Miramax diaspora infiltrates H'wood's inner circle
When Jon Gordon steps onto the Universal lot Oct. 1 as the studio’s co-prexy of production, he’ll be the latest in a long line of Miramax alums to land a major studio job. He also may be the latest to experience serious culture shock.As the Weinstein brothers pack for their Sept. 30 exit from Miramax, those who trained under them are downright ubiquitous. Departing Miramax execs have landed top jobs at Paramount, Sony, DreamWorks — at virtually every studio except Disney. The majors clearly hope that by tapping into the diaspora, they’ll capture some of the mini-major’s energy and enterprising spirit. But the hard-charging Bob & Harvey school of business embodied a unique culture and protocol. The studio terrain is sharply different, and it’s not clear whether longtime Miramax staffers are well prepared to navigate more bureaucratic terrain. Every studio hires a wide array of individuals, with their own strengths and demons. It’s hard to generalize about any staff, but there are certain hallmarks of the Miramax Alumni Assn. They are used to quick answers, so they may have some difficulty adjusting to a corporate structure. They’re used to a guerrilla negotiating style — which worked well at Miramax, but is not what the majors are used to. And they may have a tough time adjusting to frequent meetings and decisions by committee. Some Miramax alumni refer to themselves as members of a fictitious 12-step program they dub Mir-Anon. The Miramax grads are a tight-knit group. Groups like Skull & Bones and college dining clubs have their own set of secret rituals and hand signals. There’s nothing secret about Mir-Anon. One evening last week at the Peninsula Hotel — which still counts Harvey Weinstein among its most frequent guests — Gordon was having drinks with fellow alums Rick Sands, Bob Osher, Andrew Gumpert, Ross Landsbaum and Matthew Hiltzik. The group shares the shorthand of people who’ve worked in the trenches together. But they feed Hollywood’s paranoia that the grads will fan out, stay in touch and end up running the town, Miramax-style. Few companies have had greater success in placing its former employees in high-level Hollywood jobs. (One notable exception is HBO, which has fed a huge number of former execs to the film and TV biz.) The Miramax influx raises questions with broader implications: Will the merging of cultures result in better relations with filmmakers, and will the result be faster dealmaking? As they cope with these larger issues, all of them face adjustments at their new jobs. Harvey and Bob Weinstein exercised a remarkable measure of personal control over the mini-major, and ran the company on their own sometimes pugnacious terms. So the alumni will set out to prove that they trained to be leaders, not followers. They’ll want to prove to their new bosses that they are hands-on execs who can work 18-hour days and deliver results, rather than glorified assistants who can’t make decisions on their own. These questions are assuming greater urgency now that the Weinsteins’ divorce from Disney has sent a further exodus of Miramax execs into the Hollywood job pool. While the pressure is great, the pay is greater. All of them got hefty pay boosts at the studios. Working for the Weinsteins can be seen as a medical internship: There’s not much money there, but big paychecks will come down the road. Here’s a sample of former Miramax staffers now dotting the studio landscape:
- At Paramount — a studio making big changes under new chairman Brad Grey (a onetime assistant himself to Harvey Weinstein) — former Dimension exec Brad Weston is co-head of production. He has added ex-Miramax staffer Michelle Raimo as his senior veep of production. (One former Miramax marketing head, Gerry Rich, is now Par’s marketing chief; another, David Dinerstein, co-heads Par Classics.)
- At Universal, where Gordon is about to become co-prexy of production, Andrew Rona is joining the studio’s genre arm Rogue, working under Focus’ co-head David Linde, a Miramax Intl. vet, alongside two other Miramax grads, Focus marketing chief David Brooks and distribution topper Jack Foley.
- At Sony, Gumpert, a onetime Miramax biz affairs exec, is joining former co-prexy of production Osher, now Columbia’s chief operating officer. Also new to the lot is 10-year Miramax vet Matt Brodlie, who went to Sony unit TriStar Pictures late last year.
- Sands and Mark Gill, once known as tandem prexies for Miramax, have gone to DreamWorks and Warner Independent Pictures, respectively. Former Miramax senior VP of production Jeremy Kramer is now at DreamWorks.
- Miramax acquisitions exec Arianna Bocco is heading an indie division at Gersh; marketing execs Amanda Lundberg and Cynthia Swartz are now partners at Leslee Dart’s PR agency.
- Rick Schwartz — who began as Harvey’s assistant and moved up to exec produce “Gangs of New York” and “The Aviator” as a senior VP of production — is in partnership with Initial Entertainment Group through his own Blueprint Prods.
- Hiltzik, the former Weinstein spinmeister, has become prexy-CEO of Freud Communications, a new U.S. affiliate of the U.K. praisery.