We had the good fortune of connecting with Aaron Agrasanchez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aaron, do you think college made a positive impact on your life and career? Do you think it was worth the price tag?
I studied film and many people in this industry will say that getting that degree is the biggest waste of money and time. They will say that you can learn everything just by working in the industry. I think this is true to an extent, but I can’t speak on behalf of everyone. I can only speak on behalf of myself. The short answer to this question is: yes, it was worth the price tag going to school. And yes it made a positive impact on my life and career. The long answer to this question… Well let me start off by saying that I was already ahead of the game in comparison to the other students when I first got into the University of Miami. I don’t say this to brag, but I say it prove a point. I knew the fundamentals, had already started a small business in video and photography and had experience in all aspects of creating content. What was unique about film school was that I was pushed to make films. Before I was making videos, which is not the same thing. Probably the best part, was that I was active and constantly writing, directing and in post-production for projects due for class. Although these were all film assignments that needed to get done for a grade, non of the serious students ever saw it that way. We saw it as an opportunity to cast a vision into a film and practice our craft in the field. I don’t know who in Hollywood can say that they have that opportunity. Film school forced us to make films. It carved me to become a hell of a filmmaker and fast. When you’re working with a zero budget in all of your projects, you have to be creative, especially if you want it to stand out. In undergrad I focused on the production side of things. I was making films that stood out. They had exotic locations, great performances, impeccable cinematography, huge production value for the student level, but I was always left frustrated in the film festivals. My films always blew the others out of the park but I would never get the best film award. At first this bothered me but now I am glad it happened because I was able to figure out what I was doing wrong. The problem is that my stories were no good. I was focusing on everything but the storyline. I now know this is the most important factor in making a good film. It’s like cooking a dish with all of the best ingredients, all of the best kitchen utensils, top of the line chef and personnel, all presented in the fanciest way except doing it all without a good recipe. Of course that meal isn’t going to taste very good, no matter how well it was made and how much effort it was put into it. No one will find it all that satisfying once they try the dish. Immediately after graduating I wen’t right into pursing my MFA in film again. This time I focused a lot less on producing content and focused more on story. As a matter of fact I completely detached myself and availability from my classmates. They wen’t on to form friendships, bonds and make films together all without me. Not because they didn’t like me, but because I wasn’t interested in doing that at the moment. I was taking screenwriting courses and re-taking them again and again and was constantly failing to come up with good scripts. If there’s anyone that knows writer’s block, it’s me. I remember I didn’t get an A in a course just because I came in one day and said to the entire class: “I got nothing.” During this struggle, I came across a script that someone else wrote and I had the grand opportunity to direct my first serious feature length film, all while in school. This film wen’t on to get sold to HBO but I couldn’t make this film without film school. I was blessed to be surrounded by the faculty guiding me throughout the process, holding my hand. I was lucky to have access to all of the school’s equipment and facilities. If you take it all into account, we ended up saving a lot of money that could have been spent if I was never a part of the University of Miami. For this, I am forever grateful. Also in school, I was asked to start teaching which I still do to this day. This is something I never saw myself doing and now I absolutely love. Seeing a student go from zero to one hundred in the matter of one semester is one of the most rewarding things to witness. Knowing that you had a big part in that is so encouraging. I am glad to say that at the end of my student career at the University of Miami, I was able to finally understand the screenwriting craft. I am not perfect, nor am I the best, but I get it now. I understand story and what makes a good film work. Soon I’ll be directing a film with a great story that I had the blessing of co-writing. This is a big accomplishment for me considering the struggle before this. When I hear people say that film school is a waste of time, money and worthless, I just smile and am reminded of what film school did for me.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My art is film. It’s not only my art, but it’s my passion. I tell everyone that if it was ever taken away from me I’d be on the street. Everything I do is revolved around this. I direct independent films, I oversee a small business in video production and I teach at the University of Miami. I am not one to boast about myself but I think that something that sets me apart from others is that whatever I have interest in, I do with passion. Because of this, the results that come out of what I do in the process are great. If I put my mind and efforts into it, it’s going to come out good. This translates to anything from cooking to fitness and ultimately to my work and career. I am so proud that I get to be revolved around passionate filmmakers and have had the blessing of making films on a small level in Miami. This has bettered me and those around me who are creating this content with me. We’ve started something good and we plan to keep on going. We’re in pre-production for a film I’m set to direct right now and I am so excited about this film. The story is absolutely fabulous. It’s one that I co-wrote with Tom Musca, an established screenwriter/producer/professor. Nothing is easy, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a drag. I’ve had fun in this process and so have the others. I can’t think of myself doing anything else but this. I know the struggles won’t stop coming, but these struggles are the reasons that are making me a better filmmaker. Overcoming challenges comes down to having a strong mind and not taking defeat as a solution. Once you’re in, there’s no way out. