Areu grew up in Orlando, Florida, and his family is from Cuba. When he was 14, he moved to Los Angeles and worked in the entertainment industry. He started as a security guard at Warner Bros. studios at the age of 22.
He later went on to work as a producer on the television comedy “Friends” and worked closely with Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston and Ellen DeGeneres.
Areu was then hired as Tyler Perry’s executive assistant in Atlanta about 12 years ago. He was quickly promoted to president of Tyler Perry Studios.
Areu said he wants to replicate Perry’s success with the African-American community for the Latino community as well as other minorities. In June, Gloria Estefan joined the company as a partner and member of the executive leadership team.
For many years, diversity in the entertainment industry has been a hot topic, with the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite trending in 2016 after no actors of color were nominated for an Academy Award for a second year in a row.
“Latinos and minorities, they’re a big presence at the box office, however, they don’t normally get to see themselves in specific roles, outside of stereotypical roles,” Areu said. “Being in the industry for a long time and having friends in the industry who are Latinos or women, I’ve heard a lot about it. I’ve seen some things. I felt like this was a great opportunity for me to be different and to really put my money where my mouth is. And go all in.”
But then came time to break the news to his boss with a four-page resignation letter. Areu and his siblings have helped Perry produce hit TV shows and movies over the past 12 years.
“[Perry] jumped up. Gave us a big hug,” Areu said. “I mean we hugged it out forever. I was very nervous going into that meeting and I knew it would be well-received. I just knew it would be surprising.”
Ozzie and his brother Will started the company Areu Bros. earlier this year.
Bigger Roles For Latinos
This could be a game changer for Latinos in Georgia, said Jose Marquez, chairman and co-founder of the Georgia Latino Film Alliance. Marquez is also president of the Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association.
“As far as actors go, they’re still very, very small parts that they’re getting,” Marquez said. “They’re not getting any leading roles.”
Marquez said the new studio’s focus on developing talent in front of the camera and behind it will help more Latinos in Georgia break into TV and film.
“We’re going to see pictures of Roberto Clemente and movies of Tito Puente and, you know, all these great people that are not being shown as the heroes of the Hispanic community,” Marquez said.
Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Santiago Marquez says it’s expected to be an economic boost to metro Atlanta.
“The vision that they have of creating Areu Bros., a Warner Bros. for Hispanics,” Marquez said. “It’s that American dream of dreaming big and then going for it.”
The company plans to rent out space starting this month and start construction on the undeveloped areas of the nearly 60-acre site this summer.
Ozzie Areu said he plans to build out a couple of music studios, 30,000-square feet sound stages as well as building space for technology incubator programs.
The old Tyler Perry Studios from 2007 to 2016 is also the former global headquarters for Delta Air Lines. It already includes five sound stages, four office buildings, post-production facilities and a theater.