By Alesandra Dubin Posted July 13, 2011, 4:01 PM EDT
LOS ANGELES The British Academy of Film and Television Arts brought together 42 “Brits to Watch” honorees, along with Hollywood heavyweights, at a black-tie gala Saturday night at the Belasco Theater. But the real focus of the night were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, a.k.a. Prince William and the former Kate Middleton, the rare—perhaps only—guests that could bump Hollywood royalty like Jennifer Lopez, Tom Hanks, and Nicole Kidman clear out of the headlines.
Absent from the global media coverage was a look inside the event, as press were not permitted at the dinner portion of the evening. It was produced by Bafta's London-based head of production, Clare Brown, with event design by Amanda Davis of AD Events International, who brought Tami Carlson of Incubox on board locally to co-produce it. “My design focus was to give the event a stylish, cool Britannia feel with a modern Anglo-mania twist,” Davis said. “An eclectic mix of English style and high fashion.” The duke acts as Bafta's president.
The tables were dressed with custom '50s-style lampshades in blue and red. Davis designed the bespoke shades and turned to Lotus Lampshades to manufacture them in rich silks, brocades, beads, and tassels, working from an 18th-century stone chapel in rural Wales. The lamps were set into gold bowls filled with blooms of English flowers, dahlias, and roses in rich, deep hues.
Patina Restaurant Group chef and founder Joachim Splichal created the three-course menu with less than three weeks' lead time. The first course was courgette and mint tian with lemon and pine nut gremolata, the entrée filet of beef with creamed leeks and a red wine sauce, and dessert was a take on “Eton Mess,” an English rose meringue with fresh-picked strawberries and cream. Guests drank from gold goblets and ate from white antique-style plates.
All 57 wait staff wore bowler hats, Windsor knot ties with gold lion brooches, and Edwardian-styled waistcoats with gold Bafta masks printed on the back. Key staff people wore Union Jack-inspired jackets and dresses.
The production team added a giant custom-built screen with molded gold frame to the space “to give a cinema paradiso feel to the decadent interior of the theater,” Davis said. Still-life vignettes of flowers, old books, and British bulldog sculptures dressed the bars and the whole venue carried the sweet aroma of Jo Malone candles in grapefruit and orange blossom.
Pasadena-based 3Muse Press created the invitations and tickets. The cards were printed letterpress by hand on a press built circa 1910. There were multiple setups, to make sure each feature was clean and perfect. “We used a 19th-century technique called bronzing for the spotlight beams,” said 3Muse's Helen Driscoll. “Very obscure—no one does it anymore. It was used back then to convey the impression of illuminated or glistening light.” Ink is laid down, five cards at a time, and then fine gold-metal powder is carefully brushed over the ink, the excess tapped off, and then any that remains blown off with a small air compressor. It's only possible to print and work on five to 10 cards at a time, as designers have to work in the powder while the ink is still tacky. The process was generally retired in the 19th century because it was considered so laborious.