Longtime Paramount Awards Strategists Depart to Start Indie Firm With Ex-Colleague (Exclusive)

Awards-season veterans Lea Yardum and Gena Wilder are reuniting with Julie Tustin to form Perception PR.
Courtesy of subjects
From left: Lea Yardum, Julie Tustin, Gena Wilder

Six months after Paramount worldwide president of marketing and distribution Megan Colligan resigned, citing "a pattern of gender bias and discrimination," her closest awards-season collaborators — sisters Lea Yardum and Gena Wilder — are following her out the door. The duo are partnering with Julie Tustin — another veteran publicist who, like them, reported to Colligan at Fox Searchlight, then at Paramount’s now-defunct specialty division Paramount Vantage and ultimately at Paramount — to form Perception PR, a boutique bicoastal awards consulting firm. Yardum and Wilder will run a Los Angeles office, while Tustin, who spent two of the past three years as co-chief of the Film Circuits pr firm, will handle New York with support staff.

Yardum and Wilder have been at Paramount since 2006, when they were hired as year-round exclusive consultants at Vantage with a portfolio that included awards, events and special projects, as well as philanthropic initiatives. In 2008, when Colligan became Paramount’s co-president of marketing, she brought them with her to the larger studio. Over a combined 12 awards seasons, they pioneered a number of new campaign tactics — from offering weekday daytime screenings for voters to designing an awards website that made a film’s assets (script, score, etc.) easily accessible to voters — and helped to deliver 148 nominations for films distributed by the studio, including 13 best picture nominations spanning 2006’s Babel through 2016’s Arrival and Fences.

With Paramount largely sidelined from the awards fray this past season — Downsizing, mother! and Suburbicon never gained traction — Yardum and Wilder secured an exemption from their non-compete clause in order to work on upstart Neon’s campaign for I, Tonya, which ultimately yielded three Oscar noms and a best supporting actress win for Allison Janney.

Tustin, meanwhile, was an integral part of the boom years for Bob and Harvey Weinstein’s Miramax in the mid- to late 1990s, before moving over to Fox Searchlight as vp publicity and then ultimately to Paramount Vantage, Paramount and WWE Studios. Subsequently, through Film Circuits, she brokered a partnership between tech investment bank CODE Advisors and The Hollywood Reporter that resulted in the popular Silicon Valley Screening Series in both San Francisco and London.

"We’re fighters and we never give up fighting for our filmmakers and talent," Yardum tells THR. "And we’re excited to bring our experience and knowledge to this exciting new venture."

A version of this story appears in the April 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.