Author Topic: Lesher leaves Endeavor - PTA gets a new agent  (Read 5786 times)

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MacGuffin

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Lesher leaves Endeavor - PTA gets a new agent
« on: November 03, 2005, 03:57:34 PM »
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Endeavor's Lesher to head Par Classics
Source: Hollywood Reporter

Endeavor agent John Lesher is finalizing negotiations to join Paramount Pictures as head of its specialty films division, sources close to the negotiations confirmed Wednesday.

Currently called Paramount Classics, the unit is expected to undergo a name change in the near future.
 
Paramount and Endeavor both declined comment on the development.

Lesher has worked closely with Paramount chairman Brad Grey -- who has made re-energizing the specialty division one of the goals of his new administration -- in packaging two current projects. Lesher client Martin Scorsese directed Plan B's "The Departed," starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon, at Warner Bros. Pictures, and Grey brought Brad Pitt to Paramount to star in "Babel," directed by Lesher client Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

This week, Lesher flew to the Japan set of "Babel" to tell Inarritu that he was leaving Endeavor; he then jetted to Brazil to inform clients Walter Salles and Fernando Meirelles. Lesher's list of rising directors also includes David O. Russell, Paul Thomas Anderson and Bennett Miller. They all will be handled by other agent teams at Endeavor, according to agency sources.

Last month, Grey informed Paramount Classics co-presidents Ruth Vitale and David Dinerstein that he did not intend to renew their contracts, effectively ending their tenure. Since then, there has been increasing speculation about who Grey would turn to to take over the reigns.

Early in his tenure at Paramount, Grey had discussions with Paramount-based producer Michael London ("Sideways"), but London preferred to remain in production. The name of Lions Gate Releasing president Tom Ortenberg surfaced prominently in the press, though one Paramount source insisted that no serious talks took place. Cinetic Media's New York-based attorney John Sloss had one meeting with Grey, which didn't lead anywhere.

Many in the industry suspected that Lesher, who since July has denied rumors that he was interested in the job, was getting ready to make the leap from agency to studio executive or producer, as had such ex-agents as Paula Wagner, Jack Rapke and Jeff Robinov before him. According to sources, during their first round of negotiations Lesher and Grey were unable to come to terms over money issues. Taking the Paramount gig would involve a steep pay cut for an agent at his level, who was earning in the low millions. Lesher also was riding a wave of success last year with high-end packaging deals for clients Scorsese, Inarritu and Adam McKay, who is directing Will Ferrell's untitled NASCAR movie.

Ultimately, though, Grey and Lesher appear to have come to terms. With Viacom's stock trading low, any stock options Lesher might have been offered would be potentially more valuable, sweetening a deal.

Now that he is ready to make the transition, industry watchers said Lesher faces a steep learning curve. Although he's seen his share of Oscar campaigns and art house hits and is known for his impeccable taste, he can expect some culture shock when he enters the corporate world. "He'll have to return people's calls," quipped one agent.

"He'll have to suck up a lot more," said one indie studio head. "He's been very entrepreneurial and self-directed. Now he's part of a large system that wants its due. It's important to be on the team. He should hire someone who knows something about marketing. And he should not try to run the division with eight to 10 people when he needs 20 to 25. He'll need to control costs, although he's been in the business of getting prices up. The difference between success and failure, black and red, is how good is the deal. It's a beast of a job."

Lesher joined Endeavor as a partner in the motion picture literature department in February 2002. His other clients include Milo Addica, Casey Affleck, James Gray, Jake Kasdan, Beeban Kidron, Harmony Korine, Patrick Marber, Errol Morris, David Siegel and Scott McGehee, Aaron Sorkin and Michael Winterbottom. Before joining Endeavor, Lesher was a partner at UTA and served as co-head of their motion picture literature department. He joined UTA in 1988. Raised in Pittsburgh, Lesher graduated from Harvard College in 1988.
“Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” - Andy Warhol


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cowboykurtis

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Lesher leaves Endeavor - PTA gets a new agent
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2005, 06:01:58 PM »
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Thats really good news - Lesher is a savage. Paramount Classics desperately needs his insight.
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©brad

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Lesher leaves Endeavor - PTA gets a new agent
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2005, 08:30:58 AM »
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that's a lotta clients for one dude.

or is it?

