Filmmaker, Adiana Rivera, can be found around the borough capturing the pulse of events and collaborating with other Bronx creatives. Adiana is a vibrant personality with a knack for storytelling through her video work. She’s recently embarked on a new visual project, called “Bronx Boys” which highlights men from the Bronx. I initially saw her numerous posts about the project on Instagram, so I reached out to her to learn more about the inner-workings and what prompted her to start it.
1) What inspired Bronx Boys? Why was it important for you to create it?
In general, the Bronx inspired me. I grew up here my entire life and I’ve always loved what the Bronx gave to me. I wanted to give something back, but didn’t know how. Documentaries and photos are insanely powerful, and that’s the only tool I knew to use, so I wanted to create a documentary about the Bronx. I always loved profile pieces whether in articles or in documentaries, because I felt they talk about broader issues using the subject’s day to day life. And then one day my thought process fell on my brother. I thought about his pre-teen to teen years growing up in The Bronx. I remember being in elementary school and walking to the corner with him so he could fight another kid because he spoke badly about our mother. I remember him coming home bloody from a fight. He was just surrounded by a lot of violence once he left home and entered the streets. It always felt as if he was protecting his manhood. He had a different outlook on life.
A lot of other Bronx Boys I would meet were these amazing, talented individuals, with these similar stories to my brother. They were poets, painters, athletes, rappers or honestly just the sweetest individuals, but each of them shared a violent past in someway or another.
It just felt so important to create this project to highlight them, because I needed people to see these boys for who they were. Not just a statistic, not just their borough, not just another story. I needed people to know that gems were created from The Bronx despite any hardships. I needed others to know that this borough provides inspiration and is the home to some of the strongest, most creative, passionate people I know. I needed people to know that the violence is just a factor from our circumstances.
2) Have you read the book “Bronx Boys” by Stephen Shames?
I haven’t read Bronx Boys, but once I’m finally done with this project I’m going to reward myself with buying Stephen Shames book. I wonder if there are going to be any overlapping messages and ideas between his book and my mini-documentary series.
3) How did you come up with the name “Bronx Boys?
It’s kind of silly how I came up with the name. I was just sitting thinking of titles that would fit with the Bronx just cause. First I landed on Bronx Bars, and thought I could do a Bronx Bar crawl, which I did attempt too but I never edited any of the footage and only filmed on my iPhone. Then Bronx Boys popped up in my head and I knew that would be the perfect title for my project.
4) How long did it take you to complete this project?
The project still isn’t complete yet. It’s a ton of work. The first four episodes took almost 3 months because there was so much trial and error. I’m still working on the last four episodes and my hope is that I can finish it in about 2 months. Actually, I shouldn’t say hope, because it has to be completed within that time frame, as the first four episodes are dropping before the last four are completed. So overall, it’s probably a 5 month long process.
5) How’d you go about choosing the boys in each episode? Why specifically did you choose to highlight boys?
I chose four boys who inspired me. In reality, they’re grown men, but the term “Boy” refers to their childhood and the idea that as the Bronx grows, so do they.
With the four that I’ve chosen, we’ve run in similar circles either from my childhood or my semi-recent involvement with The Bronx. Their passion and past had me in awe. I decided to highlight boys, because of my brother and all of the male individuals I’ve met who grew up in The Bronx. I felt as if these men encompass the Bronx overall. They’ve encountered Bronx violence. They’ve had to survive with less than ideal not ideal circumstances, but it didn’t matter. Their passion and their love for the Bronx didn’t falter.
6) Did you film and edit everything yourself? If so, what was that process like?
I did film and edit everything myself! The process was a mix of simple and insanely hard. On paper it’s setting up a time to meet with one of the men, interview them, capture b-roll, edit once footage is captured. But of course setting up times were difficult, because everyone is living their own life with their own busy schedule. Filming gets harder the colder it gets, and the more it rains. Then once I was done and it was time to edit, which was hard because the only feedback I had was mine. The only person I could really bounce ideas off of was myself. Eventually I did turn to other creatives for advice and opinions, but there was a lot of internal dialogue for this project.
7) What do you hope people gain from viewing this project?
I want them to gain insight and have conversations. By the end of all the episodes, I want them to wonder about The Bronx and everyone who lives in the borough. I want people to see how a Bronx Boy’s life is complicated, layered, and beautiful.
8) What was the biggest challenge in creating this project?
I think the biggest challenge was myself. I’ve had this idea for awhile now, but I always came up with excuses to wait. Even when the process finally began, I would be scared to film and once I got the courage up to actually film, I wouldn’t want to even look at the footage. I had to convince myself that this project didn’t have to be perfect, it just had to exist. I just had to get it out there for everyone to see.
Follow Adiana Rivera on her Instagram page., to stay up to date with the series.