This article has been updated.

The public, in-person premiere of a television series pilot produced by young San Antonio filmmakers is back on.

“Salesman,” a television series made by Amadeo Rivas and James Ybarra set in 1990s-era San Antonio, will run at 8:30 p.m. at Alamo City Studios, with screenings of the 40-minute episode to continue until midnight.

Overwhelming interest first forced the cancellation of the public event planned for a limited-capacity Santikos Entertainment screening room.

The rescheduled event remains free and open to public, with a 50-person capacity for each screening. The episode will also be viewable online starting at 8:30 p.m. and running until midnight.

Close viewers of the made-for-TV series pilot Salesman will notice a familiar backdrop in several scenes: Maria’s Cafe on Nogalitos Street.

In 2021, Rivas took the top prize in the city Film Commission’s #FilmSA contest for Maria’s Café: A Small Business in a Big World, a short documentary on the 30-year-old family-run restaurant that Rivas made with filmmaker Evan Materne.

Since winning that award, Rivas has teamed up with fellow filmmaker James Ybarra to produce Salesman, a new series set in the drug-infested netherworld of 1990s San Antonio.

The use of classic cars and the ageless interior of Maria’s Cafe signals Rivas’ interest in the look and feel of vintage filmmaking, one reason he set his new series in the San Antonio of the mid ’90s.

At ages 21 and 27, however, Rivas and Ybarra weren’t yet born into the world they represent onscreen.

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved period pieces,” Rivas said. Movies such as Goodfellas by Martin Scorcese, which recounts the life of a Brooklyn mobster from the 1950s through the 1970s, similarly recreate lost times and places using vintage vehicles and well-preserved urban settings.

Vintage San Antonio spots make appearances in Salesman, including the red breeze block ’50s-era El Montan Motor Hotel on North San Pedro Avenue, and the defunct White Rabbit nightclub — now operating as Paper Tiger — with a sign advertising “Yung Punk Fest.”

A scene from <I>Salesman</I> recreates the White Rabbit rock venue before it became Paper Tiger.
A scene from Salesman recreates the White Rabbit rock venue before it became Paper Tiger. Credit: Courtesy / Broken Window Films

The current owners of Paper Tiger were very accommodating of the young filmmakers, Rivas said. “We threw a real punk show, and then we used that as an excuse to film.”

The first episode is set one month after Chicana pop sensation Selena was murdered in Corpus Christi in 1995, Rivas said, reflecting a time period when “everything started to get darker.”

San Antonio was known for its gang-related violence at the time, and the show unflinchingly chronicles the drug trafficking, sex trafficking and other issues affecting the Hispanic community, including gentrification, Rivas said.

“It’s all based on a lot of true things that happened,” Rivas said, “and we feel like it should be talked about.” However, the young filmmakers approach these serious topics with a gritty sense of humor, describing their show as a “crime-guy comedy satirizing life in San Antonio.”

Also on the lighter side, he said, the show features music made on the city’s West Side, from traditional Tejano music to Chicano Soul, including a song by Westside Sound pioneers The Royal Jesters.

“It’s a love letter to San Antonio,” Rivas said of their approach to the show.

The Salesman pilot was made on a shoestring budget, with friends, family and colleagues of the filmmakers chipping in time and effort. While they readily admit they are essentially “broke” after making the pilot, Rivas, Ybarra and co-executive producer Colby Guillory hope the episode inspires financial support that would eventually land the series on a streaming service such as Hulu or Netflix.

“We’re selling this concept to people,” said Ybarra, who joined the project as a co-writer and also acts in the show. “I think it’s more important to get it out there than to make an immediate profit off of it.”

Ybarra said he and Rivas have scripted a full three-season story arc for what could eventually become the television series.

“Whether we produce it or not, it’s a show that needs to be made,” Ybarra said.

Correction: an earlier version of this story misidentified the host of the #FilmSA contest.

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with an indie rock...