Pubrick

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Lesher leaves Endeavor - PTA gets a new agent
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2005, 08:32:45 AM »
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Quote from: ©brad
that's a lotta clients for one dude.

i don't know about "lotta", but it's definitely more cool directors than i had imagined.
endless 'nothing is what it seems'-isms

cowboykurtis

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Lesher leaves Endeavor - PTA gets a new agent
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2005, 02:33:18 PM »
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Quote from: ©brad
that's a lotta clients for one dude.

or is it?


with the amount of time between projects, an agent isn't constantly up-keeping the gardens of all his director's - one's summer is another's winter, if that makes sense.

his roster is pretty standard - and stellar roster is (or was).
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soixante

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Lesher leaves Endeavor - PTA gets a new agent
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2005, 04:24:54 PM »
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This augurs favorably for PTA if he ever tries to set up a film at Paramount Classics.  It is fairly common for agents to become studio executives.  Mike Medavoy is an example.  Terrence Malick was one of his clients back in the early 70's, and then Medavoy helped set up Thin Red Line at his production company, Phoenix.  The cliche is true -- it's all about relationships.
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Ordet

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Re: Lesher leaves Endeavor - PTA gets a new agent
« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2005, 04:31:21 PM »
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Paramount Pictures presents a p.t. anderson  picture...
were spinning

MacGuffin

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Re: Lesher leaves Endeavor - PTA gets a new agent
« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2005, 01:05:15 AM »
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Layoffs part of changes at Par Classics
Source: Hollywood Reporter

The John Lesher era at Paramount Classics has begun with the ouster of more than one-third of the specialty division's staff, sources said. Four executives and two assistants were notified of the move, which is effective Dec. 31.

When reached for comment, Lesher said he couldn't confirm or deny the layoffs but added that change was afoot at the Paramount Pictures art house label, which is soon to be renamed. Sources said Lesher, a former Endeavor agent who was named president of Paramount Classics last month, is clearing the decks in an effort to surround himself with people he is comfortable with, much as Paramount Pictures chairman and CEO Brad Grey has done through an executive suite housecleaning at the Melrose lot.
 
The Orphanage's Amy Israel, a former acquisitions executive at Miramax Films, is believed to be a front-runner for the Paramount Classics head of acquisitions post. Surviving distribution chief Rob Schulze and acquisitions veteran Joe Matukewicz are expected to attend the Sundance Film Festival next month. A marketing hire also is in the works as Lesher beefs up his staff.

The Paramount Classics pink slips come on the heels of another pair of layoffs affecting the specialty label. In an effort to end duplication of job functions, Rob Moore, Paramount president of marketing, distribution and worldwide operations, has shuttered the three-person Paramount acquisitions department led by Susan Glatzer, with one employee being reassigned to Paramount Classics. Now, if Lesher's people find a project that is an appropriate acquisition for Paramount Pictures rather than the specialty division, they will pass that project along to Moore. Paramount Home Video already has its own acquisitions executive, studio sources said.
“Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” - Andy Warhol


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MacGuffin

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Re: Lesher leaves Endeavor - PTA gets a new agent
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2006, 01:44:38 AM »
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With 'Babel,' exec proves new Vantage label is an indie force
Paramount's John Lesher is showing it doesn't hurt to be a former talent agent.
By Claudia Eller, Los Angeles Times

When John Lesher sold a film project to Paramount Pictures Corp. last year, the Hollywood talent agent couldn't have imagined he'd end up shepherding the movie into theaters as head of the studio's new specialty unit.

"Babel," an intense drama starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, opened over the weekend, Lesher's first release under the Paramount Vantage banner. The energetic and excitable 40-year-old must be giddy today: In the few theaters in which it played, the film made a spectacular showing.

After a two-decade career representing such luminaries as Martin Scorsese and "Babel" director Alejandro González Iñárritu, Lesher has shown a knack for his new role. Though detractors say he can be a cocky snob, few can deny how quickly Lesher has put Vantage on the map.

In less than a year, the label has become a bona fide competitor in an independent film arena dominated by News Corp.'s Fox Searchlight Pictures and NBC Universal Inc.'s Focus Features. Vantage has eight movies in production and 10 releases set for next year, with such noted writer-directors as Noah Baumbach ("The Squid and the Whale"), Paul Thomas Anderson ("Boogie Nights") and the Coen brothers ("Fargo").

Lesher reshaped Vantage's predecessor, Paramount Classics, handpicking a staff of 77 and hiring a top business executive from Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., Nick Meyer, to help run the division.

Before the label's renaming as Vantage, he scored with the spring release of Al Gore's global-warming documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth."

