For Chris Aguilar, being in front of the camera is fun. However, he also enjoys being behind the camera as a director of his movies.
The longtime Odessan has enjoyed doing both as he continues his education with the New York Film Academy.
Just recently, Aguilar saw his own music video (in which he starred, directed and sung) get released by JS Studios, which is headquartered here in Odessa at 700 N. Grant Ave., Suite 120.
The music video, titled “Paradise” is currently on YouTube and can be viewed at https://youtu.be/b53keH7DkJw.
Seeing his ideas come to life in his music video has been rewarding.
“I think what’s cool is that you can make your own stuff happen and you can kind of cross platform and you saw that with the music video,” Aguilar said. “I incorporate my music with my filmmaking to make a story. That’s where it comes to play in my advantage. In the music and movie industry, that can really help out with the characters I’m portraying.”
For Aguilar, his passion for filmmaking goes back to when he was in elementary school, but his love of making music videos is one that’s relatively new even though he’s been big into singing for most of his life.
“For music videos, I started recently going into that,” Aguilar said. “As far as filmmaking, I started that back in 2019. As far as music though, I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember but as far as an actual hobby, probably since I was a kid in elementary school,” Aguilar said.
Aguilar, who graduated from Permian High School in 2017, went to Odessa College for one year where he majored in music.
After taking a year off, he enrolled in the New York Film Academy where he is finishing up his second semester.
Like most other students, because of the COVID pandemic, he’s had to take his classes online.
“I attended a workshop for two weeks last summer when COVID was on the rise,” Aguilar said. “It worked in my favor because I got to stay home and work on those workshops. Then, I figured this would be the place where I’d want to continue my studies. Then I applied for the bachelor’s of fine arts for acting and film at New York Film Academy. I started this past spring.”
Aguilar said he’s hopeful that by the end of this year or the start of 2022, he can make the move to New York to attend classes in-person, but most of that is still up in the air.
“We’re still working out the kinks because the world is still getting back to normal,” Aguilar said.
Some of the classes that Aguilar has taken at film school include Acting for Film, Acting Technique and Scene Study.
“I also did audition class and New Medias,” Aguilar said. “Those are previous classes that I’ve taken.”
As far as taking film classes online, there have been challenges, but Aguilar says part of it has worked in his favor as he’s still been able to work on projects in Odessa including his music video.
“I’ve had a lot of leverage in terms of what I have to my access here,” Aguilar said. “The music video production was there but it was just a few friends of mine with a camera set up. That’s where I see the pros, but the con is that for the acting exercise and continuing studies, I feel like it’ll be better in-person but I’m pulling through and it’s coming along.”
Aguilar has been working with JS Studios for almost a year now.
When making “Paradise,” Aguilar said it all started with the music and shortly started collaborating with studio A&R director Jeremy Sauceda.
“I was here in the studio and I was telling Jeremy about how cool it would be to write a song and we talked about the concept about it.”
After two months, the beat was made and the song was written.
“We took our time with it,” Aguilar said. “I wanted to make a storyline out of it. … That’s how that came about. The song was there from an experience and a vision and we just executed it.”
“Paradise” follows a tragic story of a guy (played by Aguilar) who is murdered by an ex-lover and finds himself in the desert or “purgatory.”
He then wakes up to find himself with an unknown person (aka the Devil, even though it is mostly left up to the viewer to decide who he is) and is then given another life and taken to Las Vegas.
“You see my character all wounded and then he is crossed by this guy (metaphorically the Devil) who gives him a second chance in life,” Aguilar said. “I wanted to keep it as vague as possible to show a downfall of a person out of sadness and how he picks himself back up.”
At first viewing, the video appears to have been filmed in the Sahara Desert.
But closer examination will show that it was actually shot over at Monahans Sandhills State Park with the stunts done by Aguilar himself.
“That was an interesting shoot,” Aguilar said. “It was a two-day shoot. I had to fall off a sand hill twice, toppling down. It was taxing, but rewarding because I love doing stunts. I wanted to try my hand at that.”
The Las Vegas scenes, however, actually involved Aguilar to travel with four other people to Nevada where they filmed the rest of the video in the famous city.
The shooting took place in March and involved four days of filming all of which had to be done at night.
“That was a crazy time because we got there and had to shift our schedules,” Aguilar said. “The whole video takes place at night so a lot of the shots, especially with Las Vegas being a big city, we had to do this in the middle of the night.”
Aguilar said he and the film crew had to wake up at 3 p.m. and have “breakfast” before beginning to shoot after sunset.
Filming would last until 8-9 a.m. before it was off to bed and then back at it the next night. There was no time for a gambling break.
“We worked as soon as we landed in Las Vegas with not a second to waste,” Aguilar said.
JS Studios has been in business since last fall, but Sauceda has been involved with producing music for almost 20 years now.
“I’ve always loved making music,” Sauceda said. “I’ve been doing it for 15-16 years. I was in the age of no YouTube or anything like that, of being able to learn all these different things. I had to teach myself as far as creating melodies and creating beats. That’s where it originated from.”
With only seven artists currently, Sauceda says they are looking to expand and do more at JS Studios.
“I’m constantly coming up with more ideas as with us doing more podcasts and more shows,” Sauceda said.
Aguilar has made two music videos and one regular film so far. For him, making music videos has offered its own variety of creativity.
“I like doing stuff on the edge,” Aguilar said. “Music videos, you can make them difficult. It’s up to you. You can put a story to it. Mine, on the other hand, I like to do crazy shots. … I like to make mine as challenging as possible.”
As a kid, Aguilar would watch tons of movies and dream of being a lead actor.
However, after watching bonus features on DVDs, he soon fell in love with the whole process of putting a movie together.
That passion continues to follow him throughout film school.
“I was so fascinated with the behind the scenes footage,” Aguilar said. “It wasn’t until recently when I bought a camera and I realized that if I wanted to be in front of the camera, I had to be behind the camera. I would see the magic of editing and movements and the different shots and see how the shots work on a different film. My passion started growing. I’m blown away by what I’ve learned and I’m looking to learn more.”