Aguilar finds passion in film making, uses movie to convey social issues


Disha Kohli

Filmmaker and Coppell resident Danny Aguilar continues to add final touches on his new feature film, Lily is Here, before it is released in the spring this year. Lily is Here is Aguilar’s first feature film and focuses on a heroin addiction and the recovery from there. Photo taken by Disha Kohli.

Laasya Achanta, Staff Writer

After initially having an interest in broadcast journalism in high school, more than 20 years later, filmmaker Danny Aguilar returned to his passion and started producing movies. His first narrative feature film, Lily is Here will be released in the spring.


Aguilar’s journey to filmmaking is not typical. Instead of attending film school, Aguilar majored in chemical engineering at Saint Louis University as a stepping stone to medical school. As medical school proved to be too expensive, he decided to continue his career in chemical engineering.


“I was initially surprised my dad went into filming,” junior Sidekick staffer Kaylee Aguilar said. “I knew he went to film festivals, but I didn’t realize that he would go into producing.”


Up until six years ago, Mr. Aguilar focused on settling down and establishing a family and prioritized financial security. Once he became financially secure, he started his journey in cinema by volunteering in the Dallas community and attending Hollywood Film Institute – a two-day film school where students can learn about directing and producing films. Later on, Mr. Aguilar also volunteered for the Sundance Film Festival to further his knowledge in film.


After five years of volunteering at various independent film productions, Mr. Aguilar started producing various types of short films, from a narrative to a documentary. Last year, in Madrid, Spain, Mr. Aguilar transitioned from making short films into producing his first full length documentary film.


“It was a learning experience,” Mr. Aguilar said. “I thought to myself, ‘wow, this is fun and not really intimidating at all’, and that’s what led me into producing my first narrative feature film.”


Mr. Aguilar’s feature film, Lily is Here started as a short script written by Daniel Wells, a friend who belonged to the same Dallas film crew. Touched by the message of the story, Mr. Aguilar asked Wells to extend the initial length of the script from 15 to 30 pages.


“I was on my way from Dallas to Montreal, Canada and I read the script in the plane, and I was crying,” Mr. Aguilar said. “So when I got to my hotel, I called Daniel and said, ‘Hey Daniel, this is a beautiful story. I think we should do a feature film, can you write 75 pages?’ So he ended up writing the film in two week.”


As a producer, Mr. Aguilar then hired a director, Eve Butterly, who found ways to finance the film and made sure that everything ran smoothly until distribution.


“It’s a very involving job because in addition to the creative side, you have to weigh in the business side because you have to handle distribution,” Mr. Aguilar said.


Although Mr. Aguilar has loved the process of producing a feature film, he does not see himself making producing into his full time career.


“It started out as a hobby and I think that turned out really well because you’re not pressured to make money,” Mr. Aguilar said. “I realized that many of my friends who went in to [film] are struggling financially and I realized that if you struggle financially, it’s hard to be creative. Now that I’m a professional in what I do for a living, I get to have my own schedule where I can fit in my hobby and that has been working out pretty well.”


Even while undertaking such a big role in the making of a movie, Mr. Aguilar manages his time efficiently between two jobs and his home life.


“Since I was little, my dad was always a sociable person. At home, it’s hard to tell if he’s stressed sometimes because he loves to make us laugh,” CHS senior Alyssa Aguilar said. “I can’t imagine how hard he has to work to manage two jobs, but when he’s passionate about something, like filmmaking, he’s always determined to yield the best results. Of course, he still brings the same energy from home when he works with his movie team, and I find that really admirable.”


Lily is Here is a story about struggle, triumph and victory. The protagonist, Duncan, is a recovering heroin addict who tries to make amends with his family, friends and parents to prove anyone can change for the better. The story is relatable to Mr. Aguilar in a sense that it is about overcoming a struggle and becoming victorious at the end. For him, it was this experience that transpired into filmmaking.


“People don’t realize that that making a movie is really really hard,” Mr. Aguilar said. “It’s like making a product, you design it, you develop it. People used to not believe I could get a license and I did. I thrive off of challenges – if someone says I can’t do something, I will prove them wrong.”


To bring attention to the various instances of success prevailing obstacles, Mr. Aguilar started Carpe Diem Pictures which tackles stories with social relevance.


“My main goal is to inspire people. I want to take social issues and present them in visual format so that people can learn from it,” Mr. Aguilar said. “The reward is uplifting to me when I see people getting positively impacted by my film.”


Mr. Aguilar has also inspired his daughter, Kaylee, to become more accepting of herself.


“Academically, sometimes I’m disappointed in myself, but my dad lets me know that as long as you work hard, it’s fine,” Kaylee said. “He’s stern but is very encouraging and wants the best for me.”


Danny’s dream production is a musical production but as of right now, he is in pre-production for a short film called “The Quiet Man” – a film about an issue between a father and a son, which he hopes to finish by Father’s Day.