"He's done an incredibly impressive job in a very short time of putting together some of the best filmmakers and first-rate executives in the business," said onetime rival Robert Newman, a top movie agent at International Creative Management Inc. "The company has become a real force and he's made it an attractive place for artists to work."

Specialty labels such as Vantage have become linchpins for the major studios. Their lower-cost, offbeat films can bring Oscar prestige and big profits while complementing studios' mainstream, "popcorn" fare.

Some of the most acclaimed specialty films lately were made by Lesher's former clients at Endeavor agency, including Todd Field's "Little Children," Fernando Meirelles' "The Constant Gardener," Bennett Miller's "Capote" and Walter Salles' "The Motorcycle Diaries."

Lesher's out-of-the-gate success is particularly sweet for Brad Grey, a former talent manager who was criticized when he became chairman of Paramount Pictures in 2005 for having little moviemaking experience and surrounding himself with others who were equally as green.

Shortly after joining the struggling studio, Grey made the specialized film business a top priority. His former boss, Viacom Inc.'s then-Chief Executive Tom Freston, had trashed Paramount Classics as an "also-ran."

Grey first worked closely with Lesher on Scorsese's "The Departed," with Grey as a producer and Lesher representing the director. "You need someone who really understands the language of talent," Grey said, describing his choice of Lesher. "John has extraordinary taste … and he thinks out of the box."

Lesher's tenacity was on display this year when he snapped up "An Inconvenient Truth" at the Sundance Film Festival, where it drew several suitors.

"John was the most persistent by a factor of 20," Gore recalled in an interview. "He made at least a dozen phone calls to me personally. He was very passionate and promised he was really going to get behind it."

Lesher made good on his word. He took Gore to the exhibitors' ShoWest convention in Las Vegas to get theater operators excited about the movie.

He pleaded with Cannes Film Festival officials to screen the documentary even though it already had been shown at another major venue. Gore not only walked down the red carpet ("I'm old enough to know it's just a rug," he quipped), but also was toasted at a party for the film hosted by Vanity Fair magazine.

"It really helped set the stage for everything we were doing," said Lesher, who even sent Gore to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. headquarters to schmooze the nation's largest seller of DVDs.

In the marketing campaign, Lesher framed the documentary as a moral rather than a political debate, helping to broaden its appeal. Opening on the competitive Memorial Day weekend and still in theaters, the film has grossed nearly $24 million in the U.S. and Canada.

Was the former vice president impressed? "Are you kidding? Absolutely," Gore said. "This is a slide show on global warming starring Al Gore!"

Filmmakers who have worked with Lesher say they admire his chutzpah, his decisiveness and his trust in artists. They find his eccentricities charming too.

Comedy screenwriter Mike White ("Nacho Libre" and "School of Rock") said making his directing debut on "Year of the Dog" for Vantage was "the best work experience I've ever had," in part because Lesher remained virtually "hands off" during production.

Despite his chic attire, slick persona and smarts (he studied Japanese literature at Harvard), Lesher puts talent at ease with his boyish laugh and animated antics. "He was an agent for all those auteurs, so he definitely knows the angst of the filmmaker," White said. "But he also has an odd, idiosyncratic temperament — more like me."

White said that when Lesher first saw a cut of his movie, the executive surprisingly "leapt from his seat and laughed and cried." Earlier, at a "Nacho Libre" production meeting with White and his former production partner, actor Jack Black, Lesher dropped to his knees for effect.

"He threw himself at Jack's feet," begging the actor to stay involved in one of Vantage's films," said White, referring to the untitled Baumbach project. "It worked."

Writer-director Adam McKay, a production partner with actor Will Ferrell in a company signed by Vantage to make low-budget comedies, said he loved that Lesher could converse about the artistic merits of films and still "giggle like a giddy 9-year-old."

Lesher, a native of Pittsburgh, was halfway through college when he first thought about working in Hollywood. He followed a friend's advice to start at a talent agency, a fertile learning ground. Lesher spent the next 17 years working mostly at United Talent Agency and Endeavor.

"I loved being an agent, but it was never really my ultimate career goal," Lesher said.

He sees one distinction between being an agent and being an executive. "As an agent you have to be on the side of the filmmaker and talent," he said. "You have to be 'Daddy' in this new job," but also strike a balance between a filmmaker's artistic vision and fiscal responsibility.

