Moonlighting: Sailor finds success with video production company

By Debra Vaughn

By day, Rafael Guzman is a sailor stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

When he’s finished with that job, he comes home to another, his own video production company called RTA Video and Photo Productions.

It’s not uncommon for veterans or spouses of active-duty personnel to start a business.

Running a business while also working for Uncle Sam presents extra challenges. There are deployments and, when home, the potential for odd hours. Business owners may get a good network of clients established, only to be transferred to a new base.

None of those issues seem to be slowing Guzman down.

Guzman, 36, and his wife and business partner, Toni, moved here in May from his last duty station in Connecticut. They knew they wanted to more seriously pursue the business and purchased new equipment in anticipation.

Not long after they arrived in Oak Harbor, Guzman scored his first commercial with Island Sewing and Vacuum. Since then, his clients include the Whidbey Island Kite Festival, a local 5k event and The Handbag Consignment Shop in Coupeville. A promotional video for his business featuring scenic shots of Whidbey Island nabbed more than 100,000 views on the internet. You can see samples of his work at his website at www.rtaproductions.com.

“He was fantastic — extremely professional and helpful,” said Melissa Riker, an event organizer who hired him to film the 5K Resolution Run and Polar Bear Plunge in January.

Guzman put in his own miles running up and down the race course, filming participants. Riker said she was able to post the finished product to social media and share with event participants. She said she has zero reservations about hiring him again.

He films weddings, military ceremonies, commercials, music videos and the like. He can even create a “save the date” video — that’s a thing now — for engaged couples to share online with family and friends. He primarily handles the filming and his wife helps with administrative work. He estimates he puts in around 10 hours a week and far more with larger projects.

Prices for his services vary. A commercial, for instance, starts at $645 plus tax.

Their daughter, Aurora, 9, helps too. Guzman is teaching her to film and she loves it — although she’s still a little short and may need to stand on something to get the right shot.

Guzman fell into video production by chance. In high school he was assigned the subject as an elective. At first he wasn’t thrilled. But he enjoyed it and had a knack for it. After high school, he filmed weddings and quinceaneras — a traditional Hispanic coming of age party for girls — as a side venture.

“It comes naturally to me,” he said. “I enjoy the equipment and watching the final product. It’s another way to express yourself in an artistic way.”

Guzman and his wife, who met in Montclair, Calif., have always been business-minded. They had their own business selling Kirby vacuums, but that failed when the financing dried up during the recession.

In 2010 Guzman enlisted in the Navy and he’s served two deployments on a submarine as a sonar tech.

The Guzmans are enjoying their new home but they didn’t anticipate the location might be an impediment for some clients. Guzman said he lost jobs in the Seattle area when clients found out he’s on North Whidbey.

Fitting jobs in with his Navy schedule also can be an issue. He works around it with careful planning that sometimes requires taking time off work well in advance.

The Guzmans aren’t sure what the future holds for their business. They plan to continue adding more clients. Now, the profits are reinvested into equipment, which can be expensive. Perhaps someday they’ll be able to focus on the business as a full-time venture, he said.

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