“Even though he gets paid like a filmmaker whose resume consists of films that grossed north of $2 billion, Lin tries to hang on to his indie origins and romanticizes the days when he drove crazy the Chinese parents who emigrated with Lin and his two siblings to California. After sinking all their money in the fish and chips eatery and working endlessly, they watched their son finish school at UCLA and promptly max every credit card he could, to make his first film.
“My parents were unconventional for Asian parents,” Lin said. “They really pushed us to find our passion but I knew they were scared sh*tless by what I did but I knew they would be there if I fell.” What Lin did was use 10 cards to borrow $100,000 of the $250,000 budget needed to shoot Better Luck Tomorrow, which he co-wrote and directed
“I worked on that script and when I was ready, I put my life savings, $18,000, and borrowed on the credit cards, and all my friends all quit our jobs and went for it,” Lin said. They came up short but found an unlikely benefactor in rapper MC Hammer. “I met him while I was working at a museum,” Lin said. “He happened to be walking in and we spoke, he asked me what I wanted to be and I said, a filmmaker. He gave me his phone number and said, if you ever need anything…I was excited just to have his number, but cut to later, when I ran out of money and couldn’t get another credit card.
I started this LLC but didn’t know anybody with capital and raised it in dribs and drabs. There was a deadline and if I didn’t hit it, the investors would get their money back. I had no money. My parents had no money, and so I called him. He didn’t remember me, but we clicked again on the phone and he wired me the money I needed by the next morning. He saved the project. I would have had to start raising money all over again while the interest on those cards accrued exponentially.
The film was a Sundance hit, grossed $3.8 million, and put Lin on a studio track that has made credit card debt a distant memory…”