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Meet Jorge Ameer

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jorge Ameer.

Jorge Ameer was raised in Panama where he developed his talents from a very young age playing the piano & the organ, as well as performing in several plays at his school as well as the Methodist church.

From small, his mother would take him to the drive-in and movie theatres. Jorge developed a love for movies from a very young age collecting movie listing and ads from newspapers and creating a scrapbooks on everything and anything film. To this day, he still has that scrapbooks as a reminder of his love for cinema.

At the age of 18, he was selected to participate in the Walt Disney College Program. He worked in the marketing departments of New Line Cinema, Paramount and Columbia Pictures. In motion picture development, Jorge worked as a story analyst for Richard Gere’s production company and Wendy Finerman’s productions at TriStar Pictures in the early nineties and the now-defunct Fries Entertainment.

His acting credits include, ” Gramercy’s “Panther” and “Tales from the Hood”, HBO’s “Social Friction Fables” New Line’s “Friday”, and cameo appearances in his films “The Truth Within”, “Strippers”, and a supporting roles in “The Singing Forest”, “Contadora is for lovers”, “The House of Adam”, “The Dark Side of love” and “D’Agostino”. He co-stars opposite award-winning actor Matthew Leitch) in the carnival romp “Sabor Tropical”. Ameer discovered actor Matthew leich during the premiere of his film “AKA” at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival

In October 1997, he founded and Executive directed The Continental Film Festival, better known as the first American Independent film festival overseas on an island, was held on the island of Contadora off the gulf of Panama. Upon the festival’s completion, filmmakers returned to their destinations with reviews from the national and international press.

There is where his film career actually began. He served as a festival coordinator during the very beginnings of the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival. At the LALIFF, he worked alongside Edward James Olmos and Marlene Dehmer the current festival director. Ameer also served as the coordinator for the 1988 Latino Entertainment Industry Conference and as a member of the advisory board of the Methodfest Film Festival.

Other previous industry positions include being a U.S. representative for the Barcelona G & L Film Festival and a film programmer for the Palm Springs G & L Film Festival. At these festivals, Ameer helped in the selection of many foreign features. After noticing a lack of recognition of foreign and independent gay-themed films released theatrically, he founded the International Gay Film Awards, the Glitter Awards (2001-2008). Ameer currently is the US representative for Festival Mix (Mexico) where he assist in curating foreign features and shorts.

Glitter Awards, the only award show of its kind, attracted celebrities presenters such as Academy Award-nominated actress Lupe Ontiveros, Karen Black, “Grease” and “Summer lovers”, “Blue Lagoon” director Randall Kleiser,Ayre Gross, comedian Jason Stuart, Peter Miller (star of “Mambo Italiano”) to name a few.

In 1997, as a distributor, Ameer started Hollywood Independents with the theatrical release of “California Myth” starring Tyron Powers Jr. Thereafter, the company has released such titles as the Jamaican/American co-production “Klash” starring Jazmine Guy, “Eastside” starring Mario Lopez, “Tequila Body Shots” starring Joey Lawrence, “Poor White Trash” starring Jamie Pressley, Jason London, William Devane and Sean Young, Spain’s Academy Awards Winning film (Goya Winner) “I will Survive” (Sobrevivire), and “Hotel Room” from the director of “Nico & Dani”.

Other releases include his film “The Singing Forest”, and “Junked” starring Thomas Jane (star of “The Mist”, “Punisher” and the popular HBO series “Hung”) and Jordan Ladd (star of “Cabin Fever”, “Hostel 2”). Mr. Ameer has authored, produced, and directed the theatrical features “The Truth Within”, “Strippers”, “The Singing Forest”, “Contadora is for lovers”, “The House of Adam”, “The Dark Side of Love”, “Sabor Tropical”, “D’Agostino”. All projects released theatrically through Hollywood Independents.

Ameer has produced, written and directed countless 35mm comedic shorts films to name a few “My Straight Boyfriend”, “Popcorn & Coke”, “Uninhibited”, “Midnight Snack”, “Tease” now available on DVD as a compilation of shorts called Straight Men & the Men who love them. This collection has been so successful, Ameer has executive produced, program and curated two programs of the same-titled Straight Men & the Men who love them 2 and the upcoming Straight Men & the men who love them three. The latest compilation of shorts is a collection of international shorts curated from the Cannes Film Festival (short film corner).