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to call things off but decided to keep to it and don’t regret it for a second. We’re in a state that currently doesn’t support film or have the incentives that other places do, but that’s not stopping us. We’ve decided to carry on and create our own culture. Something special is happening here in Miami. We strive to make our films be diverse and extremely visual. We have the best backlot in the world. Miami is our playground to make films. The weather doesn’t help us, or the lack of resources & money, but we always figure it out. I want people to know that if you want to do something, go out and do it. You can sit down and come up with any excuse not to take a leap of faith. As soon as you let just one of those negative thoughts get in the way, you’re done. Go out and do what you love. You’re probably going to fail, but this will only make you better. Roll with the punches because life is trying to shape you. Be glad in times of adversity, because you can only go up from there.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
Miami is like no other city in the country. We are so lucky to have the most diverse group of people in the world all living in one place. People are shocked when they visit because everyone is speaking a different language, the weather is great, the people are drop dead gorgeous and the amount of things to do are countless. If I had a visitor and I wanted to show them a good time in Miami, it would not be difficult. As a matter of fact they wouldn’t even need me because they can literally walk outside and not come back with how much there is to do and see. I’d start by taking them to my favorite spots. I love good food and good drinks. My favorite spots always leave a good impression on guests. Miami’s financial district, Brickell is full of restaurants worth checking out. A must see is the rooftop at the East hotel. Brickell City Centre offers a fantastic Italian restaurant, Casa Tua, market style with great service and my favorite food. If I wanted to give them an upscale but tropical experience I would take them to Joia Beach club during the day. I am a big fan of brunch, so I would show my friends the restaurants I personally have found to be the best for this. During the week I’d take them to my top 5 happy hours where we really get to see the Miami crowd. I am not much of a night person in terms of going out, but I love dinners. So After the night is done we would probably just do something relaxed. I love new experiences and good service, so I’ll make sure my guests have that experience. If it’s game day, I’ll invite my friends to a Miami Heat basketball game where we can enjoy a buffet at the Grey Goose flagship lounge and enjoy the Vice festivity’s that the team has made so popular. I usually get in the mood for Key West every few months. This is when I want to just get out of Miami and have some fun. I make it a day trip and leave Miami right after my morning workout routine. I’ll eat my first meal somewhere half way about an hour and a half into the drive and then keep going to check into this nice boutique hotel I like in Key West, the Cabana Inn. They offer a guest happy hour which is perfect. We will enjoy that, then find a spot for dinner and enjoy the local bars with live music the rest of the night. This is a great escape if you want to get a different flavor of Florida. The next day we will enjoy the morning and early afternoon in Key West and make sure we arrive in Islamorada for dinner to catch the sunset. I usually like Morada Bay or Lorelei’s. That’s the nice thing about Miami. So much to do, and it’s not just Miami Beach like how we see in the movies.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
A few deserve recognition in my story. Of course the first one is God, because without Him I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything I’ve ever done. I give zero credit to myself and all glory to Him. Next are both of my parents. Not many people can say that they were able to pursue their passion career because their parents didn’t support them. I was blessed enough to grow up in a family surrounded by film and eventually become a fourth generation filmmaker. I admire my father and the work he’s done and am so happy to be able to work alongside him. Family is everything to me and working with him and my brother is something so special. Tom Musca has been and continues to be a huge mentor to me. He’s the guy who holds all knowledge and wisdom about this industry in my life. This is someone I trust and can call at any time with questions. I’ve not only been his student but am now a collaborator with him. Best of all, he is a great friend. I’ve always said that Carlos Lopez Estrada has been a huge role model for me. He’s doing big things and has been for some time now, but has always remained humble. I hope to one day be on his level. This is someone I knew at a young age and have witnessed him escalate in his career. What he has been able to accomplish in such a short time is extremely admirable. I can go on and talk about others but those are the people in my life that deserve all the credit in the world for who I am now and where I’ve gotten in my story. I know that the best is yet to come, and the story continues.
Instagram: @aaronagra91 & @aaafilmproductions
Nominate someone: ShoutoutMiami is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.