Sometimes when you need something done right, your best bet is to do it yourself. Los Angeles' Event Eleven took this advice to heart with its work on the March 22 Promise Gala. The fundraiser — which honored superstar Tom Cruise — benefited Mentor LA, a charity at work to revitalize the city's schools. “We produced and designed the event from top to bottom, in addition to producing the talent portion and writing the entire show,” says Event Eleven founder Tony Schubert. The result? An A-plus affair that created a cozy supper club in a 30,000 square-foot soundstage.
The firm's first challenge hinged on transforming Fox Studios' large space into a more intimate environment. Working from his client's request for “old Hollywood” ambience, Schubert and his team mixed glamour with a good-sense room-reduction strategy.
For starters, the event team swathed the room in vivid red drape. To keep the dramatic drape from dominating guests' visual experience of the space, the Event Eleven crew placed 40-by-27-foot-tall black-and-white before-and-after images of public schools aided by Mentor LA midway between the entrance and the drape line. The effect made “one's eyes stop at the photographs — versus the drape — once you were in the room,” Schubert notes.
A smart seating and staging layout also helped. Schubert explains that varying table elevations kept the room from appearing as one vast sea of seating. Meanwhile, the inclusion of the cocktail reception area in the main dining space also shrank the oversize space. Finally, “The stage was thrust out to the audience, which helped as well,” he adds.
Along with minimizing room sprawl, the semicircular stage aided in the production of another challenging event element — the entertainment. Raised up, thrust out and set with half-moon band risers, the stage was built to make certain that not one of the event's 1,000 big-donor guests “felt like they were in the cheap seats,” Schubert says.
Good thing, considering the magnitude of the acts. Schubert notes that the lineup, which was not completely booked until one week out from the event, included host Jay Leno and music stars Kanye West and Stevie Wonder.
The experienced producer explains that he “built the lighting and sound rig to accommodate any performer of name” to meet the challenges of last-minute talent bookings. He also made comprehensive contingency plans for last-minute green room and catering specifics. On top of that, “Our production team had to move quickly to accommodate backline for artists, right up to rehearsal day,” he says.
Schubert credits the success of the $550,000 event to Fox Studios' “100 percent support” and his vendors' unflagging professionalism. From first-stage planning to the catered dinner from Wolfgang Puck to the superstar performances, “Anything I needed, from trash removal to additional lifts to parking for VIPs, I got,” he states. “I would not have done anything differently.”
Schubert's sense of a job well done is enhanced by the satisfaction he enjoyed on event night, watching delighted guests come together for a very good cause. “The people behind Mentor LA are amazing people who do amazing work for the schools and children,” he says. Watching Stevie Wonder inspire spontaneous mid-meal dancing by the charity's donors “was pretty fantastic,” he notes. As for the producer's own event highlight? That would have to be “the look on Tom Cruise's face when he walked in, turned to me, shook my hand and thanked me,” Schubert says.
Event Eleven 5542 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90016; 323/549-9980; www.eventeleven.com
Antipasti including Black Truffle-marinated Artichokes, Smoked Salmon on Brioche, Tuna Tataki and Chopped Chino Ranch Vegetable Salad
Pan-roasted Wild Striped Bass with Chanterelle Mushrooms, Fava Beans and Spring Onions
Miniature Desserts including Chocolate Souffles, Coconut Cream Pie, Grapefruit Cake and Rice Pudding in Orange Lace Cookies
Wolfgang Puck Catering
Classic Party Rentals
All Access Staging