James Belzer was born and raised in the Panama Canal Zone. His family moved there from Philadelphia when his father (formerly a ship Captain with Texaco), accepted a position as a Panama Canal Pilot. Until his retirement after 27 years of service, his father was responsible for navigating ships through the Panama Canal for the Panama Canal Company, a subsidiary of the U.S. Government.
Growing up in the deep tropics of Panama was a unique experience. James, like many of his peers, was not widely exposed to traditional U.S. media, due to limited availability of TV, as well as the delay in the delivery of film, music and the absence of other forms of pop cultural experiences, like the mall?! The Panama Canal Zone, as it was called, was pretty much like a company town, with all housing and services owned and operated by the Panama Canal Company.
Upon graduation from Balboa High School, where he was the Senior Class President, he set off for New York City to attend NYU. After an initial cultural and weather crisis – having never experienced winter – James successfully adjusted to NYU and life in greater New York. He accomplished his academic endeavors, attending the Tisch School of the Arts as a Drama Major in the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting, ultimately earning his B.A in Journalism from NYU. He made up for the lack of access to the established pop culture references in childhood by deciding to create some new artistic projects of his own.
Upon realizing that the life of a painter, singer, actor, basically a “starving artist,“ in New York had serious limitations, James joined Fairchild Publications and began his career in ad sales in the world of fashion magazines. After 7 years at Fairchild working at M Magazine, he went on to work for other national magazines such as Esquire, Spa Finder and most recently, for the past five years as the Business Development Director at Harper’s Bazaar.
Having never given up his creative ambitions, the artistic activities have lived as entrepreneurial efforts right along side his magazine career. From producing parties at a host of NYC nightclubs, to the advent of his music alter ego (Jimmy Beats), to the more recent live theater productions – off Broadway at The Lucille Lortel and at the Cherry Grove theater in Fire Island – James has produced and directed numerous creative projects over the years.
Now an independent filmmaker, James is involved with several key film projects, including “THE TENTS” – a documentary about the history of NY Fashion Week that was recently released (), “MAKE IT IN AMERICA: Empowering Global Fashion” and “COMING OF AGE IN CHERRY GROVE: The Invasion” – a documentary about the colorful members of the Cherry Grove (Fire Island) community.