The competition for event audiences at Sundance is nearly as fierce as the film fest itself. Hit events take star power, site cachet and entertainment allure to attract the cream of the crowd crop at Park City, Utah's annual celebration of independent cinema. For eyewear icon Ray-Ban, Sundance provides a perfect environment to fête stars of film and to up the profile of its legendary sunglasses and accessories — a feat accomplished for the last seven years with its yearly Visionary Award event. For the 2008 film-fest gala, Ray-Ban once again tapped Los Angeles-based Vox Entertainment to “put its mind at ease that the event is going to take place with no drama,” notes Vox partner Carter Reese.
HIDE AND SEEK
Reese is no stranger to the pressures of producing in Sundance's high-stakes, high-profile world. Not only is he is a four-year veteran of the Visionary Awards event but he and the Vox team produced a whopping 16 events at this year's festival.
He is aware, for instance, of the critical importance to any event of snagging a hot spot on Park City's Main Street. So, starting nine months out — an eternity in lead time in today's event market and one he credits to Ray-Ban's professionalism and good planning — Reese secured Harry O's, a 14,000-total-square-foot behemoth in this small mountain town and by far the hottest nightclub on the street.
With only 500 guests scheduled to attend the Visionary Award presentation, Reese was faced with a lot of space not just to fill but to brand creatively in accordance with Ray-Ban's current “Never Hide” campaign. Fortunately, he notes, “Ray-Ban is very good about sending us their brand book, which says what you can and cannot do. They have some strict parameters.” Gobos, for instance, are a no-go. “They don't want anyone ‘stepping on’ their brand identity,” the producer explains.
Instead of the ubiquitous projections, Vox turned to LEC lighting, a cutting-edge technology that allows the design team to use paper-thin lighting to “wrap poles, place mats, stand-ups,” Reese says. “It lets us put branding in positions where normally you can't get it.”
Meanwhile, custom tables shaped “to look like a sunglass lens” and featuring under-lit, Plexiglas-covered displays of Ray-Ban eyewear, were both functional and fashionable. “You could really see the glasses, but it was not like the pillars and stand-ups you see at Sunglass Hut [retail stores]. This was more subtle, not so ‘salesy,’” Reese recounts. Plus, he notes, the Plexi coverings offered a layer of security for the pricey shades.
No such protection shielded Vox's custom-designed cushions in Ray-Ban's signature shade of red. “You've never seen so many people trying to steal pillows,” the producer says. But that was just fine with the client. Ray-Ban decided “If people want to take them, that just helps us extend our brand into their homes,” Reese says.
Power outages in the days leading up to the event — one caused by vandalism of Harry O's power panel and another the result of the excessive pressure placed on Park City's grid by Sundance parties' power needs — didn't dampen the excitement of the Ray-Ban bash.
To make sure that nothing went awry on event night, Vox kept generators on backup (“Fortunately, we didn't have to use them,” Reese notes) and posted a security detail on the venue's panel.
Of course, the celebrity wattage generated by 2008 award presenter Dennis Hopper and honoree Quentin Tarantino ensured a golden glow. And a searing set by indie rockers The Bravery didn't hurt, either. Reese credits PR firm Rogers & Cowan, with whom Vox worked closely on the event, with assembling the appropriate stars and “filtering” the invitee list to ensure an event that wasn't only “authentic” but also in line with the client's “brand stature.”
If he had the event to do all over again — which he in fact does, for Sundance 2009 — Reese says he wouldn't change a thing. Well, maybe one thing …
Immediately following the 7-to-10 p.m. Visionary Award event, Vox produced a 10 p.m.-to-1 a.m. blowout for a magazine client, featuring wildly popular headline band Velvet Revolver, staged in the same Harry O's space where Ray-Ban hosted its soiree. The back-to-back events — and the load-in, setup, sound-check and crowd-control issues they posed — were a backbreaker, Reese acknowledges. In a perfect world, he says he would “build in more of a buffer for band load-in and utilize more crew and labor” for the entire production.
Yet excitement is part of the party. “To be honest,” he says, “I love the pandemonium of trying to get people in and out.”
AWARD NIGHT NIBBLES
Assorted Meats Display
CATERING, LINEN, SECURITY, VENUE
Rogers & Cowan