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Paramount shakeup continues

Studio lays off 31 production staffers

The shakeup at the top of Paramount Pictures continued Tuesday with the layoffs of 31 production staffers, including a number of division heads.

Among the execs departing the Melrose lot are Guy Stodel, head of the Paramount Vantage unit, and Georgia Kacandes, head of physical production. Dan Levine, exec veep of production, and Ben Cosgrove, senior veep of production, were let go, along with casting chief Gail Levin, vfx senior veep Kim Locasio and Aimee Shieh, head of Par’s New York literary office.

The pinkslips came on the heels of last month’s exits of John Lesher and Brad Weston from the posts of film group prexy and production prexy, respectively. Adam Goodman, newly appointed prexy of Par’s film group, broke the news to the staff in a memo that cited the need for “streamlining the leadership of the production organization.”

The heavy focus on cost-cutting within Par was evident in the staff cuts as well as in a report Tuesday by the Financial Times that Par has approached Sony and Fox about a possible partnership with either studio that would combine the production and distribution functions of their homevid operations. The studios would maintain separate marketing and sales teams.

Some streamlining of Par’s exec ranks was inevitable after Goodman took the reins and as Par continued to adjust from last year’s divorce from DreamWorks.

Not surprisingly, the exiting execs were closely aligned with Lesher or Weston. Goodman’s production exec team now includes David Beaubaire, Greg Mooradian, Geoff Stier and Marc Evans.   

Cosgrove shepherded projects including “The Spiderwick Chronicles” and “Dreamgirls” and was prepping the David O. Russell-directed drama “The Fighter,” with Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Amy Adams, as well as “Interstellar,” a Jonah Nolan-scripted drama that has Steven Spielberg attached to direct, and the Peter Berg-directed “Dune.” Cosgrove previously worked for six years at George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh’s Section Eight.

Levine previously worked with Weston at Dimension Films. Pics he shepherded for Par include the upcoming “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” plus “Cloverfield” and “Shooter.”

Stodel came to Vantage from New Line, where his films included “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Friday the 13th” (a New Line/Paramount co-production). He acquired the remake of “The Orphanage” that Guillermo del Toro is producing and Alejandro Amenabar’s “The Sea Inside.”

Locasio’s exit begs the question of whether Paramount will continue to have its own visual effects department. Rob Legato, visual effects supervisor on the upcoming Martin Scorsese-directed “Shutter Island,” said: “Having someone so knowledgeable there made my job that much easier. It’s a shame.”

Shieh ran the Gotham literary office for the past year, and she, director of development Mac Hawkins and assistant Megan McIlroy were all let go and the office shuttered. Paramount has always had a strong Gotham lit presence, and the longest-running dedicated New York office at about 20 years. Speculation is that Goodman will restructure the lit scouting department and house it on the Par lot.

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