Justin Lin

Active - 1995 - 2020  |   Born - Oct 11, 1973 in Taipei, Taiwan  |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Action, Thriller

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Biography by Jason Buchanan

Justin Lin's tale will sound remarkably familiar to countless aspiring filmmakers who have paid their dues by maxing out their credit cards and spending sleepless nights starving while wondering if their projects will ever reach the screens. Dead broke and frustrated that his films had not been financially lucrative, Lin decided to take one last shot at becoming a director, literally pouring in every ounce of energy and creativity that he could muster up in order to craft a feature that would make or break his career. Fortunately for Lin, his gamble was a success and his solo debut feature, Better Luck Tomorrow (Lin had previously co-directed Shopping for Fangs with filmmaker Quentin Lee), received both critical acclaim and a distribution deal with MTV films. Since then, Lin has been cited as one of the film industry's most promising young directors.

Born in Taipei, Taiwan, and raised in Buena Park, CA, Lin had little interest in movies as a child, putting most of his energy into sports and other extracurricular activities; however, after a chance encounter with a camera, Lin was hooked. An education at UCLA School of Film and Television followed, and it wasn't long before the burgeoning talent had earned his BA and MFA in film directing. In addition to his schoolwork, Lin also found the time to join Lee behind the camera for the decidedly bizarre Shopping for Fangs. Though the film showed at film festivals, it went largely unseen, and Lin continued his work as production coordinator of the Media Arts Center at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. Lin also worked closely with youth in teaching sports and media, a job that found his interest in the mindset of the younger generation growing. Compelled by the differences in mentality between himself and his young students, Lin began penning a screenplay that was to become his short-form thesis script. An insightful tale of youthful malaise among the Asian American high-school set, Lin's script was polished and tight, though he was convinced that the idea could easily become a feature -- soon bringing in writers Ernesto Foronda and Fabian Marquez to help flesh out the screenplay. When the script was completed, it began to get buzz around town, and Lin decided to set a date and begin shooting on digital video no matter what problems arose. When Fiji caught wind of the project, they offered Lin 20,000 feet of film for no charge, and though the offer was tempting, the young director approached Kodak -- whose Vision stock Lin thought perfectly suited his vision -- to see if they would match the offer. When Kodak agreed the following day, Lin's film went from DV to 35 mm, and things began to look up. Of course, there were still plenty of other expenses to be covered by maxed-out credit cards, but in the end, the success of Better Luck Tomorrow more than made up for any previous financial strain. A dark tale of crime that resonated loudly with the younger generations, Better Luck Tomorrow was acquired by MTV Films and released to much acclaim. In the years that followed, Lin continued to ponder his future as a filmmaker, and in 2004, he began pre-production on the Navy boxing drama Annapolis. Though that film wouldn't fare particularly well at the box-office, Lin's subsequent effort, The Fast and the Furious 3: Tokyo Drift found the emerging director shifting into action mode to impressive results. A gas-guzzing, peddle to the metal sequel that introduced American filmgoers to the Japanese art of "drift" racing, The Fast and the Furious 3 earned a healthy keep at the multiplex while potentially pointing Lin's career in a whole new direction.

Movie Highlights

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  • Grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Cypress, California.
  • First documentary he directed was 2000's Crossover, which focused on the 70-year-old phenomenon of the Japanese American Basketball Leagues, which were established in the 1930s.
  • Solo directorial debut was the classic Better Luck Tomorrow which he filmed at his own high school alma mater.
  • Landed the opportunity to direct 2016's Star Trek Beyond following success directing ensemble casts, especially in the hugely popular Fast and the Furious franchise,.
  • Has directed more entries in the Fast and the Furious franchise than any other director.