Wednesday, January 10, 2007

**UPDATED** Berman Out, No Surprise

There are tons of theories on why this didn't work, and I think most of them have grains of truth. The reality is that Paramount is a roiling mess right and not an easy place to work for anyone, contract or no contract. The writing was on the wall when Stacey Snider got hired over at Dreamworks and they cut Gail's slate. Still, she'll cash out big, call in some favors, use the one thing no can take from you -- your taste -- and be back. Probably in television. So, don't cry for Gail, she's got her full 2006 bonus coming to her and will either accept some insane pay-out or take a long vacation. Hopefully her stock options vested at 32, since Viacom is trading at around 42 today.

Deadline Hollywood has a little piece on it, and the LAT ran a longer one earlier today. It sucks when your boss talks to the paper before you clean out your office, but based on the level of chatter leading up to today, Gail had been hearing Brad's heavy footfalls outside of her office for at least a month.

What does this mean for people looking to bust in? Nothing. Business as usual. Gail hadn't really made too big an impact on the overall deals at the studio, so the tastemakers on the lot, i.e. the folks with big overalls who command most of the studio money, won't shuffle too much (yet anywho), and the downstream feeders, i.e. indie producers and talent with no overall deals, still have to wait in line to get heard.

Executive change is death to a studio's reputation. It makes it difficult for agencies to know what to bring to a studio and it can wreck havoc on films in development and production as folks hustle to figure out who they can get a "yes" from, and how long it will take to get one. This is why most contracts above the Sr. VP level are multi-years, as in 3-5, and President-level contracts are usually 4-5. All with generous bonuses, of course. Brad Grey is a man about town, so Gail's release won't affect business too badly, and there are several very senior level executives at the studio with strong agency and talent relationships to keep continuity.

For anybody left, it's Executive Death Match time.

If I can break out the time I'll do a little post on the overall deals. Every 18 months or so I update this chart I keep of who has deals where, and if I can cobble it together, which writers have blind deals and "steps" (I'll explain that later, too) at which studios. It's a habit from when I was working as a producer and it can come in handy when you read the trades.

** Two seconds after I posted this, DHD posts this:

I can report exclusively this afternoon that exiting Gail Berman, who won't be getting a production deal at Paramount, won't be replaced, either. That means there'll no longer be a president of Paramount Pictures -- that job is eliminated. Here's why: I'm told boss Brad Grey doesn't think there needs to be one after the Dreamworks acquisition since Berman's slate was permanently reduced to only 6 to 8 pictures a year now. Everything will stay with same with the existing personnel, so there are no plans to up anyone's titles or responsibilities. Instead, Grey will act as ultimate referee of the four creative hubs now reporting to him: Paramount, with 6 to 8 pics, Dreamworks with another 6 to 8 pics, Nickelodeon/MTV with 2 to 4 pics, and Vantage with another 10 pics. Over the years, lots of chairmen/CEOs in the entertainment world have run companies like this. (I hear that Brad Grey's model is the way legendary Warner Communications mogul Steve Ross ran his many music divisions.
This is in keeping with the number super-senior-level executives concentrated on that lot, many of whom would/could/should/will be running studios in their own right. This may calm the waters over there for a while, but anyone running a studio or major production company elsewhere around town ought to be on the lookout because whenever you concentrate a lot of executives with the kind knife-handling abilities of the ones at Par for any length of time there will inevitably be a killing.

1 comment:

Jess said...

that is all very, very confusing and makes me want to stay in theater.

...i just have to deal with gay men. Not that I don't love me some gay. But I mean...have you ever seen a gay guy who's just lost his job unjustly?

...yeah. Not pretty.