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Ozzie Areu is a testament to the payoff of working hard, developing great relationships, and never being too proud to start from the bottom.
In Hollywood, the first person people see when they drive on to a lot is the security guard. He or she will ask for your name, and depending on who you are, direct you to the valet or the off-site parking garage.
Areu was that guy.
Today, Areu is the president of Tyler Perry Studios. He oversees all facets of the studio operation, including films, TV shows and stage productions.
He grew up primarily in Los Angeles in a close knit Cuban-American family. When his father died, his world was shaken.
“It was really rough on our family. That kind of thing rocks your world,” Areu told Fox News Latino.
When Areu went off to Sacramento State University on a baseball scholarship, he hit another major roadblock — his mother suffered an incapacitating injury and had to quit her job. Areu left college after his first year and moved back to Los Angeles to help take care of her.
He decided to pursue a career in criminal justice, he said, because he’d always wanted to be a homicide detective. He was accepted to the Burbank police department, but again, due to a fluke in his car insurance he was unable to finish.
“I was told to come back in six months and try again. I was devastated. It broke my heart. But I thought, 'God has a different plan for me',” Areu said.
He ended up getting a job at Warner Bros in security, and at one point he was assigned to the set of “Friends.” Areu worked on the show for a year until he was given the opportunity to work as executive assistant to Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston — who were married at the time.
After five years with Brad and Jen, Areu moved on to work for Ellen Degeneres and her wife Portia de Rossi.
It was a meeting with Tyler Perry that would dramatically impact Areu’s life. His dream of someday being a producer would put him in front of one of the most important people in the business.
“I interviewed with Tyler Perry and he hired me as his executive assistant. I worked with him in that capacity for about year and half, and then one day, out of the blue, he promoted me to president of Tyler Perry Studios."
Now Areu and his brother Will oversee all of the content produced at the studio.
“Look, Perry is a master creator. He’s mentored my brother and I for the last 10 years. He’s an outside-the-box thinker. Our job is to bring his vision to the screen. We make it look pretty in post-production and ultimately he has the last say on ideas. He’s the driving force,” Areu said.
In the new, over 300-acre Tuler Perry studios, Areu and his brother also head up a division at 34th Street films, a sister company of Tyler Perry Studios, devoted to developing new talent and working with outside directors.
“The industry is always changing, but the sexy thing is that there are always new ways of doing things. I’ve learned how to be extremely creative and business-savvy in this business, which is one of my keys to my success. It’s the only way to get things done,” Areu said.