When Grecia Aguilar was little, her mom would work night shifts. So, during the day, her mom would sometimes take Grecia and her two siblings to the movies to catch up on sleep.
“We made fun of her, like, ‘mom, you’re paying for a very expensive nap',” Grecia jokes. “But, it’s because she had to take care of us.”
Grecia ended up loving the movies. Even then, sitting in the darkness of the theater, she always knew that, one day, she’d become a filmmaker.
Grecia Aguilar at Columbia College Chicago | Grecia Aguilar
“In high school, I was editing a short film that was shot at Columbia College Chicago, cause that’s where my friend who helped us worked,” Grecia recounts.
At Columbia College Chicago, Grecia experienced a cultural shock of being one of the few Latinas in the department. In response, she joined a program called Latino Alliance in an effort to meet more Latino filmmakers. There, she met filmmaker Judy Febles, who would eventually become a friend and long-time collaborator.
“I graduated in 2013, so, it’s been a while,” Grecia smiles. “But, I always say that I wish I was still in school - I was just going to school and making movies. It was so much fun.”
After graduating, Grecia moved to New York City in pursuit of something new. The expensive city proved to be a real challenge and Grecia was forced to leave the film industry for a few years. Yet, even in those difficult years, Grecia always knew that she’d return to film - that this was just a blip.
“I know where I wanna be, but the journey in between is what's unknown,” she says.
2nd AC Christian Mejia slates Scene 1C, Take 4, for Something Like Intimacy | Grecia Aguilar
Grecia’s come a long way since her post-grad years in New York. Grecia remembers that while creating movies outside of college was difficult, she succeeded in returning to filmmaking by leaning on her community for support.
Similarly, she explores the value of platonic love and friendships through her new short film, Something Like Intimacy, about a young woman’s journey to find a connection over the course of one night.
“As women, we're always sold that you can only find intimacy through a romantic lover,” observes Grecia. “Through my experience, I’ve started figuring out that you can find intimacy with just about anyone. Yes, with a lover, but also with a friend.”
Grecia always knew that the story would end on an uplifting note about female companionship. She was especially moved by stories like Broad City and Insecure that focused on relationships that weren’t necessarily romantic. She also drew inspiration from a bunch of stories of her friends’ dating lives.
Over the course of five years, Grecia edited the story to become the short film that it is today.
“If you start building those platonic relationships, then you start building a bigger and stronger community,” Grecia ponders. “I truly believe that you need to build a village so you don’t rely on just one person for everything.”
Producer Judy Febles (left) and Writer/Director, Grecia Aguilar (right) have fun with extra Josh Romero (center) | Grecia Aguilar
Something Like Intimacy arose from Grecia engaging her filmmaking community, starting with Judy Febles. Judy worked on the film as both Producer and Production Designer.
“Setting it in a COVID-themed Halloween party also helped with the creativity of that because we had basically had a lot of boundaries, but also room to play as well,” Grecia adds.
The film is filled with pops of saturated color and an iconic pandemic-themed party. With Director of Photography Taylor Frontier, Grecia and Judy worked on mood boards that allowed for the team to be in sync with each other and the overall design of the movie.
However, there were also factors outside of their control. Judy had shown Grecia a photograph of a cafe that Grecia immediately fell in love with. After finally getting in touch with the location, they were unable to connect their follow-up calls.
As a result, Judy advised Grecia to begin looking for a Plan B.
“But, I really wanted that place cause it’s so freaking pretty and it’s a great ending to the movie, so I told Judy ‘yeah, I’ll come up with a Plan B’, but I knew that they would say yes,” Grecia admits. “Literally like three or four days before the shoot, they finally answered us.”
Eventually, Grecia would confess to Judy that she didn’t have a backup location since she wanted the cafe so badly. It would end up becoming a funny story between the two friends.
Shooting the last scene at Cafe Tola | Grecia Aguilar
“I love directing actors,” mentions Grecia. “I think it's so fun that every actor works differently.”
Grecia had Zoom meetings with each actor and sent them a biography of their characters. For Sara Gutierrez, she totally understood the character right off the bat. Yet, for Jonathan Connolly, he’d wanted an hour of character discussion to really feel settled into his performance. On the other hand, Grecia had dinner with Britney Wittes to establish a connection with her since Britney was the lead.
“I just had a lot of rehearsals,” Grecia reminisces. “Rehearsals are so important because it allows you time to play.”
Grecia also mentions that a lot of preparation went into preparing the talents for the film’s sex scene. In the days leading up to the shoot, Grecia and the actors got to know each other better and rehearsed to be comfortable with the choreography. She’d also done a lot of research into intimacy coordination. She’d practice consent with the actors over smaller physical acts such as hugs, as well as empower each actor to say no.
“We had a closed set,” says Grecia. “They (the actors) had built that intimate connection with each other already… I didn’t push for takes because I also wanted to be mindful of their comfortability.”
The main cast Jonathan Connolly (far left), Britney Wittes (left), and Sara Gutierrez (far right) with Grecia (right) | Grecia Aguilar
“I mean, honestly, I don't ever make a movie without my community,” notes Grecia, “like, it's impossible.”
When Grecia began production on Something Like Intimacy, fundraising was the hardest part for her. So, for eight months, she worked with her best friend, her sister, her sister’s boyfriend, Judy, and a few other loved ones to raise money. They hosted a massive fundraising event, a crowdfunding platform, as well as physically setting up a table on Lake Shore Drive and talking about the movie to people.
Grecia lovingly nicknamed the group the “fundraising committee”.
“I definitely feel pressure because it’s not just about me succeeding, it’s a whole community behind me succeeding,” Grecia explains. “But I think as long as you work hard, they'll see that and they'll understand.”
GRECIA AGUILAR is a Mexican-American director with a focus on exploring human connection and identity. Originally from Chicago she packed her bags and moved to New York City in 2015. There, she worked as an office PA for Dickinson S2 and on several productions as a script supervisor, Clams Casino, What She Said, and most notably, Ask For Jane.
Her film Brooklyn Street won best narrative at the 3 minute Santa Barbara film festival. Her short Portrait of a Young Woman, screened at several film festivals including the official Latino Short Film Festival and was broadcast nationwide through BronxNet.TV. Next, she will begin her work on her first feature film about her Mexican-American roots in the streets of Pilsen, Chicago.
With her latest short Something Like Intimacy, she hopes the message of the story transcends the film and inspires people to be vulnerable with themselves so that they might grow and be vulnerable with others.