ONCE a performer himself, Douglas Johnson now heads up Entertainment Plus Productions, a 10-year-old Los Angeles-based full-service entertainment production company that has provided entertainment for this year's Grammy Awards after-party and MGM Mirage Resorts' New Year's Eve galas. Here, he discusses the acts that win applause at events.
SPECIAL EVENTS MAGAZINE: What is the most significant change you have seen in event entertainment since you started in this business?
DOUGLAS JOHNSON: Clients today are definitely more educated than they were a few years ago. Most have had some dealings with entertainment, which makes our job much easier. In regard to the type of entertainment, clients look more for a concept that can thread the entire event together rather than unrelated themes.
Q: What are some of the ways in which tight budgets and shrinking lead times have challenged the production of event entertainment?
A: They have definitely made it more challenging. As much as we try to explain to a client that doing things on a “rush” basis not only costs more but also reduces the quality of your overall show, it still seems to happen. Needless to say, the Internet has been essential in us being able to deliver the quality we demand in tight turnaround times.
We have also created the capabilities to do many more things in-house than we have ever done before, such as editing, DVD duplicates, lyric writing, etc. We also have an extremely large national talent base and have multiple people on hand to be able to do anything from Broadway choreography to Polynesian to “rhythm extreme” shows and everything in between.
Q: What types of acts are hot today, and which are fading in popularity?
A: Today's market is all about customized shows — as it should be! From lyrics to music to specially built costumes, more clients today want to have entertainment that supports the client message.
We still use many of the popular acts by trying to put a twist on them. For example, we are still doing shows containing cirque [elements], but they are usually presented in a unique way or as an integrated part of a production. We use an amazing drumming company that is always effective because the energy jumps off the stage, but we incorporate an interactive element or build an entire production around the act.
We try to bring any act to the next level by being innovative about how we use them. By integrating them into the program, it becomes something special and more than a separate piece of an event.
Q: How do you go about matching entertainment to the client? Do you ever have to talk a client out of something that you know won't work?
A: We feel strongly that the client is always right. They know their audience and what they are trying to accomplish much better than we do. But, we are always very honest with our client. We would never dream of saying a flat-out no to any desire a client has. However, we do remind them that the reason that they have hired us is because we are the experts in our industry. We have many years of experience to make good decisions and, most importantly, all we want is the best show they can possibly have. Matching entertainment to our client is a product of asking the right questions, completely customizing a show to their needs, and making sure they have a wide variety of options available to them.
Q: It seems that entertainment — celebrities in the news, the wide range of entertainment options — is taking on a bigger role in our daily lives. How does this saturation of entertainment affect the work you do?
A: In many ways it makes our job more difficult because what people see is always the finished product, and many do not understand the process that it takes to get to that end product. On the other hand, it does help support our market, as it is just not good enough anymore for someone to have a simple awards event — their entire audience has had exposure [to such entertainment], and every client wants to make sure that their event is an experience that has impact. It also has helped because we can really spread our wings creatively. What would never have been considered years ago is now open for discussion even on the corporate level. We find it really exciting when a client wants to push the envelope and try something new that they have seen or heard about.
Entertainment Plus Productions can be reached at 323/969-1756; its Web site is www.eplusproductions.com.