pursuing your moviemaking dreams one view at a time
Former local Justin Johnson has been making short films and viral videos for the past 15 years. A graduate of Memorial High School, he now calls Los Angeles home. Justin will be screening his brand new documentary Double Digits: The Story of A Neighborhood Movie Star at Eau Claire’s Downtown Cinema on Friday, Nov. 20, at 7pm and 9pm.
In the film, Justin introduces us to Richard “R.G.” Miller, a tenacious low-budget filmmaker and unlikely YouTuber, as he prepares for his latest epic film. Richard’s unconventional process and severe dedication have been at play for over 35 years; the film dives into his personal and professional back-story, and what it means to be an artist.
In 2009 while working at New York startup Indy Mogul, a network dedicated to aspiring filmmakers, Justin received a DVD that would change the course of his life; it was submitted by Richard, who hoped to showcase his work to a wider audience.
Justin was hooked within the first five minutes of Richard’s art film Ace Thunder Ace. It was done with passion. It was fantastical, it was strange, and it was done by a 50-year-old man. The usual age for those submitting was 14. Moved by a strong desire to know the man behind the film, Justin sent him an email and a dialogue began that continued for the next three years.
After leaving his full-time job in 2012, Justin went to Kansas to film Richard as the filmmaker went to work on an upcoming film, The Masked Man. He thought at the very least he “would get some funny shots of a grown man messing around with action figures,” but had no idea of the amazing human story he was about to uncover.
Justin traveled to Kansas a total of three times over two years, spending a week each time with Richard, his family and friends conducting interviews, filming Richard creating his YouTube films, and discovering the man that Justin now describes as “an inspiration.” While viewing the film, it doesn’t take long to see why.
Richard was born and raised in Wichita, Kan. His mother died giving birth to him, so Richard was raised by his grandparents. His grandmother told him he could learn whatever he wanted, and those words stayed with him his whole life. After losing his grandparents Richard started to drink, and when he lost a brother he started to use drugs. He became homeless, stopped making films, and ended up in jail. He realized he would be a 50-year-old man when he got out and made up his mind to stay clean and work. Upon being released from jail, Richard’s young nephew prompted him to “make stuff and inspire people.”
“I’ve always been compelled to root for the underdogs, that’s why Richard’s story drew me in so immediately. Not only is he a true American underdog, he’s easy to root for.” – filmmaker Justin Johnson, on his documentary subject, Richard
This film is really for anyone who has a dream. Justin captured the spirit of a man who has an intense desire to never give up on his dreams … and to have fun doing it. It was Justin’s intent to capture the human element and not to make purely a “behind the scenes” movie. While watching Double Digits, you can really feel the unmistakable bond between the two filmmakers as artists.
“I’ve always been compelled to root for the underdog; that’s why Richard’s story drew me in so immediately. Not only is he a true American underdog, he’s easy to root for,” Justin said. “In making this film, I set out to craft a story not just of the filmmaker, but of an artist who keeps creating against all odds. I hope Richard’s story finds its way into the hearts and minds of any creative person who has ever had a dream.”
Double Digits premiered in the Austrian Alps followed by festival screenings in Wichita, Tucson, Charleston, and Brooklyn – and it scooped up a couple of awards along the way.
The biggest challenge Justin faced while creating his first feature film was the unknown and not knowing if he would finish. But having Richard as his subject taught him persistence.
“Richard worked over 30 years in obscurity and never gave up,” Justin said. “He taught me to never give up.”
Double Digits is screening at the Downtown Cinema in Eau Claire on Friday, Nov. 20 at 7pm ad 9pm. The official release date is scheduled for Tuesday Dec. 8 on Video On Demand.