Fast Forward Friday with Jason D. Avalos

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed writer-actor-director-producer Jason D. Avalos.  He has been steadily working in independent film for 10 years and has studied in master classes with Quentin Tarantino. His lastest project, which he produced and served as creative consultant, NAMCAR Night Race, has already won 13 awards and was nominated more than 20 times around the world. To learn more, visit his website.

Q: What are you currently working on? Tell us about it.

I’m currently working on ways to afford my kombucha addiction, as all people from LA do, but beyond that, I’m an actor-writer-director so I’m always pushing a few projects forward until one gets made. I just went into casting for Rhythm my feature film directorial debut,  in which I also play the main character.

Rhythm centers on Daniel Largo, a musician who jumps off a cruise ship band gig and battles his way to glory by being an original artist in the heart of the East Los Angeles music scene.

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

It comes from growing up in the Long Beach band culture, watching bands like Sublime, No Doubt, Reel Big Fish, etc before they were huge, in backyard house parties and warehouse keggers. I played in a punk band and then later was a DJ so music is a huge inspiration in my life and it made sense to use that as a foundation for the story. The major push was watching some music and micro budget films like Tangerine, Filly Brown, 8 mile, Almost Famous, and Sweet and Lowdown and realizing there are no music films with Latino lead characters that aren’t inherently of Latin culture, for example Selena and La Bamba. It’s important to show what first  generation Latin-Americans look like, talk like and play music like. I grew up Angeleno and I don’t own any mariachis.

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

Stanley Kubrick, Terrance Malick, Truffaut, David Bowie, The Doors, Paul Thomas Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, Bukowski, Burroughs and Hunter Thompson.

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?

Other artists. Everyday I get inspired by my fellow colleagues and artists:  photographers, architects, animators, comedians.

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

I have three original cable TV pilots I’ve written that have gotten great feedback from the Jane the Virgin producers and other trusted mentors working in TV. One is an animated adult cartoon about the afterlife of animals that I’m really excited about.

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

Since I’ve been writing Rhythm, I have worked and met more like-minded creators making LGBTQ, female empowered and Latin first generation projects who I believe are very much my allies, my sisters and brothers. This is the power of proactivity in your vision. You staking your claim and your voice will inherently bring you side by side by other like-minded people. That is proof to me that the universe is chilling on my shoulder like a pet monkey. Damn, I really want a pet monkey.

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

I would be creating my own TV show, hiring a diverse team not unlike Aziz Ansari or Ava Duvarney.

Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

Money. Yes you can make things cheaper now, which is awesome, but producing is a game played by folks who often come from money. The other one is people aren’t buying Latin movies unless they are about drug lords, cartels, crossing borders, etc. I hope to be a part of that change.

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

I feed myself with art from every walk of life, a lot of yoga and seeing a therapist. They are just three ways to reflect on what is a constant moving energy of creating and seeing what I’m connected to moment to moment.

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

Maybe not trying competitions, festivals, workshops enough. I don’t make work to be better than another person so it seems superfluous. I lately am loosening up and seeing it as a way to connect with other cool creators and collaborators.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

That is a cruel question. ahaha. Right now I’m pretty in love with Horn Players by Jean Michel Basquiat. I’m a huge fan of jazz and Basquiat. It demonstrates improvisational painting with underlying structure, which is like jazz and also how I approach filmmaking.

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

I admire my grandfather Emilio. He worked everyday in a coffee field in El Salvador through crazy civil wars, etc. He had a heart attack in those fields and died peacefully there. There was no hospital close enough to do anything. If he can have that work ethic than I can stick it out in my career.

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

Dimples, baby. But if I don’t get the dimple award next year than it would be to have hugely helped open doors for other voices not being heard and creating a real place for us.

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

Tenacious.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

I always feel guilty  – it’s in the my Latin Catholic nature, but I will go with cheese. Expensive and stinky.

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

Buckle up and don’t take a backseat because someone makes you feel less privileged or allowed.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

Paris.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Sharing your work with the world and working with the very best in the industry while helping others along the way.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Happiness is a moment that comes and goes constantly. I just want to know that I’m feeding myself the right energies so I can embrace as much of it as I can every day.

Q: Final Thoughts?

Just a shout-out to two films I script supervised this year. I’m super proud of working on Bite Me and Tragedy Girls, which is in theaters now! Shameless plugs!

 

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