We had the good fortune of connecting with Alexis Duran and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alexis, we’d love to hear about a book that’s had an impact on you.
That’s an easy one. For approximately three months during 2007, I worked as a shipment supervisor/stocker at a now defunct grocery store in La Jolla. At this point in my life, as a twenty-year-old, I had been in and out of college three times. For a two- week period, I was without a car. This allowed me to enjoy an hour and a half long bus and trolley commute to work. It also gave me enough time to mentally prepare myself for an expensive transmission bill.
One afternoon after my lunch break, I made my grand entrance into the stockroom— bursting through the dirty vinyl strips—when I noticed a milk crate on the floor filled with books. Right at the top lied a book with the cover art of an unlit match superimposed with a subtitle “How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.” This is Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. I started questioning myself if I had ever read a book in its entirety without utilizing Spark Notes. It’s safe to say we all figured out the algorithms of our high school library’s computers that were designated for reading tests. Do they still do that? I freaked myself out and decided it was time. Not only that, I was genuinely intrigued by the anatomy of this book’s cover page. I have no idea where that milk crate filled with books came from. We didn’t sell any books at this grocery store. My boss, Ziad, a funny fifty-year-old Persian man, had just came back from smoking a cigarette near the loading dock. Before I can even ask him what these books were doing here, he speed walked right past me and with a soft, yet deep and harsh accent, he said, “I don’t know! Take them.” On that same day, during my last ten-minute break, I started reading. Thirty-five minutes later, my legs had fallen asleep and I was still sitting on the toilet at work. Ziad was also looking for me. I read this book during my daily three-hour commute. I couldn’t put it down. After one week, I had finished it. It was bittersweet.
For the first time, I felt captivated by a book. I was intellectually stimulated. Without being fully conscious of it at the time, I was exercising my critical and analytical thinking skills. The Tipping Point complimented my sense of curiosity and inquisitiveness of the world around us.
A few months later entering 2008, I had quit like a gentleman and then I re-enrolled at Southwestern College. I felt I was now ready to be challenged, stimulated, and I pursued my personal growth. Little did I know I would end up pursing a higher education for almost ten years. From barely finishing high school, to earning three associate degrees, a bachelor degree, a semester abroad, and a MFA. This book had a pivotal role in my life. It sparked something in me.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As a filmmaker, I consider myself fortunate to be able to create various types of projects. Many of my narrative short films tend to be autobiographical, based on true events and quite personal.
As for writing, it’s fascinating I’m able to revisit past experiences, understand it from a present perspective, and articulate it within a visual medium. It’s been quite therapeutic. A film I’m currently working on, Forgetting Caroline, had to be postponed due to COVID-19, but I’m scheduled to finish the second half of the film later this month. Forgetting Caroline explores the beautiful moments of what it can be like as a step-parent, as well as the personal complications that come with the territory.
Aside from narrative films, I freelance as a director, cinematographer/camera operator, and/or editor on feature/short films, documentaries, commercials, and travel videos. Many of my gigs have led me to work with companies such as: OnlyGood TV (HooplaHa), Truly (Barcroft TV), BBC THREE, PBS, Business Insider and various production companies from around the world. I’ve been able to film projects in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Cuba, Guatemala, and Mexico. Many of the assignments I accept from various companies/agencies, or that I personally initiate, have allowed me to immerse myself into different languages, cultures, cuisines, and ideologies. The ability to create meaningful relationships and discover unfamiliar and exciting stories around the world has been an instrumental source of inspiration and drive personally and artistically. In terms of how I got to where I am today—it all started with school.
Aside from general electives, English, and film courses, I tried to explore other subjects that I’ve had, and still do have, an interest in, such as: Philosophy, History, Languages, Costume Design, Acting, Anthropology, Latin American Studies, and several others. One positive of film school is being held accountable to create film projects, especially within a particular time period. Sometimes people need that push, responsibility, deadlines, resources and support from fellow peers and professors. So, I took advantage of all that. The fact that I’m self-driven (not always) and resilient meant film school was more of an enhancement rather than a dependency. I made an effort to start freelancing during school.
Many of my first gigs were filming promotional videos for various clubs and bars, along with corporate/live events working as a production assistant and camera operator.Another great benefit of school is the higher probability of meeting individuals that you share similar interests, aspirations, or simply enjoy each other’s company, which results in referring one another and collaborating. And, with time, work and projects begin to see the light of day. But, of course, then work slows down, things get postponed or it goes downhill. It’s never that easy. Some days may feel easier than others. On the surface it may appear things came effortlessly, but there’s a lineage ofhard work, investments, mistakes, and lessons that attributed to those opportunities presenting themselves. I recently watched an interview that took place at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, where Spike Lee shared the following words with the audience, “If you’re looking for something easy, this is not the field. It’s hard enough to make a bad movie.”
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
This is a fun question. Tough one as well. The last three friends that came to visit me in San Diego were from France, South Korea, and Los Angeles. So, I’ll just make it easy on myself and combine a few of the things we did. And, for the record, I’m one of those locals that takes their city for granted. I rarely/almost never visit any of these attractions listed below unless I have a friend in town, family members visiting, or I’m freelancing and we happen to film at any of these local attractions. However, excluding restaurants- I eat out at least once almost every day. Not so much lately.
Breakfast Spots: My own cooking, Hash House a Go Go, Snooze AM, Café 222, Old Gallery Coffee House, Swami’s, The Mission, Donny’s Café, Fig Tree Café, Talavera Azul, El Achiote, Café Agave, Red House Kitchen, Northside Shack.
Activities/Walking Around: Balboa Park, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, La Jolla Cove/Beach, Old Town Historical Park, Harbor Cruise, Coronado/Downtown Ferry, Coronado Beach, and the Embarcadero.
Lunch/Dinner: Frutas, Café Bassam, Italgo, Sushi Ota, TJ Oyster Bar, Cocina 35, Bahn Thai, Plumeria, Poke Etc, It’s Raw Poke Shop, Goi Cuon, Hungry Hank’s Deli, Tacos el Gordo, Alforon, Curryosity, Indian Palace, Punjabi Tandoor, and Awash Ethiopian.
Drinks/Nightlife: Noble Experiment, Mad House Comedy Club, The American Comedy Co, Altitude Sky lounge, Shout House, Third Avenue Alehouse, The Aero Club Bar, Craft & Commerce, Sevilla Nightclub, Wine a Bit.
Mexico: I always make sure I take a friend down to Tijuana, Rosarito, Ensenada, and/or Valle de Guadalupe. If you’re based in San Diego and you have visitors—Mexico is a must.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Well, I already gave a generous shoutout to Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point.
There’s been several family members, educators, friends, ex-girlfriends, acquaintances, strangers, and unforeseen life experiences that have been instrumental during my successes and ongoing journey—by way of personal and emotional support, encouragement, and inspiration.
However, I have to give the utmost shoutout to my mother. She deserves a lot of credit and recognition. I’m always trying to find moments to demonstrate my love and appreciation for what she’s done, and continues to do.
Other: Vimeo: www.vimeo.com/alxsdrn
Alexis Duran, Matt Radican, Carlos Solorio
Nominate someone: ShoutoutSocal is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.