Paramount Vantage taps Guy Stodel

Will replace Amy Israel as exec vp prod'n, acquisitions

In the first major shake-up since Paramount brought marketing, distribution and physical production operations for its specialty division Paramount Vantage into the studio, New Line veteran Guy Stodel is replacing Amy Israel as executive vp production and acquisitions.

Vantage, which had been aiming for 10-12 films per year, is scaling back to four to six annual releases, a mix of auteur-driven fare, thriller and horror genre titles and low-budget comedies.

"Guy's expertise fits in perfectly with that vision," Paramount Film Group president John Lesher said. "We want this to continue to be both a prestige label and a profitable one, and we want to be in the Vantage business. Hiring Guy shows our commitment to this (specialty film) space."

In his previous post as New Line senior vp acquisitions and co-production, Stodel handled such genre fare as the two most recent "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" movies along with such films as Michel Gondry's "Be Kind Rewind," Mike Bender's "The Upside of Anger," and Alejandro Amenabar's "The Sea Inside."

"Guy's creative instincts and success at spotting unique and dynamic material makes him a fantastic addition to our team," said Vantage president Nick Meyer, to whom Stodel will report.

Senior vp development and production Geoff Stier is expected to remain on board. While Vantage will retain its development, business and sales operations, staff cuts are anticipated in most departments at both Paramount and Vantage in the coming months.

Vantage's marketing/distribution was taken over by Paramount in June.

Lesher, who had strong ties to talent as a former agent with Endeavor, nurtured low- to midrange-budget, star-driven projects during his time as head of Vantage. But it is unclear how many of those types of projects --which brought prestige to the studio at the expense of high marketing costs --will remain at the retooled Vantage. "Obviously I know a lot of talent," Lesher said. "Since both divisions report to me, why shouldn't the best talent work at both of them?"

Israel, a former Miramax exec, was hired by Lesher in January 2006 shortly after he launched Vantage.

"It's been a great honor to help build Paramount Vantage from the ground up over the past couple of years, overseeing our tremendous production slate from 'No Country for Old Men' and 'There Will Be Blood' to 'Defiance' and acquiring a range of movies from 'An Inconvenient Truth' (to) 'American Teen,' " Israel said.

"Amy has done a wonderful job jump-starting the department and positioning us for the future," Lesher added. "She is a talented executive and producer; her taste and expertise has contributed to many of the successes that Vantage has achieved in our short history. We look forward to working with her on projects in the future."

In a rough spring for specialty divisions, Vantage was absorbed into Paramount proper, after Time Warner folded New Line into Warner Bros. and closed shop at Warner Independent Pictures and Picturehouse.

Gregg Goldstein reported from New York; Jay A. Fernandez reported from Los Angeles.
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