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Life & Work with Taylor San Miguel

Today we’d like to introduce you to Taylor San Miguel.

Hi Taylor, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
My story? One of a workaholic who leads herself through life. Work is not everything, and I still struggle to remind myself of that, but I will always remind myself how lucky I am to do what I love for a living.

When I was younger, I had a hard time watching shows like American Idol, and other talent-focused reality shows constantly churning out. As a ten-year-old, I just knew it was a bad feeling. The only word appropriate to describe it was conceptual jealousy.

I did not know why at the moment, but I came to realize it was because at such a young age I was watching people follow their dream that I did not deem tangible in the first place. Growing up in Miami, Florida I was raised by two natural leaders, my dad being a primary physician, and my mom took care of me while going back to college to follow her passion for psychology; a field in which she now leads her own team in.

With my parents supporting me and having an interest in science I had thought about being an ophthalmologist, a plastic surgeon, or even a trauma surgeon… to somehow follow in their steps. It was not until my junior year of high school I had my butterfly moment.

Butterfly moment: “The ‘innumerable’ interconnections of nature, Lorenz noted, mean a butterfly’s flap could cause a tornado — or, for all we know, could prevent one. Similarly, should we make even a tiny alteration to nature, ‘we shall never know what would have happened if we had not disturbed it,’ since subsequent changes are too complex and entangled to restore a previous state.” https://science.howstuffworks.com/math-concepts/butterfly-effect.htm

In the middle of the night, I woke up with what felt like the weight of the world on my chest. After scrounging up the strength to flop out of bed and get to my parents’ bedroom it was not long before I was being taken to the hospital. While laying in the hospital bed with an IV helping soothe the pain that is typically mistaken for a heart attack I reflected on what I wanted in my life. Although I felt like I had what it takes to work in medicine, it did not make me happy.

I thought about what I was doing in school, and what I chose to do. I was a leader in Theatre, Broadcast Morning Announcements, and Yearbook. I knew I wanted to do something with Media and Art. Once I decided to go after happiness there was no changing my mind.

I chose to go to college at the University of Central Florida for many reasons. UCF has a leadership program called Lead Scholars, and upon my application, I was highly encouraged to apply for the selective program. Also, considering media production is based on networking, I wanted to go to school in a city that was more than a college town. I stayed in Florida to avoid out-of-state university costs, but this tip can apply in any state.

Living in Orlando with Tampa a short drive away from social media filled the gaps and got me around. I was happy to be in a diverse environment, to always meet new people, to be around my Cuban culture, and to learn about others. My inner workaholic turned some of my nightlife experiences into test trials of networking with club promoters.

From selling party tickets to other university students to then checking IDs, to social media modeling, I would make it a point to be vocal about my ability to do more than be a face. That mindset is what took an Instagram DM to my job opportunity of being a Production Assistant.

From being the first crew member at 3:00 AM going through security behind Epcot, and knowing I was never promised another day on set I just kept working. While taking University classes I was also going on new sets every month working with Disney, Universal, MTV, Netflix, and so forth. Then the pandemic hit.

I was on set when everyone, including myself, was getting calls canceling future projects. It was terrifying, but I kept faith in my dream. Thankfully as a freelancer, I knew to save as much money as possible. My savings kept me in my apartment, which kept me close to a set that I didn’t know would change my life.

Months into the pandemic I got a call from one of my favorite directors /former project managers I met on a Dinsey set. He asked if I would be open to joining a small set for a passion project. No one was paid, but everyone deeply missed being on set.

I do not recommend doing free work. The industry can be abusive with days going well past 12 hours, and everyone deserves to have their work paid for, but this was different. We missed our jobs, we missed collaboration resulting in creation. Of course, I said yes to joining the project. The team was as careful as possible and happy to be there. As a production assistant turned behind-the-scenes photographer I made it a point to be my usual vocal self.

