Michele Imperato-Stabile: The Executive Product of Alvin and the Chipmunks

BY JENNY WERTH

Vampires crawling out of their murky coffins for their chance to star in movies, primetime TV shows, street billboards and just about everywhere else the eye can see, have hit us like ‘sudden death.’ This renewed interest in who’s roaming the streets after dark in search for human blood, evolved thanks to the book and movie sensation Twilight.  

Twilight’s executive producer, Michele Imperato-Stabile, says she knew the movie was going to be huge, but that nobody could predict it would become the next prodigy.  However, Imperato-Stabile says she certainly did know the movie would generate some of Hollywood’s hottest new stars.  And she was ‘dead on.’ Without a doubt, tons of fans everywhere would gladly give their décolletage, along with their life, to have Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart or Kellan Lutz nibble on their neck for the sweet taste of their blood.

Imperato-Stabile acknowledges working on Twilight “was a challenge… but the movie was a phenomenon.”  Still, even though Twilight’s made hanging out in cemeteries and lurking amongst evil spirits almost a cool thing for teenagers to do, Imperato-Stabile still prefers to work with talent who are alive.

But these “healthy” talent happen to have fur, whiskers and often, a great sense of smell. They’re also tremendously lovable, full of life and fairly likely to pull some hilarious pranks. They are lovingly known as Garfield and Alvin and the Chipmunks.  Imperato-Stabile was the executive producer for both Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007), and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (2009), and Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties (2006) and its sequel. Imperato-Stabile says working with these talented ‘talking animals’ that have the amazing capability to speak along with sing and dance, delight her and put a smile on her face.  It’s understandable why the animals pull on her heart strings.

“I get the biggest kick out of it,” she says.  I have a friend and she puts the Alvin DVD on and the kids have seen it 50 times and they still (excitedly) repeat (the lyrics)… it makes me so happy to see these kids so happy.”  She explains that while the music is playing, the kids can all put their pretenses aside and just be themselves.  “There isn’t a mean bone in any of the Alvin and the Chipmunks DVD, it’s all just great music and good fun.”  It’s no wonder Imperato-Stabile finds such enchantment working with these endearing creatures and the children who love them. “I really do enjoy working with kids. I enjoy being in the younger teenage to young child venues.”

Imperato-Stabile has been in the film business for 26 years and has been a producer for the last twelve.  She started as a production assistant and worked her way up from there. She says the pace and the challenge of the industry made it a good fit for her.  And the industry is lucky Imperato-Stabile thrives in both a creative and high-stress environment.  She’s a woman who gets things done- she’s one of those talented multi-tasking wizards.  Plus, she has a devoted production staff that often works with her on her movies.  The crew includes her AD staff, various production staff, camera production, special effects, stunt people, transportation, set deck, art department and props.

“I have a great crew that generally works with me….. I’ve always been very demanding and I’m tough, but I try to be fair,” she says.  Naturally, part of being fair is recognizing people when they do well.  

She explains that, “You have to compliment people when they do a good job… and their great work makes me look good and the director.”  She also clarifies that, “If you have a good production you can show for it.  A good crew is always thinking of how to help you.”  And you can bet she never stops thinking of how to improve things herself.  In fact, she’s a self-starter who believes “there’s no such thing as ‘no.’” Imperato-Stabile has mastered the art of juggling everything at work.  It’s one of her many talents, and she realizes how much gets accomplished once you see the results. “You’re part of a big network of people, and the thrill of it is being able to do it, because it’s spur of the moment… the more you are able to do, the more you are asked to do,” she explains.  

Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007) and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (2009) both were filmed at Sunset Gower Studios.  Imperato-Stabile says the smaller size and  refined personal service at Sunset Gower makes it superior to larger studios where they’re much less accommodating.  She says Sunset Gower is well run with great people who are helpful and more willing to cooperate.

“It’s like a boutique…. smaller, you’re not fighting with so many other people, much more laid back.”  Imperato-Stabile also attributes much of the studio’s success to its Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Terri Melkonian.

“Terri has great production and business sense.  She performs a real service, you call her and she gets the job done… she’s very capable of multi-tasking, (she’s the) type of woman who can do it all, and you never see any stress on her face.”  Imperato-Stabile adds that Melkonian is creative and was “amazing” to her even though she had to work on a tight budget.  

“(Melkonian) comes up with ideas…. If I come up with an odd need of a location, she will come up with a hallway or (another location) to give me (filming) options.  She is so great to work with.  Naturally, Imperato-Stabile and Melkonian are both diligent professionals who often work under extreme pressure, yet also maintain high levels of creativity.  

Imperato-Stabile maximizes the profitability of a leading executive producer without a hint of haughtiness. She works as hard as anyone in the industry, so she certainly treasures her freetime. “At work, I’m like a mother hen, but when I get home I want to let loose.”  

And when asked which talking animal she most relates to, she laughs and answers Alvin.  She explains that it’s Alvin because she’s extremely cautious at work (her biggest fear is of anybody hurting themselves on a movie set), but mischievous and more of a risk-taker when she’s on her own turf.  

And ‘her turf’ is at home with her husband, Billy Stabile, on their 22-stall barn farm, complete with five show horses and two colts.  It turns out that Imperato-Stabile and her husband both share a serious love of speed.  Especially the feeling it gives them of freedom.  Since Imperato-Stabile was four, she’s always found some of that natural freedom by riding English; while for her husband it was discovered in race cars.  

Somehow together, with Alvin, they conjure up a one-of-a-kind ending for a Hollywood movie… Imperato-Stabile riding off into the sunset on one of her beautiful horses; her hair blowing in the wind, while her husband zooms beside her with Alvin in his shiny race car; both kicking up dirt in the air from their collective speed.  
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