Young Guns 18: Leo Aguirre

By Alixandra Rutnik and Brett McKenzie on Nov 18, 2020

Highlighting the creative superstars that make up the class of Young Guns 18

2020 has been one rollercoaster of a year, but fortunately, the spirit of creativity can't be dampened. Want proof? Check out the winners of Young Guns 18!

Beginning with our largest and most diverse jury in history, acclaimed creatives from across the globe spent three months reviewing hundreds of submissions from insanely talented young professionals seeking validation for all of their hard work. After narrowing down the field to 83 top-notch finalists, the jury engaged in virtual discussion and debate, deciding who will win one of the most career-impacting honors in our industry.

In the end, we are honored to present the 31 incredible winners of Young Guns 18, a diverse collection of artists, filmmakers, animators, designers, illustrators, and others, all of them representing some of the very best that their fields have to offer.

We invite you to learn about all 31 Young Guns 18 winners in this series of interviews.







When did Young Guns first pop up on your radar?

I first heard about Young Guns while looking into the work of creatives and filmmakers whose work I really admire. I remember realizing how the Young Guns community is rich with talent. I feel super honored to now be a part of the Young Guns family.

Congrats on the first time win! What made you enter this Young Guns?

I feel very fortunate to win on my first time! I had actually chosen not to submit this year. I was blessed to work with amazing people over the course of the last year and I felt proud of the work that I had directed so I had a change of heart and chose to submit. There's always that part of you that tells you that your work isn't good enough. In that moment it's important to consider that you really do miss 100% of the shots you don't take. I thought, "Fuck it, if this year doesn't work out, there is always next."

Young Guns is as much an exercise in self-curation as it is in sheer creative talent. After all, you are only allowed to submit six projects. How did you go about deciding which pieces to submit and which to leave out?

I was very torn when choosing which projects to submit. I tried to strike a balance between music videos, commercials, and personal and narrative work. I have a secret fascination with architecture and I had some experimental studies that I considered submitting, but I also wanted to showcase the kind of work that I want to pursue in the commercial and music video realm.

What went through your mind when you discovered that you won, knowing how difficult it is to make it into Young Guns?

Getting notified that I was one of the finalists was already a huge honor, I never thought I'd see my name amongst such a talented group of individuals. When I got notified that I won I was overjoyed and extremely grateful to be a part of this year's class.

If you had to pick one of the six projects that you entered as your favorite, which one would it be and why?

I love all of my projects so much - all of them speak to specific times in my life and have such a special place in my heart. "No Somos De Aquí, Ni Somos De Allá" has to be my favorite project. A group of friends and I packed into my friend Dan's old SUV and drove to the border to capture the gradient that is the Mexican-American experience (shout out to BL&S). It was the most soulful project that I have ever worked on. Interacting with our subjects in a way that involved them in the process was such a rewarding approach - I really hope that I can work on more projects that push the boundaries of perceptions that we've adapted as a collective society.

If you had to describe your creative style, the part of your work that’s most distinctively “you”, what would it be?

There are a lot of themes that I am interested in exploring, and I am currently figuring out what space I want to explore them in. My goal is to be adaptive with every project, but I find myself constantly drawn to concepts that are texturally rich and bold in their approach. I find the word 'raw' to be overused, but I truly want to work on films that strike an emotional chord. I love working on projects that push visual boundaries and fight for an authentic approach in the production process. I've truly enjoyed interacting with everyone in front and behind the camera. The most important thing to me when it comes to filmmaking is creating lasting relationships - you can always see it in the final product.

Who are some of the biggest influences on your work and career, people who may have had a hand in mentoring and supporting you?

I'm constantly inspired by individuals around me. Family, friends and collaborators. I admire a lot of filmmakers, so it's hard to choose a few. Charlie Kaufman's work has left a lasting expression on me. He has been able to bring a level of humanity to concepts that are thematically very complex. I am also a big Jonathan Glazer fan. I love the versatility he has achieved as a commercial, music video and narrative director. Ian Pons Jewell is another versatile favorite. Ian and Mauro, his DP, work so well together - it's like they speak their own language. A few others who I love are Amber Grace Johnson, Salomon Ligthelm, Jared Knecht, and Jess Kohl - all such wonderful creators.

Now that you’re in the Young Guns family, are there any past winners you look up to and admire?

I admire a lot of past winners. I love the poetic elements that Savannah Leaf (YG17) has brought to her work. Jonas Lindstroem (YG16) is also someone I admire deeply - his work in the commercial and music video space is really incredible and poignant. I love Mau Morgo's (YG16) outlook on the world and the absurdity that he is able to bring to his work. Mah Ferraz's (YG17) work is amazing as well - she is such a gifted editor. I hope to work with her on something soon.

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a pretty crazy year, with a global pandemic and social upheaval shaping so many facets of our lives. Aside from the positive news of winning Young Guns, how has this year been for you?

This year has inspired a lot internal growth. I've been able to lean into myself and understand what it is that I want to explore. I spent a lot of time alone and embraced a lot of discomfort. I am so thankful for the community of friends and collaborators that have been there for me during these times. It's reminded me to always value the people around you.

Name a creative/professional dream that you have yet to fulfill — hey, maybe Young Guns can help propel you in that direction!

There are several artists based in Europe whose work I really admire - I'd love to work out there more. I'm having a lot of fun working in the commercial space so I hope to keep getting opportunities to bring my voice to branded work. The main thing I would like to make time for is my first feature. Narrative films are the reason I began to work so I want to devote time to that.

Any last words about winning Young Guns 18 that you'd like to share?

I'm really thankful for every rejection letter and every unrequited email. As a filmmaker it's important to have things to push up against, often times that can be your ego so embrace that as well. I am super grateful for the community of people I've worked with in Austin, TX. The main advice I have for aspiring creatives is to embrace being uncomfortable - it opens you up to things that inform the work that you want to make.


"Leo Aguirre’s ways of portraying people, our youth, and today's generation is truly unique. This stuff is really profound. Strong direction mixed with original editing allows us to dive straight into these scenes, feeling like we’re in them, both personal and distant at the same time. The narratives aren’t always clear, but there isn't any need for them to be, as these montages of different people existing captured by Leo’s eyes and vision are just plain beautiful."

Jens Jørgen Krogsveen
Design Director
Bold Scandinavia

"Leo's work is best described as seductive yet authentic. This is bang-on the moment for style and storytelling for brands that want a fresh vibe. His work takes you a journey and plays with all the classic tools of film making but in a very fresh and modern composed way. Simple but arresting."

Wayne Deakin
Executive Creative Director EMEA



Make sure to check out all the Young Guns 18 Winners in the archive!

Young Guns 18 Archive



The Breathtaking Ivan Cash
ADC102 Craft Cocktail Edition
From the Jury Room: ADC's Packaging/Product Design
From the Jury Room: ADC's Publication Design







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