Rian Johnson is about to become a household name. That’s what directing Star Wars: Episode VIII will do for you and your career. But fans of Johnson’s work over the years have recognized his talented eye and knack for engaging storytelling long before he signed up to work in a galaxy far, far away. And in the arena of feature films, it all started with the 2005 contemporary noir picture, Brick, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Now while the mystery, acting, and shooting style of Brick makes it worth a watch before the late-2017 debut of Star Wars: Episode VIII – along with Johnson’s other films including The Brothers Bloom and Looper, if you haven’t seen them – a newly surfaced behind-the-scenes documentary on the filming of Brick makes for a fantastic retrospective (via Mentorless). Shot by San Clemente High School student Lauren Schwartz, her documentary Building Brick captures Johnson and Gordon-Levitt filming on location at Johnson’s alma mater while giving insight into the film and the filmmaking process itself.
Johnson went on to win numerous awards across the country for Brick, and that success snowballed into films with bigger budgets, greater exposure, and much more pressure. And yet, if Johnson keeps to his principles and remembers the lessons learned during the filming of Brick on a shoestring budget financed mainly by family and friends, his talent will continue to shine through and his success will continue. The biggest test, by far, will be in December of 2017 when Star Wars fans will put him and his work through the critical crucible. But it’s nice to be able to go back to a simpler time and witness Johnson at work on a passion project in this documentary.
One of the most poignant lines from Johnson that caught my attention was this little, slightly self-effacing and also optimistic quote:
What kept me going is that I’m not really useful at anything else in life. Just the fact that this was all I’ve ever wanted to do … there weren’t really any other options. So, I knew whether it happened now or whether it happens 10 years from now, I would still be trying to get this movie made. I knew eventually it would happen somehow.
Well, it’s been more than 10 years since Brick’s debut. That movie did quite well; Johnson himself has done even better. I think I wouldn’t be alone in saying that it’s a good thing he stuck to his guns. It’s paid off in ways that the overwhelming majority of people could only dream about. If you’re still unconvinced, or you just need an extra boost to your optimism or creativity, Building Brick is definitely worth the watch.
The documentary came to our attention courtesy of Johnson himself, who tweeted out the link:
Oh my god I had so much hair. This was made by Lauren Schwartz, who was a student at San Clemente High when we shot. https://t.co/MLo1MQ8m0A
— Rian Johnson (@rianjohnson) July 28, 2016
Check out Building Brick, the behind-the-scenes, student-shot documentary of Johnson’s first feature film: