Frank Reyes, helmer of the forthcoming Universal pic “Empire,” has signed with the William Morris Agency for representation in all areas.
Born and raised in the South Bronx, tyro helmer’s John Leguizamo starrer will mark the first release to come from Universal Pictures’ newly formed specialty label Arenas.
Having started out as a dancer and worked briefly as an actor (he appeared in the 1984 hip-hop film “Beat Street”), Reyes was more recently a choreographer (“Carlito’s Way”) and Latin pop songwriter.
“Empire” reflects those multiple influences, combining perfs from urban music stars like Fat Joe and Treach with those of thesps Denise Richards (“Spin City”), Peter Saarsgard (“Boys Don’t Cry”) and Isabella Rossellini.
Produced by Daniel Bigel and Michael Mailer, “Empire” is an action drama about money laundering set at the intersection of the South Bronx heroin trade and the Manhattan world of bond trading.
U’s Arenas shingle was created last November when studio inked a five-year pact with the Arenas Group to create Arenas Entertainment; company’s mandate is to acquire, produce and distribute pics tailored to Spanish-speaking auds worldwide.
For his part, Reyes said he’s comfortable with being labeled a Latino filmmaker, because “if I go out there and don’t present myself as being a Latino filmmaker, it slams the door in the faces of a lot of other Latinos who might be trying to get started in the film business.”
He added: “I need people to understand there is a thing called Latino culture, whether it’s urban, suburban, — rich or poor. Latinos don’t live in a vacuum. The characters in my movie interact with whites, blacks and Asians, but the central storyline is about being Latino in America.”
He was previously repped by International Creative Management. Reyes continues to be managed by Evan Lamberg at EMI Music.