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Par’s Berman in a Blum role

Deal marks first signing for new prexy

Underlining the studio’s desire to emphasize films outside the mainstream, Paramount signed veteran independent producer Jason Blum to a two-year first-look production deal on Thursday.

Deal marks the first signing under Gail Berman, who began her duties as president this week after five years as prexy of Fox Entertainment.

“He will bring Paramount a fresh perspective on filmmaking,” she said, citing Blum’s experience as a producer and Miramax exec along with a wealth of relationships in Los Angeles, New York and overseas.

“He represents a new generation of filmmakers that Paramount wants to foster,” said studio chief Brad Grey.

Announcement is another indication that Grey — tapped in January by Viacom co-prexy Tom Freston to succeed Sherry Lansing — is trying to shake up what had been the town’s most cautious studio. It’s also a sign that he wants Par to operate more nimbly in the cutthroat studio biz following several years of subpar results.

Deal’s the second producing pact under Grey’s tenure following the signing of Alfred Berger-Ron Yerxa’s Bona Fide Prods.

Blum, who inked a first-look deal last year with HBO Films, said he was attracted by the energy on the Par lot and the new exec team, which includes production co-prexys Alli Shearmur and Brad Weston.

Blum will base his Blumhouse Prods. on the Paramount lot. The shingle’s currently in post-production on Icon’s “The Darwin Awards” and has two features in development with HBO — an untitled Bernie Mac project and “Generation SLUT,” with Miguel Arteta directing.

Blum exec produced Alexander Shiva’s docu “Stagedoor” and produced Miramax’s 2000 release of “Hamlet.” His small-screen producing credits include “Hysterical Blindness,” a 2002 Uma Thurman starrer helmed by Mira Nair; and HBO’s upcoming “The Fever,” based on the Wallace Shawn play, directed by Carlo Nero and starring Vanessa Redgrave, Angelina Jolie, Michael Moore and Joely Richardson.

Prior to becoming an independent producer, Blum headed the acquisitions and co-productions department at Miramax Films in New York from 1996-2000 with Amy Israel. During his tenure, Miramax acquired pics including “The Others,” “Smoke Signals,” “Mrs. Brown,” “An Ideal Husband,” “A Walk on the Moon,” “The House of Yes” and “Kolya.”

Blum was also exec VP at Arrow Entertainment, buying more than 60 films, including “Bandit Queen.”

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