Ina surprise announcement released last night (Tuesday), Warner Bros Picturesannounced that Mark Gill is leaving his post as president of Warner IndependentPictures (WIP).

Gillwill enter into a production deal with the studio effective May 4, said JeffRobinov, president of Warner Bros Pictures, in the statement.

Themovie is surprising only in that Gill is riding a high after a year which sawWarner Independent make its mark with the success of acquisitions March OfThe Penguins and Paradise Now and Section Eight production Good Night, And GoodLuck.

"Markhas done a very good job of establishing Warner Independent, and we thank himfor his contributions in positioning the company as a leader in this market,"said Robinov. "He is a talented executive with a passion for making movies andwe are very pleased that he will remain on the Warner Bros lot as a producer."

Headded that he would announce future plans as concerned WIP soon. Gill is knownto have clashed with Robinov and a Robinov-friendly promotion from existingstudio ranks would be a logical next step for the division.

"Iam grateful to Alan Horn and Jeff Robinov for the opportunity to start and runWarner Independent, and I am thankful to our tiny group of 25 people - mostnotably Laura Kim, Steven Friedlander, Paul Federbush, Tracey Bing and ErinO'Neil - for their brilliant, impossibly hard work and the remarkable resultsthey achieved," said Gill.

Thecompany has a full lineup of films to release in 2006 including Chen Kaige's ThePromise, Richard Linklater's AScanner Darkly, which is in officialselection at Cannes, Michel Gondry's The Science Of Sleep which was picked up at Sundance, John Curran's ThePainted Veil starring Edward Nortonand Naomi Watts, the Polish brothers' The Astronaut Farmer with Billy Bob Thornton, Christopher Guest's latestcomedy For Your Consideration andDoug McGrath's Truman Capote drama Infamous.

Gilljoined WIP from Stratus Film Co, a partnership with Bob Yari and Mark Gordon.Prior to that, he was LA president of Miramax Films and previously spent sixyears in the marketing department at Columbia and TriStar.

Gill staffed up Warner Independent and, although it took a couple of years to get off the ground withunderperformers like Criminal, A Home At The End Of The World, Around TheBend and The Jacket, WIP turned a corner, spectacularly, when it boughtFrench documentary March Of The Penguins at Sundance 2005, added a new voiceover and soundtrack and turned itinto a $77m smash in North America and an Oscar winner for best documentaryfeature this year.