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Mini-Bio of Rian Johnson, filmmaker

Rian Johnson is a good model for how to get into movie-making. Shoot lots. Shoot where you know locations like they're your own backlot.

"When young film students ask me for some advice on how to make it in this business, I tell them that 95 percent of the battle is just sticking around," Johnson said. "I tell them that the first thing they should do is get a good day job. If you can eat and pay the rent, and don't have to move back home, then you have a chance."

Johnson kept busy during his nine-year ordeal. While he tried to find funding, he produced promos for children's TV shows at the Disney Channel, and made instructional videos at a school for deaf children. Later, when he was actually making his movie, he wrote screenplays to pay the rent.

His father, a local homebuilder, was the first on the block to buy a video camera, Johnson said, and the youngster made his first Super 8 mm short in the seventh grade. In all, he said he made about 90 film shorts by the time he graduated from high school.

Although Johnson said he used familiar San Clemente locations in his script, it was a difficult decision to shoot the film in his hometown. The cost of making films that far from Los Angeles skyrockets because of rules that require filmmakers to provide shelter for the cast and crew.

"Yes, it was more costly to shoot in San Clemente, but it was worth it," the filmmaker said. "Not only is it such a nice place to be for a month, but there was a practical aspect of shooting there.

"I know the town like the back of my hand, so it was like my own private back lot. If I got kicked out of one location, I knew of an alternate location around the corner.

Johnson filmed his movie on the grounds of his alma mater, at the beach, in local homes and businesses, and in the drainage tunnel next to the high school. The tunnel plays a key role in the movie.

"I'm not expecting my movie to blow the lid off of the box office," Johnson said. "I just want it to find its audience, no matter how long it takes."

As for his future, Johnson said he may have another film project in the works, but he insists on keeping it personal.

"I don't have aspirations to be a working director who accepts studio assignments. I want to make my own movies. I want to be an independent filmmaker like the Coen brothers. That's who I emulate. Of course, I hope the next film doesn't take nine years to finish."

“Brick” is a film noir-style murder mystery set in and around a small-town high school. Johnson filmed the entire movie, which won the Special Jury Prize for Originality at Sundance, for just under $500,000.


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