IN MOVIES SUCH as “The Wedding Planner” and TV shows ranging from “The Apprentice” to “The Sopranos,” event planners are stepping into the spotlight. So it was no surprise that more than 4 million viewers watched in July as six contestants vied to win book and TV-pilot deals in the network special “The Great Domestic Showdown.”
In a twist, the final round — creating a wedding in 48 hours — saw veteran social and corporate planner Steve Kemble lose to a contestant who had never before staged a wedding. But winner Frank Fontana, founder and president of Los Angeles-based F2 Entertainment, has his own eventful past, and is ready for a starring role.
SPECIAL EVENTS MAGAZINE: What was your career path in the event industry?
FRANK FONTANA: I was always interested in live entertainment, and started producing events at nightclubs in south Florida. Bruce Sutka [of Sutka Productions, Palm Beach, Fla.] comes walking in one night, we hit it off, and I started assisting him with some parties. I realized it could be done: having a great event company and living your dream of seeing people smile as they leave your events. I moved into ballroom galas, parties in private homes, magazine launches. As my career grew, I became interested in bringing my expertise to the land of glitz and glamour, so four years ago, I took off for L.A.
Q: What skills or services do you provide that your clients can't get anywhere else?
A: Say you are a Sony, and you come to me for a product launch party. Not only can we plan and produce the event, but also help with your plan for marketing, your PR strategy, talent, F&B. Most back-end producers will make it rock once the guest walks in that door. But for everything outside of that, my program and my employees make me a one-stop shop. You don't have to shop 14 vendors.
Q: How did “The Great Domestic Showdown” producers find you?
A: By accident! I was surfing the 'Net, saw the casting notice and thought, “What the heck!” A friend helped me write something catchy, and I got a message back within an hour. They saw my picture — this longhaired, tattooed, tough-looking guy — and asked, “Do you really think you could do all this?” We had one meeting, they loved me, and I got the call that I was cast.
Q: You displayed such a range of skills in the show — design, carpentry, event strategy, team leadership. Where did you develop all these talents?
A: I've designed rooms but I'm not a decorator, I've built things but I'm not a carpenter, I've cooked but I'm not a chef. When I work with a team, it's all about the team. I want them to shine. I told Ryan [Larson, a professional wedding planner who was cut in round one but brought back to assist Fontana with his wedding], “I will give you the opportunity to shine again — know that, and don't try to burn me in any way.” She could have.
For the wedding, I talked to the bride and groom for 15 minutes, and had 48 hours to put on the wedding. But they were crying later, saying it was exactly what they had dreamed of. I had such a strict budget; I would have loved to do so much more. And now I've got another wedding to do!
Q: What's happened to you since your big TV win?
A: It's been a time of celebration and refocusing. I've gotten calls from producers, publishers, agents. I've had lots of meetings, and in the meantime, have been figuring out what's next for my event business — I've been getting an influx of calls for events. The bottom line is, the event business got me here and got me on that show. It's my past, and I will never, ever let that go. That to me is the core of my being, period. If all this other TV stuff works out, great.
Q: What do you think your particular stamp is going to be on the world of events?
A: I hope it's not “the event producer who won that reality show”! Honestly, I would love to hear people say that F2 Entertainment is the first to break the traditional mold of event producers. It can be done — there are people who own restaurants who also own newspapers. They have very diverse companies. It's totally happening.
Frank Fontana can be reached at www.f2entertainment.com.