Taylor Aguilar ’22 was a second year MFA production student who had just begun working on her thesis film when she suddenly started going blind in May of 2020. After an eight-month stint at the Colorado Center for the Blind, she returned to write, produce, and direct her film, “Sol,” which was recently shown to a packed audience in Mayer Theater.
Aguilar was diagnosed with intracranial hypertension, a rare disease that causes pressure to build on the optic nerve. At blind school, she had to completely re-learn how to navigate her surroundings. Back at LMU, she began an independent study under the leadership of assistant professor of production Karen Smalley. “She is a force of nature…with her unstoppable drive and her successful management of a large crew, she has made a remarkable film,” Smalley says.
Aguilar was originally drawn to SFTV for its collaborative atmosphere, something she had trouble finding when visiting other film schools. “They’re just genuine, kind, compassionate people,” she says of the SFTV community. As a blind filmmaker, collaboration is now more essential than ever, and Aguilar had to put a lot of trust in her crew to bring her vision for “Sol” to life. The film is a coming-of-age story based on her relationship with her mom. It was created in her hometown of Pueblo, Colorado using grants from LMU, The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and Panavision.
Aguilar, who is known for emphasizing safe spaces and mindfulness on set, is now motivated to speak out as an activist for those with disabilities who want to work in film. “There’s a lot of prejudice in the industry. If people are more open to those with disabilities, there will be more innovative solutions, because we’re always having to troubleshoot,” she says.
As someone who doesn’t consider herself very technically minded, Aguilar has found tactile ways to discuss scenes. Instead of storyboarding with sketches, she uses Legos to talk through camera angles and the locations of actors on set. Her Director of Photography, Sophie Gemelas, found the tactile approach to be very helpful and hopes to incorporate it in future productions.
Through an experience fraught with frustration and grief, Aguilar has found some silver linings. “I definitely believe good things can happen from bad situations,” she says. She met her partner Tommy at the Colorado Center for the Blind, and they recently welcomed a baby girl named Violet who has become a driving force for Aguilar. “I want my daughter to know that I overcame challenges in pursuit of my dream.”