Ozzie Areu: The Latino who created a film empire
Meet the Latino leader in film production.
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As the son of Cuban immigrants, Ozzie Areu never dreamed of a career in Hollywood, despite growing up in California.
In an interview with the LATimes, Areu said he wanted to be a police officer and didn't go that far because he was a security guard at Warner Bros. studios, where he mistakenly got a job as Brad Pitt's assistant.
More than 25 years later, Areu runs one of the largest Latino owned and operated film studios in the United States: a great location in Atlanta that he plans to turn into an inclusive media campus to advocate for Latino, women's and other minority groups who must reclaim their place in the entertainment world.
His company Areu Bros. aims to expand into different formats, not only on the big screen and TV but also in digital, through streaming, music, and video games, with stories that break the old Hollywood stereotypes.
"Minorities want to see ourselves in different roles, not just the mechanic, the gardener, the maid. I feel I have a unique opportunity to build a media company made up of people who reflect the world we live in," Areu told the LATimes.
After working for many years for his former boss and mentor, Tyler Perry, Areu left his job last year as the studio's president with the hope of expanding Perry's business model to a broader cross-section that would make Latino minorities and women's voices visible, while understanding the need for white and male voices to develop any story.
Areu is an entrepreneur with a great deal of acquired knowledge; he not only helped Tyler Perry create his media empire but is also in contact with a small number of Latinos who have established film production companies in the last decades, so much so that they are now much more vibrant than they were years ago.
These include everyone from filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, who co-founded Troublemaker Studios; to Jennifer Lopez with Nuyorican Productions, where movies, television, and online content are produced in Los Angeles; to Eva Longoria with UnbeliEVAble Entertainment, a film, television, and documentary production company.
Areu Bros., a start-up company with only about 12 full-time and eight part-time employees, is not defined to produce original content until the second quarter of 2020.
A central part of Areu's business plan is to lease its lot, which has a multipurpose space, five sound stages, an 11-home suburban backlot, and several administrative buildings, even hairdressers and dressing rooms.
In many ways, Areu's rise in the entertainment industry may seem unlikely.
According to the entrepreneur himself, it was after taking a summer job as a security guard with Warner Bros. that he got a job as head of security for the television series Friends.
Later on, one of the series' stars, Jennifer Aniston, helped him get hired as a personal assistant to his partner at the time, Brad Pitt. From there, he became executive assistant to Ellen DeGeneres and then Tyler Perry. Within a few years of working with Perry, he joined the production company at the corporate level, eventually becoming the company's president.
Leaving the position at Perry Studios was not an easy decision.
However, he took advantage of his intuition. After Perry exchanged his studio for a fabulous dismantled military base, Areu had the idea of buying the studio. Although he could not afford it, he tried to find investors who would support his vision. His former employer gave him his approval, and he got investors: in the summer of 2019, singer Gloria Estefan joined as a partner.
Although Areu has not yet begun production for early 2020, he is already discussing television projects with rising Latino voices, such as Vannessa Vasquez, a Texas-based actress, and producer who played a bisexual Mexican teenager on East Los High, the popular network streaming series Hulu, which has an all-Latino cast.
The Latino entrepreneur wants to break into the traditional entertainment industry and invest in the creation of software and digital content, highlighting the importance of film companies in his business: "I'm not looking to reinvent the wheel. I'm looking to partner with investors and talent who care about diversity and inclusion.”