BRENTWOOD -- Realizing his lifelong dream has been a long road for Gus Guardado, one that's demanded perseverance and involved risks.

But the 34-year-old Heritage High School teacher finally has finished what he started, and on Saturday he's displaying his accomplishment for all to see.

A feature-length movie that Guardado wrote, directed and produced will appear on the big screen in Concord for one night.

Although the project took seven years from concept to premiere, Guardado recalls the process as if in a time warp.

"It doesn't feel like I announced in '09 that I was going to be doing this," he said. "The making of it just flew by. Any filmmaker will tell you that a production feels like a hurricane."

Guardado describes "Love, Concord" as a "coming-of-age teen romance a la John Hughes," referring to the late director known for his string of 1980s adolescent comedies that included "Sixteen Candles" and "The Breakfast Club."

The 90-minute film is semi-autobiographical, featuring a high school senior who's the class clown and strikes out with girls. When a studious young woman presents him with another chance at love, Gerry -- aka Guardado -- must decide whether his campus antics or the relationship is more important.

"You don't forget your high school romance -- I had lots of material," he said.

Shot over three weeks, the movie depicts a handful of locations around Concord, including Concord High School, where Guardado graduated in 1997.

Other scenes were filmed at Diablo Valley College, in Martinez, and on the Heritage High campus in Brentwood.

The cast of 121 includes 95 extras, including two former Heritage High School students who were in Guardado's video production classes.

Humble beginnings

Guardado's earliest memory of working behind a camera is shooting a mock news report for an eighth-grade history project, and by the time he graduated from high school, he knew he wanted to be a filmmaker.

After earning a Master of Fine Arts in film production, he worked as a gofer for a studio and later dubbed commercials and appeared in video game trailers before becoming a teacher.

The jobs didn't satisfy his creative urges, however, and when a friend suggested he make a film that was relevant to him, Guardado decided to pursue that avenue.

He wrote the screenplay for "Love, Concord" in 2005 -- the first of nine drafts -- brought in a former college instructor as a co-producer, and in the summer of 2009, he began an interactive blog to promote the project and marshal help.

Guardado called in favors and asked for volunteers as well as suggestions: Was there anyone who could round up costumes? Who wanted a bit part?

What should he name the film? Where are some good spots to shoot?

By year's end he was ready to start assembling a cast, drawing on his network of contacts in academia as well as using an industry website and Craigslist to find actors.

After that, Guardado put a film crew together; there was a production sound recordist to find as well as an associate producer and assistant director.

He began filming in June of 2010 on a budget he had cobbled together from personal savings, a handful of fundraisers and outright donations from friends and family.

After several weeks of 12-hour days, the movie was a wrap.

Three weekslong picture editing sessions followed, after which it was time to refine the soundtrack by adding background effects and music and ensuring the dialogue was at a consistent volume.

And then Guardado faced the biggest challenge of all up to that point: going public.

He began submitting the final cut to film festivals in the hope of not only showing it to audiences but getting a distributor to buy it so his work could enjoy a wider release.

But Sundance Film Festival turned him down. So did the next event and the one after that. Guardado received four rejections before the New York International Latino Film Festival gave him the nod for a one-day run in August.

Since then he's had two verbal offers from distributors, and on Wednesday,

"Love, Concord" was accepted to the Miami International Film Festival.

Guardado's now waiting to hear whether he'll be showing his movie at a couple of other festivals he's applied to.

Guardado also plans to pitch his movie as a TV or Web series and predicts there will be more films in his future.

But one thing Guardado won't be doing is quitting his day job.

"(Teaching) gives me the avenue to share my passion," he said.

And Guardado believes that passion keeps him on top of his game in the classroom.

"If I stop making films, I'll eventually become a poor teacher because you're not honing your craft," he said. "It's like an athlete not training. You'll eventually become fat and flabby. The day I become that teacher is the day I quit."

Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/rowenacoetsee.

IF YOU GO
What: "Love, Concord"
When: 7 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. Saturday
Where: Brenden Theatres 14, 1985 Willow Pass Road, Concord
Cost: $10, no passes