Alex Aguilar Jr.: A Happy Union
Performed by Bryce Dallas Howard
Life in Hollywood can be full of unexpected twists and turns worthy of any script, as you’ll find out in this story written by Jeremy Doner (Damages, The Killing). Watch the full video below performed by Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World, The Help) or read it in its entirety below.
A dark, oak-paneled room. Club chairs. Cigars. A place where alliances are formed.
Deals brokered. Where power comes to speak to power.
Okay, maybe it didn’t look quite like that. Maybe it looked more like this:
Point is, this isn’t a room where just anybody mixes. These are union bosses. And that’s where we meet our man, ALEX AGUILAR.
Okay, maybe he looks more like this:
Alex has come here representing the 1,000 members strong of Local 724. If you don’t know who that is, you’re not alone.
These are the manual laborers of the motion picture and television industry. The people who build the sets. Then tear them down because the director changed his mind. Then build them again. Then paint them blue because the studio wants blue. Then paint them green because blue didn’t test well. This is their mascot:
Yes, that’s the Greek god Sisyphus. And no, he’s not really their mascot. But he should be. And let’s just say that some other, ritzier unions haven’t always given them their due.
But Alex is representing them now. And there’s something about Alex that invites respect. He’s not flashy. Or loud. He speaks from the heart. You can tell because when he gets emotional, his eyes well up. That’s just how he rolls. And if he invites you over to his house, you better bring your appetite. Because he does not skimp on the brisket.
That’s why, over a career that has spanned dozens of movies including Spider-Man 3, Iron Man, and Captain America: The First Avenger, Alex has slowly, quietly, risen up the laborers’ ranks.
Until here he is. At a gathering of union bosses in the entertainment business. The newly elected Secretary-Treasurer of Local 724. The first Latino to ever hold this high office.
Out of the blue a rep from IATSE, the giant of entertainment industry unions, pulls Alex, the head of modest Local 724, aside and asks if he’s heard of the Motion Picture and Television Fund. They help people who’ve worked in film or TV who get old or sick or have financial trouble. They hold a fundraiser called A Day at the Races. If you like horses, and helping people, maybe Local 724 would consider being a sponsor.
Alex listens closely. And his eyes well up. This is emotional for him. When he finally gathers himself, he tells the IATSE rep he likes horses. And people. But that’s not the only reason he’s interested. You see, Alex was once one of the people the MPTF helped.
And off the stunned face of the IATSE rep, we FLASH BACK to:
Alex Aguilar, when he was about ten years old. Shortly after his parents immigrated here from Mexico, Alex’s father worked at a car wash. His mother worked as a housekeeper.
Let’s just say money was tight. Alex remembers when someone got sick, it meant a trip to the free clinic. One time, Alex’s mother didn’t have enough money to get to the clinic and back on the bus. So she gave him a choice. Take the bus there. Or ride it back.
Alex chose back. So his mother pushed him the eight miles there in a shopping cart.
So this is how Alex came to join Local 724. When Alex’s father got a job as a union laborer at a film studio, Alex saw everything change. Alex’s mother was able to stop working as a housekeeper. They bought a house. And when someone got sick, they could drive to their own doctor. In their own car.
So when Alex turned 18, he chose to follow his father into the union. Alex worked hard and saved. He married his middle-school sweetheart. They bought a house and started a family. Before they knew it, they had two beautiful kids. And a third child on the way.
Life was good. The year was 2007. Yes, the year the writers went on strike. Alex had just been hired onto a film that was ready to shoot. Until it wasn’t. Turns out, it needed rewrites. The studio sent Alex home for a couple weeks till the strike was over.
Four months later, the strike was dragging on. Their savings were gone. They were behind on their mortgage. And Alex’s pregnant wife couldn’t work because she was on bed-rest. Friends and family came by with groceries. Alex sold his car. But it wasn’t enough.
So there Alex was, setting up a crib for a baby that was coming any day, not knowing if he was even going to have a house. It was hard to believe, after all the years working so hard on films, how fast everything had gone wrong.
That’s when a friend mentioned MPTF. Alex called a social worker there. And the Fund was able to give Alex and his family the money they needed to pay the mortgage and the utilities.
It may not seem like much, but for the Aguilars, it was the difference between falling apart and getting by.
Thankfully, Alex and his family survived the writers’ strike. They kept the house. And welcomed a baby girl.
But the biggest miracle of all is, Alex still talks to writers. All thanks to MPTF. Because shit happens. Bubbles burst. Banks fail. Bones break. Green lights turn red. And when they do, you may need a helping hand.
It doesn’t mean you failed. It means you’re one of us. It’s not charity. It’s community. Which brings us back to the evening where the IATSE rep asked Alex if he’d help out with A Day at the Races.
In case you’re wondering, Alex said yes.