EXCLUSIVE: Laika has named two executives to its expanding live-action division, with Jeremy Kipp Walker joining the company as Executive Vice President of Live-Action Production and Chaz Salembier taking on the role of Creative Vice President, Live-Action Film.
Effective immediately, both executives will report to Matt Levin, who joined Laika as President of Live-Action Film & Series in February of this year after a long tenure at Netflix. Walker’s new role will have him overseeing all elements of physical and post-production for Laika’s live-action films and series, with Salembier to identify and develop compelling stories for the studio’s live-action film slate, having already been tapped to rep Laika’s interests at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival.
News of the executive hirings at Laika follows the studio’s recent announcement that Chief Marketing Officer David Burke will also now serve as its Chief Operating Officer. Walker comes to the company after holding multiple roles at Netflix, including Head of Production for its Independent Film Division, whereas Salembier joins after serving as a creative executive for Disney’s live-action arm.
“This is an exciting and formative moment for LAIKA as we build out our live-action slate and Jeremy and Chaz will be integral to this next phase of our evolution,” said Levin in a statement to Deadline. “I have had the privilege of working closely with Jeremy for over 10 years – he’s one of the most talented and respected producers in the business and I could not ask for a better partner. Chaz is an exceptional creative executive who will be an incredible champion for filmmakers and bold, original storytelling at LAIKA.”
As a founding member of Netflix’s Independent Film Division, Walker was responsible for creating and building the production infrastructure for a new studio tasked with making 25+ mid-sized feature films per year, with the division overseeing the completion of more than 100 original films during his time as head of the initiative. The exec more recently co-founded and ran Netflix’s Emerging Filmmaker Initiative, an annual program created to cultivate and accelerate the careers of the next wave of filmmakers working in such genres as sci-fi, action, horror and thriller.
Also an an independent film producer whose projects have earned two Academy Award nominations, 13 Spirit Award nominations and three wins, and three AFI Movie of the Year awards, Walker’s credits include The Big Sick, Half Nelson, Table 19, Mississippi Grind and It’s Kind of a Funny Story.
Salembier spent the last decade as a creative exec at Disney, most recently serving as lead executive on the films Rise and Chang Can Dunk. During his time at the studio, he also worked on titles including Christopher Robin, The One and Only Ivan, Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, Artemis Fowl, Dumbo, Lady and the Tramp, Safety, Pinocchio and Peter Pan & Wendy. Salembier came to Walt Disney Studios after beginning his run in the industry as a screenwriter.
Founded by President & CEO Travis Knight in 2005, Laika has heretofore been known for its groundbreaking work in stop-motion animation, with each of its first five films — Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, Kubo and the Two Strings and Missing Link — landing an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature.
Currently in production on its sixth animated feature, Wildwood, based on the book series by Colin Meloy and illustrator Carson Ellis, the company is also currently developing the animated film The Night Gardener, based on an original idea by Ozark creator Bill Dubuque. Its first live-action project will be a film also now in development based on the action thriller novel Seventeen by screenwriter John Brownlow (The Miniaturist).