Adam Jones, filmmaker
Roseville native Adam Jones was only 19 when he moved to San Francisco, started working as an escort and became addicted to drugs. Jones, who finally ended up in rehab, is now 21, one-year sober and an aspiring filmmaker. In April he released an experimental art film Teaser, which documents his troubled past. The black-and-white short just screened in South Africa as part of the Durban Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Jones, who also works as a waiter, chatted with SN&R about his former life on the streets, inspirations and why he hopes the film will “make a small mark” in the LGBT community.
How did you end up as an escort?
I left Roseville at 17 and moved to New York for about two years. … I was so young, but being in a city full of artists gave me lots of material. I was studying [film] on my own, taking online classes. That’s when I came out. I spent a good two years there trying to figure out who I was and then came back to my hometown. … I immediately missed city life but … I had so little money, so I took a train to [San Francisco] and [rented] a room. I was doing nothing, I was just wandering around the city, doing some catering and modeling. … I was trying to make money and [escorting] was an option to make quick and easy money—and a lot of it. It was then that I really lost myself.
Lost yourself how?
I started experimenting with drugs. I was offered drugs daily. It started with weed, which led to harder drugs. I was also taken advantage of by older men. I was young and naive. I was selling my body for money, I had no self-worth and no respect. I started shooting footage around the city; I went to the gritty areas and started shooting the homeless and in alleyways. That gave me some material to use for Teaser.
And then what?
I was making a couple thousand dollars a night, [but] one day I woke up—I had gotten to the point where I knew that this wasn’t what I wanted. I saw a lot of guys like me doing the same thing or in situations that were worse than mine. I got on a train and moved back to Sacramento; I’d met someone online who had introduced me to meth and I tried it with this guy, and that’s when the nine-month roller coaster started.
I was homeless, moving from house to house, couch surfing, trying to figure out where to go. This guy online offered me a place to stay and that gave me comfort, but also led to destruction and daily drug use.
Where did the filmmaking come in?
Anyone who tries drugs for the first time learns to have some kind of hobby while under the influence. Mine was taking cellphone videos and putting filters on them—that helped me make sense of what I was doing. I started uploading them [to Vimeo] and that gave me the idea to make films. … It was a kind of art, and I wanted to make something good out of something bad.
What finally led to rehab?
I was going to my mom’s to get a bite to eat. She’d see what I was doing and was so disgusted. She’d make me look in the mirror. She’s a nurse and had insurance [which covered] rehab. I went to a camp rehab the first time, in Santa Cruz. I was there four days and left, hopped on a bus and went straight back to the guy’s house where I’d been staying. I thought I could control it, that it was just for fun … from there it just spiraled.
I had three more attempts and then the fourth attempt after one night when I was using and [hallucinating] that people were chasing me. I ended up in downtown Sacramento, barefoot and wandering around. That's when I realized, “What am I doing? What has my life become?” It was an awakening—a spiritual awakening. … I was in rehab for 30 days and helped by a good group of instructors. I've been out of rehab for one year now.
What led to the film?
It took months after treatment to really have a sober frame of mind and clear approach to the story and get the visuals I had in my mind together. I had all these narratives [that were] dreamlike, a representation of the destruction. I threw $200 down to a local filmmaker to shoot some footage for me but it didn’t turn out, so I decided to capture it on my own. I grabbed a video camera and started revisiting locations I’d had a binge at: the home [where I stayed], the apartment complex I hung out at, where everything started. I was wandering around, reliving those experiences.
I’m such a fan of Kenneth Anger, a gay filmmaker from the ’40s, for his vision and his artistic [style]. As a kid, I was a big fan of J.J. Abrams, I was a big fan of Alias. I love the way Rob Zombie recreated Halloween and made his own rendition of it.
You’ve said this film represents the “darker” side of the LGBT community —how so?
I know a lot of young guys like myself who are probably experimenting with the same things I have: the drug of choice that’s popular right now, the community of the moment. My philosophy is making a horrible experience into something good and trying to make sense of what your experience was, instead of forgetting and moving on. Specifically to young men who have dealt with same things I have, what I’m saying through this [film] is always remember that it can get better. Focus on the future. There are plenty of gay men who don’t use drugs at all and probably wouldn’t understand my type of film at all, but for people who are struggling right now, this is for them.