A lifelong love of storytelling

USC Gould School of Law • September 18, 2023
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For Moises Amsel, LLM is springboard into entertainment career amplifying Latinx/e voices

By Tatiana Overly

Moises Amsel (LLM 2010) was only five years old when he fell in love for the first time. His infatuation wasn’t the typical childhood crush but rather with the mesmerizing world of television.

Amsel at the 2010 Gould commencement ceremony.

His eyes light up as he reminisces about the fateful day when his mother, a producer for a popular Venezuelan TV show, took him to an active film set. “It was the first time I understood that what I watched on TV was being created by people, was all being built in a sound stage, and actors were playing characters,” Amsel recalls. When he returned to school the next day, he was possessed by an inexplicable longing that he didn’t realize until years later meant he had fallen head over heels in love with the bustling, creative environment of the film set and entertainment.

Amsel’s love of cinema and television grew with him, and today, Amsel is no longer on the entertainment industry sidelines. As the executive director of production at Gato Grande Productions, an MGM Company, he channels his childhood passion into a powerful mission – developing groundbreaking, captivating stories that elevate Latinx/e voices in both the U.S. and Latin American entertainment markets.

Seeking Justice and Finding Purpose

Amsel’s family history tells a tale of survival against the odds. His parents met in South America after their families fled the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust that claimed the lives of most of their family members. They forged a life together in Venezuela, their new homeland, raising two sons. As first-generation Venezuelans, Amsel and his brother still had difficulty fitting in.

Amsel and his family.

“Growing up in a country that’s not where your family is from can be very isolating in many ways,” Amsel explains.

Amsel found that the arts gave him the sense of belonging and identity he craved. Inspired by that first film set visit, he honed his acting craft through training in high school and college, finding purpose in every character he portrayed. Then, his life took an abrupt, harrowing turn at age 19 when he was kidnapped at a gas station by a criminal group.

He was held for ransom as his family desperately sought his safe return. After two agonizing weeks, he was released, but the experience left him deeply traumatized and obsessed with seeing justice brought to the people who abducted him. He enrolled in law school at Universidad Metropolitana de Caracas, convinced the legal system could help him right the wrong done to him.

However, the realities of the Venezuelan judicial systembecame apparent during his first year of law school.” I realized that tracking down my abductors and charging them with a crime was completely idealistic. That is not how it works in Venezuela,” he says. But law school opened a new career path, leading him back to his first love: storytelling.

Journey to Hollywood

After earning his law degree, Amsel’s gaze shifted north toward Los Angeles and earning a Master of Laws at USC Gould, a degree that would allow him to practice law in the United States. Yet, the prospect of attending the law school felt like a distant dream. “Applying to USC was a monumental moment for me and my family. They even came with me to mail my application,” Amsel remembers fondly. After graduation, Amsel was grateful for the competitive edge he had earned with his degree and membership in the Trojan network.

An internship at a talent agency gave him important insight into the entertainment industry, followed by a job managing A&R accounts at Sony Music, a significant milestone in his budding career. Now fully immersed in Hollywood, Amsel found himself thinking about his own creative ambitions and the gripping story of his kidnapping. He made the difficult decision to walk away from law and write his first screenplay, which he sold to Fox Studios. Even though it was never developed, destiny had taken a hand.

He continued to work on his screenwriting and filmmaking and, over the next few years, created multiple screenplays and four original series. Amsel’s storytelling capabilities caught the eye of MGM executives searching for an executive director of scripted development for Gato Grande Productions, MGM’s content development arm for Latinx/e voices. Amsel’s journey had taken him back to his first love and put him in a position to significantly impact Latinx/e film and television content.

Shaping the narrative

In his role, Amsel takes inspiration from the titans of old Hollywood and their mastery of every area of filmmaking. At Gato Grande, he aims to bring new stories to U.S. and Latin American audiences from concept to delivery to broaden the scope of Latinx/e identity and history through movies and TV shows.

“Why haven’t we told the stories about the Latino leaders in the American civil rights movement or the first landmark Supreme Court cases that were argued by Latino lawyers in the 1950s?” he says. He sees it as his professional duty and personal responsibility to champion these neglected stories and ensure their rightful place in the spotlight. He is already well on his way to fulfilling that duty.

Amsel was executive director of development for “Luis Miguel: The Series,” a dramatization of the life of the famous Mexican singer. The show enjoyed a successful three-season run on Netflix. A commitment to developing thought-provoking storytelling also shines through in “Laughing on the Inside,” a Gato Grande documentary series that follows comedian Sofía Niño de Rivera as she teaches comedy workshops to people in Mexico City’s prison system.

His work with boss and mentor, Carla Gonzalez Vargas, who served as co-executive producer for the first season of the global Addams Family sensation, “Wednesday,” reflects his overall vision for compelling Latinx/e storytelling. Amsel’s influence extends beyond the screen, as he manages a robust portfolio of 20+ projects, spanning features and scripted TV shows.

Amidst the impact and success of his thriving career, Amsel remains grounded, attributing the catalyst of his success to the confidence and support he found at USC. “Being a Trojan is an identity that stays with you for life. It is incredible to have the support of USC behind me—the community made me feel that I belonged.”

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