Aubrie Aguilar medals in state UIL film competition with short ‘Unrequited Love?’

A film still from “Unrequited Love?” by Marfa High School Senior Aubrie Aguilar.

MARFA — Marfa High School senior Aubrie Aguilar has advanced to state finals in the University Interscholastic League’s (UIL) annual film competition in the 3A and digital animation categories for her short film “Unrequited Love?” 

This weekend Aguilar will travel to Austin for a screening to honor the medalists. Last year, Aguilar advanced to the state semi-finals for her film “Heartbeat.” Her new three-minute short “Unrequited Love?” features a main character who is unsure if his crush on a classmate is mutual, set to the song “Looking Out For You” by Joy Again. 

It’s a classic high school romance tale with a twist: boy pines over girl, two friends decide to intervene to get the couple together, the boy gets up the courage to confess his feelings, but the film ends abruptly before the viewer learns if they’re returned by his crush. 

“I knew that I wanted the girl to be the clumsy one and the one that was just oblivious to the way the boy felt about her,” said Aguilar. “It was kind of cheesy, but I was like, hey, it’s a little love story.” 

Aguilar said the song that plays throughout short film — which includes the lyrics, “This is a love song for a girl who will never know its about her, I know it’s pretty stupid, but I’m much too shy to tell her,” — helped inspire the film. 

“When I listen to some songs, I’m like, visualizing a whole movie,” said Aguilar. “So I started brainstorming while listening to the song.” 

Group photo: Film crew members and Marfa ISD teachers involved with the short film “Unrequited Love?” by Aubrie Aguliar, which advanced to state UIL competitions this week. From left, Lesley Torres, Nathan Peña, Adele Powers, Aubrie Aguilar, Victoria Torres, Elizabeth Donaldson, Dimetrey Stewart and Samuel Salgado. Photo courtesy of Marfa ISD.

“Unrequited Love?” was a team effort, with Aguilar acting as the lead animator and fellow students Victoria Torres assisting with character design, Lesley Torres and Nathan Peña with voice acting and Samuel Salgado and Dimetrey Stewart as editors. The year prior Aguilar worked as a team of one, and said while at times coordinating her classmates’ busy schedules was like wrangling cats, it was worth it to include others. 

“It made it more enjoyable, but at the same time, it was stressful. Because they also have their own schedules and their own things that they’re doing,” said Aguilar. 

The anime-inspired characters were a collaboration between Aguilar and classmate Victoria who sought to give subjects more depth by adding creative details (the female lead, for example, has a scar, two different colored eyes and pink streaks in her blonde hair). For comedic effect, the film’s characters turn into more cartoonish versions of themselves when they’re flustered.

Aguilar worked on the film for around six months, animating on her trusty iPad. A detailed coffee shop scene and interaction between characters who are out in the snow are some of the stand-out visual settings. Aguilar said achieving the organic quality of falling snow using digital animation was one of the hardest parts of creating the film. Recording the audio and matching it up with the animation was another challenge for her, she said.

“I was a little nervous because this time I chose to add voice actors; that was like a whole new thing to me.” said Aguilar. “But I enjoyed recording my friends’ voices, Lesley and Nathan, because we just had a lot of laughs during that whole process.” 

Aguilar said she felt her animation had improved from last year’s film, partly because she’s been practicing by doodling everyone she sees. She is graduating this May and is planning to go to college to study studio art, and is currently eyeing a handful of universities around the state. She said she hopes the example she set of making and submitting films to the UIL competition is followed by underclassmen. 

“I hope that more people join the digital animation thing next year, because I won’t be here next year,” said Aguilar. “I hope that other students will think about doing it.”