the Icelandic sagas”, as well as a motion capture documentary novel, The Art of Violence, and mo-cap action comedy, Kom-Bot.