Hella Local: Aztek Studio Films

I’ve been trying to get this interview on the books for a while now. Adrian Nava is the spearhead of SF-based Aztek Studio Films. We sat down and chopped it up about film, The Bay, and what’s next for him and his crew. Enjoy!

What got you into filmmaking?

My love of movies and the escape from reality that they provide. Watching a movie is an experience and I wanted to create experiences too, telling my own stories. I started making  short films on my parents’ camcorder and moved on to digital as I got older, and, as they became more available.

What was your favorite film or show growing up?

My love for movies began with two films: James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi. I’ve watched both countless times since childhood.

A lot of your work is action-meets-comedy. Even in really tense moments, you try to add some levity to the situation. When did that start in your craft? Where does that come from?

This has been in my work since the beginning. I enjoy a good laugh, and really, who doesn’t? If done well, comedy can add some balance to scenes in every genre. Also, a film should be like a roller coaster— you anticipate, you react, you scream, you cry, you laugh, repeat.

When I was in middle school, my friends and I made a horror film at my house about a killer monster. I don’t know where the hell we got the idea to use a pillow for our monster’s head, but that’s who our actor became, “Pillow Head.” Man, we laughed our asses off watching it afterwards. It’s supposed to be a scary film but he had to keep adjusting it, trying to keep it on. You should have seen him struggling because he couldn’t drag his victim’s dead body because he was too heavy. I left that all in the film. We used ketchup for blood but it was too obvious so we got a good laugh out of that too.

How does your identity influence your work? As a Bay Area Native? As a Mexican American? 

I consider myself a storyteller, whether I’m producing a beat, sketching a drawing, writing a poem, or doing whatever other artistic endeavor that interests me. I’m always trying to convey a message through my work. I don’t make films just to make films, I’m trying to say something.

As a Bay Area native, I’m fueled by the Bay’s independent spirit to be rebellious and make films my own way. I have to have creative control, but I’m not an egotistical tyrant about it— I’ll be the first one to jump in the trenches with the crew and lead by example with respect for everyone and their positions.

As a Mexican American, I believe we have our own stories to tell to challenge the stereotypes of Hollywood. How many mainstream Mexican/Mexican American heroes do we have today to look up to? Also, I’m all about representing all people of color, not just Latinos, in film.

What is the media landscape like, making film here in The Bay?

It’s definitely not L.A. or Hollywood. There’s more industry work out there. Here, it’s mostly commercial work (corporate videos) and some indies. It’s very rare when studio films are shooting here, such as San Andreas, Terminator Genisys, and Ant-Man recently. Even then, it’s only a few scenes. The industry is definitely more prominent in L.A.

Everyone keeps telling me to move down there, but I love the independent spirit we have here. I have always wanted to be my own boss and not have someone tell me how to make my films. I dream of running my own movie studio in the Bay Area one day.

What are you currently working on?

I’m editing a teaser trailer for a short film my team and I were unable to complete. I’m using the footage we managed to shoot and the plan is to use the trailer for another crowd funding campaign to raise money for a feature film version.

The film is called Super Gabby and it’s about Gabriela Espinoza, a ten year old Mexican American girl who dreams of being a super heroine like her comic book hero, Scorpion Girl. But first, she must discover where true power comes from when she reluctantly decides to stand up to a pair of bullies and take back the local park. I also have other [unnamed] projects lined up that I’m also working on.

What are your top 5 films of all time?

That’s tough! There’s too many I love and appreciate, especially the classics and cult classics, but I’ll try. The following are some of the films I keep going back to and can watch over and over. In no particular order: The Terminator, Once Upon a Time in the West, Apocalypse Now, Conan the Barbarian, and Rocky.  

Okay, last question: you’ve got an unlimited budget and one film to make, what do you do?

A tragic love story set against the rise and fall of the Aztec empire.

Peep Adrian’s work and more over at Aztek Studios.

these boots mine.The original Homeboy With A Keyboard ™,  dap wants to be an enigma, but he’s pretty transparent. A transplant from “Back East,” he found himself in Oakland writing about alla the fun things. He’s in love with the coco(a) (skinned women and butter,) among other things. @dapisdope


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