The Yin & Yang of Cinema

Even as a young and eager student of filmmaking, Spain-native Santiago Pozo intrinsically grasped the dual forces driving the movie business. “Cinema is both masculine and feminine; the masculine part is the distribution, marketing, and money, while the feminine part is the innovation, originality, and intuition,” he says.

Santiago Pozo may just be the very definition of an overachiever. As the founder of Los Angeles-based entertainment marketing firm Arenas Entertainment, LLC, he’s already become the ultimate authority in the Latino-focused film and television marketing field, having worked on such high-profile campaigns as The Chronicles of Narnia, Transformers, Apocalypto, and more. But, Pozo wasn’t content to throw in the towel after all of his success. Instead, he decided it was time to conquer another field: filmmaking. “Right now, Arenas is in the midst of an exciting time where we’re on the brink of becoming a mini studio,” Pozo says. “We have an aggressive five-year plan and are currently expanding our services to include production and distribution. The key element is a film that I cowrote called The Run. And of course, the project is too near and dear to my heart to let anyone else work on the film, so I am also directing it.”

A native of Madrid, Pozo fell in love with cinema at the age of 13. His father owned a bakery across the street from a cinema and, in exchange for letting them hang their posters in his shop, he received two tickets to their double feature each week, which he would always share with his son. “One day I came back from the neighborhood theater after seeing two good films and I told my father, ‘I want to make movies,’” Pozo explains.

He quickly started making short movies on his old eight millimeter camera, slowly learning the basics of filmmaking. Pozo recalls, “In the beginning I didn’t know that you could cut the film, so I would shoot with the camera and then I would stop the camera, turn around, and do the reverse shot.” But, despite initial blips, Pozo stuck with it and decided to make a name for himself in the film world. “I directed a picture in Spain when I was 19 years old,” he says. “After making that film, I realized that making movies in Spain was never going to satisfy me. So, the problem wasn’t making the films; the problem was marketing and distributing the films so that they actually arrive at an audience.”

Pozo soon applied to the acclaimed Peter Stark Producing Program at the University of Southern California—not only was he accepted, but he also received a Fulbright scholarship to attend. It was there that he learned the ins and outs of the movie business, particularly the symbiotic relationship between making a film and properly marketing and distributing it. “Cinema is both masculine and feminine; the masculine part is the distribution, marketing, and money, while the feminine part is the innovation, originality, and intuition. You can have a film that is great, but if it doesn’t have the right distribution or marketing, it won’t connect to the audience. You can have a fantastic campaign on a multimillion-dollar picture, but if it doesn’t have the feminine aspect to it—the feeling of heart—the film doesn’t work,” he explains.

Pozo was hired in the marketing department of Universal Studios immediately out of grad school, where he rose through the ranks to become the executive in charge of minority marketing. After a shift in management, Pozo saw himself becoming bored in his position and transforming into a “bureaucrat,” and decided to start his own company. “I turned in my resignation and I started Arenas Entertainment in ’88 with $6,000 in the bank, a phone, and me. And here we are, 25 years later,” he says.

The company is now widely regarded as the authority in Latino marketing, having conquered a niche market that is quickly becoming one of the most important in the industry. “In many cities, the Latino market is not the minority anymore; it’s the majority. So, the Latino market is becoming the general market,” Pozo explains.

But now, with the company’s expansion to film production and distribution, Arenas is quickly become far more than a typical marketing firm; it will soon be an absolutely independent, full-service studio. “When this project is done, and when we prove that there is a niche in the marketplace that nobody is addressing properly, Arenas will really become a vertically integrated, full-service company,” he says. “It’s a very exciting time for us.”