His documentary works include the 2005 Glitter Awards, 2006 Glitter Awards and “Classic Hollywood Cinemas” an in-depth look at the old Hollywood movie palaces, their historic and preservation value and impact. In this documentary, the movie theatres are the stars!!!.

He’s also produced and arrange the publishing of the historical and award-winning first-ever “Guide to Gay & Lesbian Film”. The first edition was published through Blood Moon productions. The book has won many book awards for its detail, educational and historical contribution to independent films, specially gay & lesbian films released in theatres.

A human rights activist, Ameer has spent most of his career creating controversial, cutting edge trivial stories with thought-provoking subject matters to challenge audiences from the stereotypical social conventions and outdated traditional values which detract from enhancing the global human experience.

In addition to filmmaking, within the exhibition industry, Jorge Ameer was the last person to re-open the historic Vogue theatre in Hollywood as a movie theatre to showcase independent films. Films such as “Nico and Dani” (TLA Releasing) and “Just one time” from the now-defunct Cowboy Releasing played at this theatre. The resurgence of film exhibition at the Vogue was short-lived due to alleged hauntings at the venue where a paranormal research group leased the theatre from Mann theatres to set up shop as headquarters for their research group.

The theatre was gutted a few years later to make way for a nightclub that never opened. This short stint with this historic theatre has made Ameer a part of the Hollywood Historic Cinema experience as he was the last person to play films at what was a great film venue back in its day.

Jorge Ameer’s theatrical distribution company Hollywood Independents International opened its theatrical distribution operations in Central and South America in 2006 with the theatrical release of “Grande Ecole” a film by Robert Salis. The French film was censored and banned in Panama due to its explicit sexual content where his company was scheduled to open it in theatres on January 2007.

Ameer took a trip to Panama to denounce the banning of this film. After outraged from the Panamanian press, the film opened successfully in Panama. It opened number one at the Alhambra-Plus Transistmica beating studio films “Night at the Museum” and “Deja Vu”. It broke box office record locally, for this genre of film, playing for eight weeks theatrically.

On January 26, 2009, the Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture study invited Mr. Ameer’s to have his screenplays be a permanent part of “The Core Collection”. The screenplays in this collection are made accessible for research purposes; students, filmmakers, writers, and actors are among the patrons.

In additional to his filmmaking, acquisition and distribution activities, Ameer programs and curates films and has been a guest speaker at countless film festivals and media events worldwide.

In April 2011, Mr. Ameer started his own film series in Panama called Jorge Ameer presents Cine Serie Independiente, a showcase to promote and exhibit high profile award winning independent and foreign films in Panama. Among the few films, Mr. Ameer was responsible in bringing to Panamanian audiences was Aluzio Abranche’s controversial incestuous drama of brotherly love “From Begining to End” (Do Comeco ao Fim), Andre Shortell’s “Psych 9” starring Sara Foster & Cary Elwes, Karee Andrew’s “Altitude”. During the film presentations, directors presented their work to Panamanian audiences in person and live via skype on the movie screen.

This is the first time in Panama’s cinema history technology has allowed local cinephiles the opportunity to interact with award-winning filmmakers virally before and after their film presentations. During the film series screenings, Panamanian audiences shared comments and exchange opinions with the artists live on-screen from their home countries.

Unfortunately, the presenting cinema and only theatre exhibitor to support independent films – the Alhambra Theatres- would close the following year, on January 31, 2012, due to financial troubles. It was the last of a series of vintage stand-alone cinemas constructed during the boom of single-screen theatres and drive-ins in Panama. There are currently only two theatre chain exhibitors (Cinepolis & Cinemark) operating in Panama. Both chains have their multiplex cinemas located throughout today’s popular mega malls. More details of the end of the single screen theatres and era are exposed in Mr. Ameer’s documentary Classic Hollywood Cinemas.

Several months after his film series, Mr. Ameer served as producer to the opening night after-party to the October 2011 edition of SCREAMFEST, the world’s premiere horror film festival based in Hollywood, California. The event was held at the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel. The event brought luminaries of the genre such as Paranormal Activity’s Oren Peli, “Saw” and “Insidious” director James Wan, as well as “Grease”, “Summer Lovers”, “Blue Lagoon” director Randal Kleiser and “Firestarters”, “Class of 1984” director Mark Lester to name a few celebrity attendees.

