Four years ago, the Taiwan-born Justin Lin, who grew up in Buena Park, was a novice filmmaker mired in indie hell.

The UCLA film school grad had maxed out his credit cards trying to make a $250,000 independent film called “Better Luck Tomorrow” about a group of overachieving Asian teens. The project might have gone under had it not been Lin’s decision to roll the dice and contact rapper MC Hammer, whom Lin had once met at a trade show in Las Vegas. After listening to the young man’s tale of woe, Hammer agreed to help provide the funds to finish the movie. The film received critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival, propelling Lin on the Hollywood fast track.


Today, the 34-year-old director has one studio film in the can -- the Jan. 27 Disney drama “Annapolis,” set against the backdrop of the U.S. Naval Academy. And he has been in Japan shooting “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” a high-octane action film set in the underground world of Japanese drift racing, which Universal Pictures plans to release June 16.

“I feel like in four years, I went through three very different types of filmmaking: from indie world, to studio movies, to summer movies ... but at the same time they do have my point of view. I think that is the challenge for filmmakers of my generation, to try to make movies that have something to say.”