Exec seeks to create bridge between Hispanic world and H'w'd

Along with marketing the Jennifer Lopez of today, the Arenas Group is hoping to discover and manage the Jennifer Lopez of tomorrow.

The 14-year-old movie promotion and advertising firm, which specializes in the domestic Latino market, has opened a talent management division dedicated to developing the careers of Latino actors. The move is the first step in a plan to become a one-stop shop for Latino film and television projects.

“Down the line,” says Arenas Group president Santiago Pozo, “we want to acquire and co-finance Latino films in addition to marketing them.”

For now, the company is focusing on establishing the careers of 16 actors. “We’re trying to create a bridge between the Hispanic world and Hollywood, creating ways for both to profit,” Pozo says. “I don’t believe in complaining about why we’re not represented enough on TV or film. It’s up to us to create those actors and actresses that mean something in the marketplace.”

The marriage between publicity and talent management is as natural as bread and butter, but normally the two areas aren’t handled by one and the same company. Yet while the Arenas Group’s combination of roles is unconventional, members of the two disciplines say in this case it makes sense. “It works because they know their market, and as their talent grows they can become a crossover management company,” says a manager with a major agency.

The Arenas Group’s strategy with its actors is to emulate the same approach it took with films starring Jennifer Lopez. “With films like ‘Mi Familia’ and ‘Selena,’ we started by solidifying Jennifer’s fan base in the Latino market before crossing over,” Pozo explains. “That’s the strategy for our talent agency.”

Pozo says by developing actors already popular in Latino markets, his agency will offer studio and network executives built-in access to those markets for their films. This emphasis on marketing skill, he adds, is what distinguishes his firm from other talent managers specializing in Latino talent.

“The actor must have quality and know his craft,” he says. “But in the competitive environment of today, where the future of a picture is decided over a weekend, not only do you have to bring the craft, but you have to bring the marketing element as well.”

Initial reaction to the Arenas Group’s ambitions is positive. “I think what they want to do, brand from the Hispanic point of view, is a good idea and a long time in coming,” says Peter Adee, president of marketing at Universal. “And I think they’re strategically situated to do it.”

Ivan de Paz, head of talent management at the Arenas Group, says the company hopes to expand the division to include writers, producers and directors. Meanwhile, his attention is on casting agents.

“We have to convince them to look at an actor and not stereotype him because he’s Latino,” says de Paz. “That’s the war I take on every day.”

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