When Michael Jackson died in 2009, like many others around the world Derek Wayne Johnson, 27, watched the coverage of the pop star’s death on TV.
It’s what happened next that sets the Carthage native apart from most viewers.
“It was all over the news, and I was watching. And Stone Phillips was reporting, and I remember thinking that is such a cool name,” Johnson said.
He said he had also watched a documentary on Stanley Kubrick the day before.
“I just go Stone … Stanley; Stanley … Stone — hmmm,” Johnson said.
With a movie scene he’d written three years prior and a monologue he’d written a year before, Johnson sat down that night and wrote the first 32 pages of “Stanley DeBrock.”
“It doesn’t make any sense, but that’s what triggered it all. The hardest thing to do is to set out to write a script, to create a character — it’s hard. It literally just has to come to you,” Johnson said.
It took Johnson three weeks to write the first draft. Richmond Arquette, who plays “Peebo” in the movie, joined Johnson to co-write the script. Arquette appeared in the movies “Se7en” and “Fight Club” and is a member of the famous Arquette family.
Johnson is the director, and he stars as identical twins “Stone” and “Stanley DeBrock.” “Stanley DeBrock” is what Johnson describes as “a coming home story” centered around the brothers.
“Stone,” an out-of-work actor, comes from Hollywood to East Texas where a troubled past meets new problems. A love interest who is married and uncles who are drug dealers are among the mix.
“Really his only friend is his dad, and he’s starting to question his dad’s sincerity,” Johnson said.
And then there’s “Stanley” — “Stone’s” mentally ill brother who murdered his (Stone’s) love interest’s sister years before.
Johnson and Arquette are joined by a list of experienced actors, including Marc Macaulay, Pruitt Taylor Vince, and Ali Costello who plays “Stone’s” love interest. Costello also appeared in the movie “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell”, based on the best-selling book, with Johnson.
Johnson said he wrote about half of “Stanley DeBrock” with friends in mind for the roles. Other actors were found while networking through friends.
“It’s rare, but there was no casting director for this movie and basically no auditions … roles were just offered,” Johnson said.
Another friend on the cast list is Brad Maule, best known for his role as “Tony Jones” on “General Hospital.”
Maule teaches at Stephen F. Austin State University, where Johnson graduated as a cinematography major in 2006.
“He acts in every thing I do, and he’s directed me in some stuff. He’s kind of like my guy who knows how it is and tells me the do’s and don’ts,” Johnson said.
In 2007, Johnson created AJ16 Entertainment, a production company, in honor of his little brother, Adam, who died in 2007.
Costello is Johnson’s producing partner in the company. George Landrum with Geoland Films produced “Stanley DeBrock” with Johnson.
Filming took about 30 days total and was shot in Shreveport, Carthage and around the Diana and Harleton areas. Shooting was completed in March, and post production finished in October.
Johnson, a 2001 Carthage High School graduate, lives in Shreveport, where the movie industry has blossomed the last few years.
“It literally has changed so many lives,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he decided why go to Los Angeles when he could go right down the road to Shreveport.
While Johnson is in Shreveport — his hometown is buzzing about another movie, “Bernie.”
“Naturally, a lot of people assume I’m a part of it, and I’m not. So there’s a little confusion there. But it’s pleasing to know that as a Carthage actor and filmmaker that a Hollywood movie is in my hometown. I’ve shot a lot of things there and will continue to shoot there. So by ‘Bernie’ being there, it’s only going to help my films,” Johnson said.
Johnson already has his sights on making a Rock-n-Roll romance and an action movie, but he said all of these films, including “Stanley DeBrock,” are stepping stones for his “baby” — a period piece called “Innocent’s Way.”
“We have been putting ‘Innocent’s Way’ together for three years and have a lot of Hollywood actors attached as well as industry people interested,” Johnson said.
Johnson attributes his success, thus far, to a handful of mentors including: Donnie Pitchford, William Arscott and Maule.
What is Johnson’s secret to opening the doors to Hollywood?
“Everyone always said you just have to do it, and that’s so true. You just do it,” Johnson said.
Johnson also appeared in Hallmark Hall of Fame’s “Front of the Class” and “Beyond A Reasonable Doubt.”
“Never let anyone tell you you’re small town because that brain of yours is way bigger than small town … so is your heart,” he said.
“Stanley DeBrock” is entered in numerous film festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival.