Special Events

Galas: IN FULL SWING

An event producer lights up the night for a movie production company

AMOVIE SET CAN SERVE as an exotic party venue for many companies, but where does a firm go to host an event if it is a movie production company?

One North American movie production company used one of its Vancouver, British Columbia, sound stages to host a dinner party for 250 guests in June.

Martin Van Keken, president of Vancouver-based event producer MVKA, says his client wanted to showcase the production options afforded by a sound stage venue.

"The options are so much more open because you are working with an empty shell, but it has an infrastructure for movies, sound effects and lighting," he says.

With a $225,000 budget and less than a month for planning, MVKA began transforming the 14,000-square-foot stage into a Swingin' Lounge Party. "The client wanted to create a comfortable yet inviting and elegant feel," Van Keken says.

STAGING THE EVENT

As guests arrived at the studio, they were led on a 300-foot red carpet runner to the entrance of the sound stage - a steel loading door. Passing through the doorway, guests then walked through a 14-foot wrought-iron gazebo, draped in blue velour so they couldn't see the size of the sound stage. "It gave you the illusion you were walking into a small area," Van Keken says. "Everything was a little step toward coming into the incredibly designed studio."

Shades of blue and purple lighted the inside of the sound stage. Two lounge areas welcomed guests as a trio played Latin music. A wooden bar and triangular, leopard-skin bar stools furnished one lounge area. Leopard and zebra love seats and couches offered comfortable seating in another area that was sectioned off by areca palms and large, overflowing floral arrangements atop pedestals. Can Am Importique of Vancouver provided the love seats and couches.

To add drama, MVKA hung twinkle light star cloth over most of the 30-foot walls on the perimeter of the sound stage. Gobos of city lights and flashing street signs were projected onto the bare parts of the cobalt blue walls.

In the dining area, floor-length, burgundy linens of crushed velvet were paired with gold chiavari chairs at the 120-inch round tables. Using star and abstract gobos, MVKA changed the images and colors projected onto the tables throughout the evening.

DINNER AND A MOVIE

After tray-passed hors d'oeuvre, guests enjoyed a four-course meal prepared by Cioppino's Mediterranean Grill in Vancouver. Between courses, scenes from classic movies such as "Casablanca" and "Gone With the Wind" played on a front-projected movie screen. However, the scenes were extra special - they starred some of the guests at the event.

Earlier that day, MVKA had used another sound stage to tape guests acting out scenes from 10 movies and then edited the material to two minutes per scene. Audience members voted on the best performance, with the winner receiving an Oscar-type statue. "It was great to see people in anticipation of watching themselves and their colleagues on-screen," Van Keken says.

After dessert, guests danced to the big-band sound of a 16-piece orchestra.

THEN THERE WAS LIGHT

Van Keken says lighting is the biggest element of a successful event. He used lighting effects to change the ambience as the evening unfolded.

"As guests walked in, the colors were blue and purple. Then the colors changed to mauve and gold tones during dinner; then to red," he says.

"Lighting effects and projection effects build your ambience toward a climax similar to what people feel," he adds. "After dinner, you become active and you loosen up."

NO SWEAT

The evening had only one potential snag, according to Van Keken. The floor-to-ceiling star cloth obstructed the airflow from the air-conditioning ducts. "We went to the local hardware store and bought 500 feet of flexible air-conditioning ducting," he says. MVKA positioned the ducting to circulate the cold air around the room. "That was a bit of a sweat, to put it literally!"

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