Yes, all eyes will be on the stars at Sunday’s Oscar ceremony, but one woman you never see is responsible for the backdrop of glitz and glamour that surrounds the big names. Cheryl Cecchetto is a longtime events producer of some of Hollywood’s biggest galas, including this weekend’s post-Oscars Governors Ball. In fact, she’s organized the Governors Ball for 25 years straight.
The themed décor for the Oscars Governors Ball 2019—where we hope Glenn Close will be celebrating her win—is called “Filmscape.” “The focus is entirely on the magic and community of great movies,” Cecchetto, founder and president of Sequoia Productions, explained. “We designed the color scheme around the classic movie palaces—the opulent deep red of proscenium curtains and seats, the gold of the wall and ceiling and accent details of movie houses of the golden era, and the carpet in deep red and cream is configured into a retro arrow converging into a star, reminiscent of movie palace lobby carpets.”
I regrouped. I got back up. And the lights went back on.
The Governors Ball theme will be anchored by two massive screens that play a 20-minute, beautifully edited loop of nearly 100 clips from Oscar winning movies of the past—huge sweeping vistas and scores from movies like Lawrence of Arabia, Casablanca, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Lord of the Rings, all set to both recorded and live orchestral performances.
“It’s like nothing we have done before,” says Cecchetto, who has written a book that’s part memoir, part party planning guide called Passion to Create. “It will immerse the guests in the movie experience. There is something very communal and moving about it. I love it because it just galvanizes conversation and shared memories.”
Party Tips from the Pro
Some of the party advice in her book includes these gems: “Think like a hostess, not a waitress.” “When you make a mistake, it’s a gift, it’s a stop sign. Learn from it and never do it again.”
And certainly Cecchetto has had her share of snags—two of which occurred during the same Governors Ball. First, the koi inside aquariums in the centerpieces began jumping out. Who knew koi were jumpers? After that near disaster, the power went out. Realizing that the situation was outside her control, Cecchetto reports that she went into a yoga pose on the ballroom carpet, even though she was in an evening gown. “I calmed myself down,” she says. “I regrouped. I got back up. And the lights went back on.”
Cecchetto has learned to roll with ups and downs like these. It must be her background in the theater world. She’s got plenty of that “the show must go on” gusto. “First, the art of creating and producing in the event business itself excites me,” she says. “The creativity, piecing the ‘show’ together, staying in the present time, keeping on track—all the production cues that are like a well-rehearsed show.”
- The darker the base tablecloth, the less visible dropped food stains or spilled wine.
“When you make a mistake, it’s a gift, it’s a stop sign.”
- Flattering lighting is easy to achieve at a viewing party, since overhead lights detract from the screen. Soft accent lighting, pinpoint candles, and, for maximum effect, gold or burgundy gauze drapes on the accent lamps create that warm, flattering, movie theater lighting. “I think that lighting is very key,” Cecchetto notes. “Any formal event (frankly any event at all) that guests have spent hours preparing for, and spent weeks debating on the perfect wardrobe, is poorly served by aggressive harsh overhead lighting. I don’t care how gorgeous and fresh you are, bad lighting in a ballroom or the ladies’ restroom is a bummer.”
- Be sure to keep plenty of water out and handy, and perhaps a virgin version of your specialty cocktail.
- Be organized. “Complete a timeline, have a shopping list, plan everything very methodically. If you don’t have staff to help, and many of us do not, then delegate— ‘you’re in charge of this appetizer, you’re in charge of the specialty cocktails, you take photos, etc.’”
- Don’t force anyone to be, or to do. “Let the event take on a life of its own. It’s sort of like live theater. You learn your lines, but you really don’t know what’s going to happen when you deliver them. Let the event breathe and take on a life of its own.”