One of Lesher's most difficult moments, he said, was saying no to former client Paul Thomas Anderson when he asked to increase the production budget by a few million dollars for "There Will Be Blood," starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

"We took many walks around the lot," Lesher recalled. " 'Why can't I do this? Why, why, why?' he asked me…. Paul was able to be more resourceful because he knew he couldn't get more."


"Babel" is the first real test of Lesher's balancing act. He considers the film a signature Vantage movie, provocative and compelling, with a cast and a director who have international appeal. "It really speaks to what we're trying to do," he said.

Yet Lesher is under pressure to make sure the $25-million art-house film turns a profit, and whether that happens will not be known until "Babel" goes into wide release. Hoping to build an audience from strong word of mouth and Oscar buzz, Vantage is slowly rolling out the movie in seven theaters in Los Angeles and New York, with plans to expand to 1,200 on Nov. 10.

Though having the star power of Pitt and Blanchett would seem a marketer's dream, "Babel's" dense plot is not easily boiled down in a movie poster or a 30-second TV spot. The movie interweaves multiple stories and incorporates five languages, including sign.

"I thought making the movie was difficult, but promotion is suicidal," said González Iñárritu, who spent three years on the project, for which he won the best-director award at Cannes this year. "It's very complex and breaks a lot of paradigms. It's told in five languages, has four stories and takes place on three continents."

In "Babel," a shooting accident involving an American couple visiting Morocco reverberates for two local boys involved in the incident; the couple's own two young children, who are illegally taken to Mexico by their nanny; and a rebellious, deaf Japanese teenager whose father is sought by the Tokyo police.

The film's high-adrenaline trailer, playing up the edge-of-your-seat intensity, helped draw theatergoers over the weekend. The TV spots convey the film's message that "pain is universal but so is hope," said Lesher, whose challenges in his new role may be as towering as those of "Babel."

He said his job could be "aggravating" at times but reasoned: "No one said it's going to be easy. But I'm honestly having a blast."
“Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” - Andy Warhol


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Pubrick

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Re: Lesher leaves Endeavor - PTA gets a new agent
« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2006, 01:56:09 AM »
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business is business.

if pta wants more money he should stop making flops.  :yabbse-smiley:
endless 'nothing is what it seems'-isms

MacGuffin

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Re: PTA gets a new agent
« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2008, 12:10:51 AM »
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Jackie Chan, Anderson move to WMA
Source: Hollywood Reporter

Paul Thomas Anderson and Jackie Chan have landed at WMA.

Anderson, whose most recent film, "There Will Be Blood," was one of most acclaimed films of 2007, left Endeavor this week and now joins WMA's "murderer's row" of directors that includes Tim Burton, Ridley Scott, Quentin Tarantino, J.J. Abrams, Michael Bay, Bryan Singer and the Wachowski Brothers.

Chan, who was at CAA, stars in "Forbidden Kingdom," which opened at the top of the boxoffice last week.
“Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” - Andy Warhol


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jtm

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Re: Lesher leaves Endeavor - PTA gets a new agent
« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2008, 02:36:47 AM »
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does this mean Paul sold out? because by the list they've given us of its current "top clients" i'd say yeah.  :yabbse-sad:

cine

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Re: Lesher leaves Endeavor - PTA gets a new agent
« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2008, 04:13:33 AM »
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does this mean Paul sold out? because by the list they've given us of its current "top clients" i'd say yeah.  :yabbse-sad:

yeah, getting stronger representation. whatta fuckin sellout.

idk

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Re: Lesher leaves Endeavor - PTA gets a new agent
« Reply #13 on: April 28, 2008, 03:50:26 PM »
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One of Lesher's most difficult moments, he said, was saying no to former client Paul Thomas Anderson when he asked to increase the production budget by a few million dollars for "There Will Be Blood," starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

"We took many walks around the lot," Lesher recalled. " 'Why can't I do this? Why, why, why?' he asked me…. Paul was able to be more resourceful because he knew he couldn't get more."

this is demonstrably deplorable and unforgivable, just think what might have been

©brad

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Re: Lesher leaves Endeavor - PTA gets a new agent
« Reply #14 on: April 28, 2008, 04:23:08 PM »
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One of Lesher's most difficult moments, he said, was saying no to former client Paul Thomas Anderson when he asked to increase the production budget by a few million dollars for "There Will Be Blood," starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

"We took many walks around the lot," Lesher recalled. " 'Why can't I do this? Why, why, why?' he asked me…. Paul was able to be more resourceful because he knew he couldn't get more."

this is demonstrably deplorable and unforgivable, just think what might have been

no it's not.

 

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