The Road Back
It's been nearly two years since "Take Five." Not because we gave up on filmmaking but because we had to focus on our personal lives as adults. Veronica had a beautiful baby boy while maintaining a hectic freelance work schedule and went on to get a job at Black Magic Design in Fremont where she still currently works. Sandra found a job as an editor and videographer at an audio/video studio in Emeryville. As for me, I came back from shooting the independent feature "A Father's Journey" in Mexico and found myself unemployed.
Prior to leaving to Mexico, the school semester at Diablo Valley College ended so my job at the school was over. I also had to voluntarily quit my other job at the AMC movie theater I worked at because the film shoot schedule exceeded their two week leave limit. My managers gave me their blessing and even welcomed me to apply again once I returned.
I served as 1st Assistant Director on AFJ. It was the best damn experience and film school an ambitious filmmaker could ask for. The crew in Mexico had industry experience working on low budget to big budget Hollywood films. I took a brand new notebook to document the experience but unfortunately I could not find the time to write, luckily I also took along my pocket sized Flip cam and filmed the only behind the scenes footage I'm aware of. I'll use these videos to write a blog about my experience soon and possibly share some clips.
The cast and crew became a family and I cherish the memories of working and learning from everyone on that film. AFJ will have its world premiere next month at the Las Vegas Latino & International Film Festival! I still haven't seen the finished cut so I'm excited.
Anyway, so I came back home in need of a job or two with better wage. I decided I did not want to go to film school (another subject I'd like to write about in a blog) and planned to make my own luck by learning it all on my own. I had applied for a security guard card license before leaving to Mexico so I searched for jobs on Craigslist and applied to many, most of which were in San Francisco. I had no luck for a month and my bank account was looking dismal. Suddenly, multiple calls and emails started coming in.
The first company that called was Bannerman Private Security. I was skeptical when the caller told me the interview would be at a Starbucks on Montgomery St. in San Francisco, he requested I bring my resume and guard card. Then Preventive Measures Security Firm, based in Las Vegas, emailed me to attend an orientation at the Oakland Coliseum for security work during A's games.
Bannerman turned out to be legit, they were a San Francisco tech start up that provided clients with licensed security guards -- I call it the Uber and Lyft of the security industry since it's also an app you can use to book the guards. My first on call gigs with them had me bouncing at bars around the city checking I.D.'s, preventing fights, and kicking unwanted drunks out. One evening, while I was on my break watching the game at the coliseum, the general manager at Centerfolds, a strip club on Broadway St. in San Francisco, called me to schedule an interview the next day for a doorman position. I also received an email from the manager at Pineda's Sports Bar in Pittsburg for a bouncer position. And you think that was it? No. The general manager at El Techo de Lolinda, an upscale Latin restaurant in the Mission District, also called to schedule an interview for a doorman position.
I don't think anyone believes me when I tell them I held five jobs at once but I did. I was a security guard at the Oakland Coliseum, a Bannerman guard, a bouncer at Pineda's Sports Bar, a bouncer at Centerfolds, and a doorman at El Techo de Lolinda. I was coming home dead tired and sleeping a minimal amount of hours. More security companies called to schedule interviews but I had to decline. Need a job? Get a guard card!
Obviously, I wasn't able to juggle all five for too long especially since some of the work schedules started to conflict. I dropped the bouncer and security guard jobs at Pineda's and the Oakland Coliseum. The strip club and the restaurant provided set schedules: Monday/Wednesday/Friday/Saturday/Sunday at Centerfolds and Tuesday/Thursday at Lolinda. Bannerman let me set my own schedule so I picked up gigs with them every now and then.
I ended up moving to San Francisco because I was sick of commuting 100 miles total every day. One of the sous chefs at the restaurant told me his roommate was moving out and I ended up moving in along with another friend into the two bedroom apartment. I took the spacious living room which had a door and street window. Every time someone I met asked how much rent I paid, they'd end up saying, "I hate you." San Francisco was listed as the most expensive city to live in in the U.S. so I took it as a blessing to be able to pay what I was paying (thanks to rent control and a three way split) and save up the majority of my earnings. The strip club was about a five minute walk away and I would take a cab or BART subway to the restaurant in the Mission.
When I wasn't dealing with drunk, annoying patrons in my face or kicking them out, I was constantly reading about film and taking notes at the door or on my own free time, making up for what I wasn't learning at a film school.
After awhile, the other guard at the restaurant was fired after too many complaints from patrons and they offered me five days a week with a raise. I took it and quit the strip club although I had moved up from doorman to floor host there. The money was better and I looked forward to having two days off again after working seven days a week for so long. I was now working at the restaurant and picking up more Bannerman gigs. I built a good reputation with Bannerman and one day the CEO offered me a permanent graveyard shift at an office.
The office turned out to be the Lyft headquarters in the Mission District. Lyft conducted an interview and a couple weeks later I was working at the restaurant by day 5 days a week, 4 PM to 11 PM, and at Lyft by night, get this, seven days a week, 1:30 AM to 9 AM. I worked this crazy schedule for quite awhile until I got sick of dealing with disrespectful rich snobs and annoying drunk people (although it was fun doing my job putting them in their place), plus it wasn't healthy -- I had burned out. My manager offered to match my pay to stay at the restaurant but I respectfully declined. At Lyft, I was at the front desk making hourly patrols throughout the three story building and outside perimeter. A whole building to myself, imagine that. Also, I've always been a night owl so the graveyard shift isn't too bad.
Between patrols I was free to read and write. Although we learned about the following subjects at DVC working on our student films, I was determined to learn even more and I studied every thing I could about photography and cinematography -- I'm currently studying more about screenwriting even after taking three courses in college. This is what I love about filmmaking, there's so much to learn so I can't get bored.
Since starting security work, I've managed to save up and be financially stable which was a major personal goal. Sandra and I moved in together not too far from my old apartment; we live on the border of Chinatown and North Beach. It's an awesome neighborhood and location.
Much has changed for me and living in the city has been an inspiring experience. As for work, I'm still at Lyft five days a week with weekends off now. I've managed to find balance in my life and I accomplished some personal goals along the way. I strongly believe that God helps those who help themselves; that if you put in the hard work your efforts will be met halfway by God. I'm not the most religious person but I have always put my faith in the Almighty and thanked Our Creator for everything, even the hard times that have made me stronger to face life's challenges.
So what does this have to do with Aztek Studio Films? Friends and family have repeatedly asked me, "So, Adrian, are you still making films? What are you doing? What's your plan? What's going on?" Well, Veronica, Sandra, and I never lost our passion and drive to make movies. It's been a crazy but worthwhile ride on the road back to filmmaking for me and I felt like sharing what I've been up to this whole time.
I've always wanted to run my own production company and studio to produce our own films in the Bay Area. One day, back in 2014, Veronica reached out to Sandra and I with a proposal to start our own business and I was more than game. The rest is history.
We're trying to balance and juggle our jobs with our dreams but we haven't given up. We won't give up. Making movies is what we want to do for the rest of our lives and we are determined to make it happen. The road back to filmmaking has taken nearly two years but we're back at it again, fires on all cylinders.
We're still keeping the details under wraps until we're ready to go public but I am happy to announce that we have begun pre-production work on a new film...