A Winning Gamble

“My motto is, ‘If not now, then when?’ I would rather try and fail than not try at all,” says Arturo Barquet, senior vice president and chief financial officer of film production, theater, and music for Universal Pictures.

Leaving his job at PricewaterhouseCoopers to be a gofer, Arturo Barquet’s willingness to take risks has made him one of the most powerful Latinos in entertainment

Arturo Barquet admits his résumé would leave many wondering if he knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. From certified public accountant (CPA) to production gofer to filmmaker, Barquet’s career path has been widely diverse yet intimately tied to his singular desire to make his mark in the entertainment field. Today, as senior vice president and chief financial officer of film production, theater, and music at Universal Pictures—a division of NBCUniversal—he seems to have fulfilled his dream. He shares with HE how perseverance, risk taking, and an attitude of gratitude have helped him achieve success.

My parents lost everything when they migrated from Cuba to Puerto Rico before I was born. They realized to have a better life, and provide a better life for me and my three siblings, they would have to start over from nothing. Their sacrifice, and later successes, taught me to truly appreciate what you have and be grateful for the blessings in your life. Not going to college was not an option. Education was extremely important to my parents, so at 18, I left Puerto Rico and attended George Washington University. My first desire was to go into the entertainment field; however, my father didn’t see how I could support myself in this field, so I pursued accounting instead.

On The Agenda
Typical workday in the life of
Arturo Barquet

 

7:30-8 a.m. Discuss expansion of Paris animation facilities with Despicable Me 2 producer

10-11:30 a.m. Production meeting to review production plan and budget for Snow White and the Huntsman

11:30-12:00 p.m. Review administration fee analysis of music publishing catalog

12:15-1:30 p.m. Lunch with chief financial officer of Universal Studios

1:45-2:00 p.m. Call with general tax counsel to discuss Spain tax-incentive deal on Fast and Furious 6

2:00-3:00 p.m. Meeting with Mexico’s ambassador to discuss various criteria that would attract production to Mexico

4:30-5:30 p.m. Conference call to discuss opening of Wicked in Seoul, Korea

8:00-10:00 p.m. Attend premiere of The Bourne Legacy

Following graduation, I couldn’t shake the desire to work in entertainment. I decided to move to Los Angeles and landed a job with PricewaterhouseCoopers where I worked as an auditor. After four years, I decided to take the plunge into the world of entertainment and began looking for a position in production. Turns out I was way overqualified. Being a CPA didn’t help in production so I deleted my CPA credentials from my résumé , but I still couldn’t get my foot in the door. Finally, I took a job for no pay as a gofer on an independent film. Even then, my supervisor told me I wouldn’t last a day, but by the end of the first week, I was offered my first paid position in production.

Then things started really taking off. After a few low-budget films, I moved into a position at The Walt Disney Company in their financial controls department in production. While it was  wonderful to be part of big-studio films, I desired to do something more creative so I entered the UCLA screenwriting program where my script, The Emerald Cut, won best screenplay.

I took all my savings and made a movie. I directed a short film which won quite a few awards. I took the [movie] to film festivals in an attempt to raise financing to make it feature length. However, my efforts were unsuccessful. I needed work, so I called on my network of contacts and found out about a position at a joint venture Universal was forming targeting the Latino market. From that point, my role began to grow and evolve. I started out working as CFO and SVP of business and legal affairs at Arenas Entertainment, where Universal Pictures had an equity investment, which led to my current role at NBCUniversal. I now oversee a team of 28 staff members and more than 200 freelancers worldwide working on finance and accounting.

Along my journey, I’ve never stopped learning. One thing I’ve discovered is that you can learn something from people at all levels, so I encourage others to establish a great network and follow up with contacts. Your career may not always be a linear path, and sometimes the helping hand comes from those you least expect. You never know where someone might be five years from now.

Playing the game isn’t the only way to get ahead. I’ve always operated with honesty and integrity. Creating an environment of trust has been key to my success because people know they can rely on and trust me. My best advice? Take risks. My whole career has been about taking risks—leaving Puerto Rico for school, leaving PricewaterhouseCoopers to be a gofer, pursuing my dream of film school—and all those risks brought me to where I am today and made me a well-rounded executive. My motto is, “If not now, then when?” I would rather try and fail than not try at all.

If you want to succeed, be persistent. Follow up with people, let them know what you are doing. Persistence shows initiative and, as an executive, I appreciate seeing that hunger. I also tell those starting out in the industry that you have to be willing to make sacrifices. You may have to work in an area that isn’t your end goal in order to achieve your dream. At the end of the day, however, it all comes back to being grateful. Last year, I was honored by The Imagen Foundation by being named one of the Most Powerful and Influential Latinos in Entertainment. I was humbled by this recognition, and I am consistently reminded how lucky I am and that the hard work has paid off.