I thanked the director for bringing me on and made it known that I would also be “bothering” the producer/casting director after we had been acquitted with each other. Sure enough, after talking a bit here and there an opportunity to work on a movie set came up. I started out in the art department. With my history of 10 years in Theatre, I had a chance to climb the ranks from the bottom of the totem pole.

Long story short, I joined as an assistant art director for a movie that was filmed on the outskirts of Tampa and connected with people on the crew. From there, I expressed my interest in assistant directing. I watched the AD on that first movie and learned so much. I knew directing and producing had my heart since naturally gravitated toward them. One of my mottos is “fake it til you make it.”, and I did.

I studied the role and go hired to AD a movie in Philadelphia. My first travel job, formally as an AD came months later. I was on a fast track that I could not guess where it was going next. By the movie was completed in Philadelphia, I had found a home. I built a community, jobs kept coming, and I kept “bothering” people.

Between Assistant Directing, Directing, and Producing year sooner than I expected, I had to make one of the most difficult choices of my life. I dropped out of college to go where I was happy, and do what made me happy.

I keep learning every day how to make sets run more efficiently, and how to keep everyone on the same page with concise, professional communication. If anything is taken from this let it be that life is unpredictable, and sometimes it is better to let life find a way to put you where you’re meant to be.

I am ​​always ready to lead my crew with a call sheet in one hand, and coffee in the other. My voice is the most powerful tool I have in the field. It is what got me this far after all, and keeps me going further.

Now I get the pleasure of working with creative souls all over the country and have moved to Philadelphia full time while still taking travel jobs. The Tampa/Orlando area is a fantastic place to blossom a career, and will be always grateful for my Florida crew!

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
It was not until my junior year of high school I had my butterfly moment.

Butterfly moment: “The ‘innumerable’ interconnections of nature, Lorenz noted, mean a butterfly’s flap could cause a tornado — or, for all we know, could prevent one. Similarly, should we make even a tiny alteration to nature, ‘we shall never know what would have happened if we had not disturbed it,’ since subsequent changes are too complex and entangled to restore a previous state.” https://science.howstuffworks.com/math-concepts/butterfly-effect.htm

In the middle of the night, I woke up with what felt like the weight of the world on my chest. After scrounging up the strength to flop out of bed and get to my parents’ bedroom it was not long before I was being taken to the hospital.

While laying in the hospital bed with an IV helping soothe the pain that is typically mistaken for a heart attack I reflected on what I wanted in my life. Although I felt like I had what it takes to work in medicine, it did not make me happy.

I thought about what I was doing in school, and what I chose to do. I was a leader in Theatre, Broadcast Morning Announcements, and Yearbook. I knew I wanted to do something with Media and Art. Once I decided to go after happiness there was no changing my mind.

I went against the grain. I was the first full-time creative freelancer in my family, and I know this day it probably still scares them to this day while making them wildly proud at the same time.

I had to drop out of college. After many tears and conversations with people I trust (fellow freelancers, family, past teachers, friends) I accepted that school would not go anywhere, but my opportunities at hand would not wait for me. I had to chase my dream and ultimately what would make me happy.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
https://www.taylorsanmiguel.tv/

In freelance production, one person can wear many hats. The main roles that I perform are Assistant Director, Director, and Producer. Other roles that I have done and can still also fill are: Production Coordinator, Technical Director, Art Director, Props Master, Script Supervisor, Event Photographer, Behind the Scene Photographer

Every day on set is entirely different from the last, and I am incredibly versatile. I have worked on movies, live streams, commercials, and so much more.

Are there any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?
The most important lesson I’ve learned is to follow my intuition and focus on what makes me happy. I love to collaborate, lead, learn, and create.

Even though I am a freelance individual, there is still power in loyalty. People such as Nathan McMahan,
Valensky, Sylvain, and the Colorspace Labs team have shown me that.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Branden Eastwood, Charles Cerrone, Colorspace Labs, Dark Elf Films, Who Is Christmas Eve?, (Bounce Net Work) Creative Thought Media, and Taylor San Miguel

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