With a seance theme, over 400 votive candles were used to create the atmosphere. In addition over one hundred skulls, the screamfest symbol were featured as centerpieces and part of the morbid “look” throughout the event. A well-lit coffin surrounded by neon lights was featured in the gift room where guests retrieved their gift bags from the open casket.

In 2012, Mr. Ameer was invited to be President of the jury to the International TV, film and video Film festival of Panama. The Festival Cine Diva is a competitive festival held Sept 8-16, 2012. The festival focuses on short subject experimental, documentary, short and television works both local and foreign. Winner are awarded the Premio Diva. (Diva Award)

After many years in the making, Mr. Ameer has pioneered and procured the opening of the first high school film program in Panama at the Pan American Institute in Panama City. The film program’s curriculum was designed by Jorge Ameer and approved by the Ministry of Education. It started on March 2, 2015, with the first-class schedule to graduated on December 20, 2017.

Released Halloween 2015, Jorge Ameer’s latest film Medusa, a contemporary dark gothic tale of terror based on the greek mythology starred Jeff Allen, William McNamara (Stealing Home, Copycat), Katy Foley, Britt Rose & Tom Struckhoff. Visual effects were under the supervision of Jeremy Vanneman (Godzilla, Pacific Rim, Wolverine & Star Trek Into Darkness, Avengers 2, Jurassic World, Ghostbusters three among other studio films). The film was officially announced to the public at the 2014 Wondercon. It was named one of the most anticipated upcoming films of the year by videodetective.com.

In 2015, Jorge Ameer had two films having their world premieres in two different programs at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, his authored feature Medusa (aka The resurrection of Medusa) which he directed and acted as Kao the witch doctor premiered in Cannes premiere as part of the Marche Du Film. Also, Find Pauletta, a ghost story was selected as part of the Short Film Corner. Jorge Ameer stars as Douglas in Find Pauletta, a horror ghost story about a new smartphone app that enables camera phones to see ghosts.

Mr. Ameer is currently the Film Festival director of FILMS FROM PANAMA presented by The Viva Panama Organization and held in Hollywood yearly. His latest film OASIS, filmed in Panama the same week during the theatrical release of his other film MEDUSA on August 2016 in Panama. The film premiered at the Marche Du Film of the Cannes Film Festival in 2017. It was released theatrically on November 10, 2017. It was submitted for the 2018 Golden Globes & Oscar consideration. The film was among 341 films eligible for Best Picture consideration for the 2018 Academy Awards. “Oasis” represented Panama at the 2018 Golden Globes in the best foreign-language film category.

Now available on Amazon Prime Video, Oasis is a thriller which tells the story of two long-lost friends Oliver (Cesar DeFuentes) and Andrew (Matthew Lyn) who reconvene when Andrew visits Oliver on a business trip to Panama. When visiting he walks in on an argument between Oliver and his wife Constancia (Katia Semacaritt) and discovers that his life is far from the perfect world he thought it was in. As a result, he invites him to a tropical getaway, where the two delve into the deepest, and darkest parts of their friendship, uncovering old feelings and something far more sinister in the process.

His latest film “The Family Tree”, now in post-production and filmed in Panama, introduces actor Joseph Michale Nelson in his film debut and re-unites Ameer with the actor Keith Roenke of his previous film “D’Agostino” (2009, shot in Greece, UK & USA). The Family Tree narrates the story of an old Panamanian holiday tradition that comes to life to disrupt the existence of a workaholic animal rescuer to show him the true meaning of love, friendship and family. The film is scheduled for release in 2020.

Has it been a smooth road?
Ameer arrived in Hollywood in the early 1990’s with the intention of pursuing an acting career. However, with very few opportunities coming his way, Ameer decided to make his own opportunities, writing, directing his own 35mm films. His earlier education in film at the studios would later prepare him to produce and distribute his films. His theatrical distribution company Hollywood Independents started by releasing films by other well-established talent and award-winning filmmakers as he established himself and his films.

After learning the business side of the industry, programming several film festivals, creating and releasing films in theatres, Ameer began acquiring film for other distributor partners. These opportunities led to Ameer distributing films in Central America through established cinema chains such as Cinepolis and the now-defunct Alhambra Cinemas theatre chain. Ameer was one of the programmers of this theatre chain and he programmed foreign and independent film from Los Angeles for the public consumption of art house cinephiles in Panama and Latin America.

