You can bet that Stephen James wasn’t among the thousands of Star Wars fans camped out in front of theaters to catch the recent premiere.

As a filmmaker, the 34 year-old Lake Highlands native admits he was always more attracted to “people” pictures rather than glossy sci-fi epics.

“Oddly enough, I wasn’t a big Star Wars fan,” he says. “I know that was something that turned so many people’s lives around, but I’ve always responded to a variety of different films, particularly character-driven stuff. Things like Network, Kramer vs. Kramer, and even Rocky.

James’ first full-length feature, Certain Guys, debuted at Dallas’ USA Film Festival recently and met with reasonable success. Set – and of course, filmed – in Dallas, it centers on a group of longtime friends who re-assemble for a buddy’s wedding.

Its story of friendship, change, responsibility and personal discovery is an accessible one. Likewise, it presents scenarios that are both familiar and quite funny.

James, who did triple duty as writer/director/co-star, says the film is by no means taken from personal experiences. The story, however, is one that is very personal to him.

“I can’t look at this film and say it’s autobiographical in the sense that the characters are people I grew up with,” he says.

“But the story is very much the essence of what I’m about. It’s very pertinent to my life.”

James admits he has been a film fan for much of his life, but hadn’t always harbored dreams of celluloid. A graduate of Lake Highlands High School, he then attended SMU and received degrees in English and business.

After SMU, he backpacked around Europe and then headed to Santa Fe to write the “Great American Novel.”

“I thought I was an angry young man,” James says. “It turns out I was only a little miffed.”

From Santa Fe, he headed to the West Coast, then to New York, where he mastered in fine arts at Columbia. His thesis short film, The Make, made the film festival rounds in 1994.

Clocking in at 16 minutes, it earned James a Student Academy Award. It was also shown briefly in a scene in Ron Howard’s The Paper.

With exposure and critical acclaim on his side, he began work on Certain Guys.

Its low budget didn’t seem to present problems for the fledging director. He managed to cast some familiar faces, including Diedrich Bader of TV’s “Drew Carey Show,” Traci Lords, and Mark Pellegrino, who was featured in The Big Lebowski.

He also had no problem securing locations for the Dallas shoot, as friends and family (many of who are extras in the film) volunteered their homes and offices for different scenes.