This past week The Houstonian had the privilege to sit down with Derek Wayne Johnson, an actor/director who has worked on dozens of films. Johnson attended Stephen F. Austin as a film student, by his senior year Derek has already begun to work in the film industry. Since then, he has formed his own production company and has continued to work in front of and behind the camera in movies such as his film Broken Blood, which won the Hoboken International Film Festival award for New York Post Best Feature Film Trailer. Here’s what he had to say:
Q. Is more or less difficult to direct and act, rather than just acting?
A. Directing and acting at the same time is extremely difficult and I don’t recommend it to anyone. You lose a little bit of both in the process and I’ll never do it again. Unless you are someone like Mel Gibson, Stalone Stallone or Orson Welles, someone that has the money. In a smaller environment like [Broken Blood] it’s harder because you’re already wearing so many hats. The only reason I played the lead was because I’m free, cheap and always on time. As I watch it now, I’m thinking to myself: I should have done this, this and this differently because I didn’t notice during the process because my mind was in so many places. I don’t recommend it, but if you want to be a filmmaker, of course. Go for it.
Q. How did you get your start?
A. I got my start at the film school at Stephen F. Austin and also got into business in Shreveport, where I live now. When Hollywood came to Shreveport I got in a lot of big Hollywood movies, knowing that I wanted to be a filmmaker, and that time an actor as well. So I started getting small roles in T.V, movies and indies, all the while I kept writing scripts in my spare time. Ultimately all of it led up to getting the contacts necessary to do my own film.
Q. Are you working on anything now?
A. Yeah, actually. Tom [Garrett] and I are doing a documentary together about John G. Avildsen, the director of Rocky and Karate Kid. I just finished up my latest film called Scrape which is a horror movie that just got worldwide distribution. I get to shoot another feature film later this year and I have a slate in 2014 for a feature film. I don’t sleep.
Q. If you could ask Dwayne right out of film school advice, what would it be?
A. Treat this as show BUSINESS, it’s not show ART. So we’re all artists, I’ve never not been an artist. But I wished I would have walked out school with my business head on, and not just focused on art.
Johnson is a great example of a success story for students hoping for a career in film/theatre. He shows that success does not just happen overnight, if you want to pursue this craft, you must put in the work. Along with Broken Blood, Johnson’s latest film, Scrape, will premiere at the Northeast Film Festival at the Maplewood Theatre in New Jersey.