Indie filmmaker, Hollywood actor team up to produce ‘Titleholder’

Producer-director Danny Aguilar: ‘We hope to cast Manny Pacquiao in a cameo role.’

Hollywood actor Cory Kays and Dallas-based filmmaker Danny Aguilar have collaborated on an upcoming film, “Titleholder.”

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“Titleholder” follows the journey of an American boxer who struggles to make ends meet. He travels to the Philippines with his Filipino best friend and experiences authentic Filipino culture, including beauty pageants, karaoke, basketball, and of course, boxing. While there, he falls in love with an aspiring beauty queen as he begins to figure out what he’s fighting for.

The film was written by award-winning actor Kays (“Prodigy,” “Looking for Andrew”). Director and producer Aguilar is the president and founder of Carpe Diem Pictures based in Dallas.

“Titleholder” is Aguilar’s eighth film. He said the story is the perfect collaborative vehicle between Kays, who wanted to portray a boxer, and himself, who has always wanted to tell a story that would showcase the favorite pastimes of Filipinos, like boxing and beauty pageants. 

“I am a boxing fan, and my favorite boxer is Manny Pacquiao,” he told The FilAm.  “We hope to have him in this project in a cameo role.”

Born in Umingan, Pangasinan, Aguilar worked as a chemical engineer for Johnson & Johnson for many years until he quit in 2014. His fascination with motion picture as a medium for storytelling led him to volunteer at the Sundance Film Festival and other local productions. He later attended the Hollywood Film Institute to learn about filmmaking.

“In 2017, I started my own production company called Carpe Diem Pictures and made seven movies. Two of them — “Looking for Andrew” and “Lily Is Here” — secured worldwide distributions and will come out this year,” he said.

Cory Kays plays the American boxer who travels to the Philippines to find his luck. Instead, he finds his one true love.

He came to the U.S. in 1995 right after college as a student volunteer for a nonprofit organization and worked there for few years. He earned a Master’s degree and worked for various industries. In 2011, Johnson and Johnson moved him to Dallas to support the integration of a new business acquisition. “We’ve been in Dallas since then.”

He is married to a Japanese woman from Tokyo. He and his wife Keiko are blessed with three children:  Alyssa, 19, a sophomore at the University of Texas majoring in Arts and Entertaining Technology;  Kaylee, 18, a freshman at the same university majoring in Psychology; and Daniel, 11, a fifth grader.

“I would like to think of myself as a Creative Entrepreneurial Producer and coming up with stories and contents is not that difficult,” he said.  “The biggest challenge as an independent producer is securing funding.”

Although he is a film producer, Aguilar also runs his own consultancy firm, Eagle Consulting Services, where he leverages 25 years of corporate experience in the areas of business consulting, engineering, compliance and process improvement. He has an MBA from the University of Tampa. 

Diversity in Hollywood has a long way to go, he said, especially in representing a subsection of the Asian-American community, the Filipino Americans.

“Although the representation of Asian-Americans is still a work in progress, the success of the movie ‘Parasite’ as the first foreign language film to win an Academy Award signifies that diversity is in demand and has proven that films with subtitles and local language content have appeal,” he said.

“As a storyteller, nothing is more compelling and authentic than telling stories that hit home,” he said further. “’Titleholder’ is very personal to me because it represents my whole being: my heritage, culture, family, people and the Philippines. I cannot think of a better way to showcase my heritage than in the form of a motion picture.”

Through the eyes of the American boxer, Blanco, and his experience navigating his new-found place and adopted family, he shows the courage, determination, and resilience of the protagonist.

“People can appreciate and relate to his struggles and outlook on life,” said Aguilar. “Each of us is a titleholder, much like a boxer or a beauty queen, but in different capacities.”

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© The FilAm 2020

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