The first few months of COVID were really tough for me. I had no idea how long it was going to last, if it was even as deadly as people were saying, and if it meant I would be unemployed forever.
Previously, I worked for Spectrum going door-to-door in South Central, CA. In short, I was basically the guy no one wanted to talk to. As hard and thankless as my job was, it was somewhat rewarding because at least I could earn some decent money that people my age wouldn’t really earn. COVID changed all that.
I feared for my life. Things got worse at work because my job required us to keep hitting and didn’t provide us with any personal protective equipment. I had people spitting on me and even having guns pointed at me because they didn’t want me there, that’s understandable.
Since I had no way of knowing if people were sick or not, and I couldn’t tell people to put on a mask in their homes, my work was pointless and frankly not worth it. The services eventually became free for California residents within the first two months of the pandemic, so not only did I get no sales, but I was essentially forced to work for free.
This may sound like a rant, but because of the experiences I endured as a door-to-door sales rep at Spectrum, I realized enough was enough. I started applying for jobs I knew I could do, jobs I had studied for. I desperately wanted to work in film again and since some of my family members work in visual effects, I thought that would be my best bet.
I’ve seen openings for MoCap Vaults, Rouge MoCap, and other studios that focus on motion capture. I may not have had all the experience, nevertheless, I showed them that I was ready to work and learn, so I applied and sent my resume. But nothing came back.
I had considered going back to school and finishing my associate degree in filmmaking a few months before. I had seen pictures of friends and former graduate classmates on Instagram and realized this was a unique opportunity. Ivan Zermeno would no longer feel incomplete or wonder “what if I had continued my studies?”
But it wasn’t immediate. The situation with Spectrum had really shaken me up and I needed time to collect myself mentally and physically, since I wasn’t eating or sleeping. I went from having a job that set irrational goals, like selling a phone service that most of the time no one had heard of locally, to not having to worry at all. So, in reality, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
I decided to hide in my grandmother’s garage and started training again, the same way a prisoner serves his sentence or a caterpillar hides until I am ready to conquer the world. But after a moment of confinement, I felt that I needed to get out. I didn’t want to alienate myself and become a stranger to everyday life, like many others have throughout quarantine.
In addition, I got into film photography. I found it soothing and it helped ease my mind. It captures a moment, as if beauty has frozen forever in the time around it, even though some of my photos weren’t that beautiful. I wasn’t really good at it, technically.
I started looking for photography classes and ended up enrolling in El Camino College for Spring 2020 because I had heard good things about the photography classes here at ECC. Seeing that it was part of the requirements of journalism and that it went hand in hand with cinema, I decided to get into it.
Eventually, I found myself taking more and more classes and I really felt like I was somebody again. I quickly put together a resume and portfolio with all my photos and years of working in film for jobs and schools to look at, but suddenly I got a phone call.
It was a miracle. A buddy of mine told me that a studio he knew had an opening and that because of unemployment, people would rather cash checks than go back to work. People weren’t even applying. Needless to say, I was very hesitant to apply as I had just started school again, but I’ve been with the company for over a year now and I can’t tell you how much my life has changed. .
This job opened so many doors for me, because I was able to participate in video game and film shoots, and I met so many new people.
I finally found a job I wanted, where I can feel like myself and be good at it, and all thanks to COVID.
Yes, the past two years have been some of the hardest times I’ve ever had, as I lost loved ones, sometimes had no money and almost went crazy, but I don’t wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for this unique opportunity to go back to school and have the career I wanted.