“There’s never a point where you know everything there is to know in film, so you learn as much as you can. You never stop learning. Every film is a struggle and has its challenges. The road has hardly been smooth for me, but you roll with the punches and take every experience as a learning curve to better yourself and broaden your horizons as a filmmaker. You learn what works and what doesn’t for you and your artistic vision. Perseverance is the name of the game and as an artist, I’ve learned to NEVER compromise my visiont” Ameer says.

My work tends to illicit a reaction. Sometimes it is loved, other times there adverse reactions, and that’s OK in my book, as long as there is a reaction. The worst review to me is no reaction at all. At the end of the day, it’s art and it’s all very subjective, just like an opinion or a film review. You take the praise and criticism with a grain of salt. You learn to value the opinions of the people you trust.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I’m in the business of film. I write, producer, distribute, exhibit, program and promote high end, cutting edge independent and foreign motion pictures. I like to create films that make people think, breaks through stereotypes, and forces curious minds to wonder in the alternative to their thought process. Because there is always another side to a story and it is usually worth telling. As a company, I am most proud of my two latest films “OASIS” released this past July on Amazon prime and the film I currently have in post-production “The Family Tree”.

Both of these film are my pride and joy because I feel like its taking me this long to get to a place where I’m happy with the content and quality of the product I am making. It took me a while to get it right because I did not have any aunts or uncles in the business to school me as to how things work nor did I have the resources back then to go to film school, so my film school training was practical while working at the studios.

But not that I’ve got a good hold on how the business works and how to make my art and show to the world, I feel like I’m in my element as an artist and in my most productive stage of my life where I can produce interesting works to me without regrets or wondering what people will say. I’ve also developed the ability of be prolific at producing films. And that an asset for me, because when I’m ready to make a film, I go out there and get it done! However, my legacy and my contribution to the future of cinema is the creation of Panama’s first high school film school. This almost impossible dream of mine became a reality on January 8, 2015, when we inaugurated the first class in a newly built student film lab for the development of future Panamanian filmmakers.

My high school film program is a progressive curriculum based on practical experience as well as the film school insight needed to succeed in creating a voice while making art in the business of film. Student learn how to raise funds, write, produce, direct and create their own student film festival. By their graduation, they are required to have several short ready to show as part of their reel. This by far has been my most satisfying accomplishment. To have been able to bring a program of this nature to Panama in one of Panama’s most prestigious and oldest education institutions – The Pan American Institute (IPA). This institution celebrated its 113 years of existence this past July.

As a company, what sets us apart from others is I was always a risk-taker. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn’t. but no one person has a pulse on art. You never know where you may find the next gem either film or artists to discover. I love discovering new works and talents. I always look forward to collaborating with like-minded artists and people with fresh perspectives on life. If I believe in them, I’ll always to that extra mile to make it happen.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Hollywood was and still is the world’s capital of Cinema. People come from all over the world with dreams in their eyes. However, coming to Los Angeles people need to keep the reality of their situation in check to avoid struggles and hurdles that may cost them their dreams. You must work hard to achieve. There’s a fallacy of getting discovered, but you must create the environment to get discovered, to achieve and succeed. I believe Hollywood is the best place to be if you want to be in the film business.

The competition keeps you on your toes and energizes you to keep going. With that said, person who live in other parts of the world should not be dissuaded from pursuing their dreams. A performance, a play, a movie can be shot, edited and made anywhere in the world and shared with the public thanks to technology, so geography is not an issue in making films. The issues facing filmmakers today is finding the audience for their films.

My advice to making films is to have something unique and original to offer and say. If you are in the business to be the next George Lucas or Steven Spielberg I have news for you… they already exist. And you copying their style makes you just that… a copy. A true filmmaker is an artist who can develop and perfect his/her voice and as you develop that voice you use it to say something meaningful, something that will make people want to remember you, follow you and see your next work. I LOVE Los Angeles. This city has taught me a lot and has trained me well and given me the education I needed out of the classroom – invaluable practical experience.

There’s no price tag on that. No one can take away you’re knowledge or your voice as an artist. People also need to remember that the film is still an art form. There too much of a fixation on box office and who’s in what when the most important part of film is the story. Without a good solid engaging, original story you have nothing, There are formulas and such, but what will separate your work from the others is how innovative and fresh it is.

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courtesy of Hollywood Independents

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