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Q & A

Warner Brothers Pictures'
Ann Quasarano

November 6, 2002, 12:00 AM EST

Title: Manager of Operations and Special Events
What She Plans: Six big film premieres each year (including the recent Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets premiere), as well as other smaller screenings and after-parties.
Budget: “It depends on the film and what the premiere budget for the film is. It can start anywhere from say $60,000 for a smaller film, and I've done events that were well over a million dollars.”
How Long She's Been at Warner Brothers: She started in human resources 11 years ago, moved into event work full-time four years ago.
Age: 35
College Major: “Marketing. But I always loved to cook. My mom owns a bed and breakfast and cooks these wonderful gourmet breakfasts every morning, so it's kind of in my blood.”
How Long She's Been in New York: “I was born in northern New Jersey, 15 minutes from New York City and so I have to kind of consider myself a New Yorker, and I lived in the city for eight years. Now I live in Connecticut.”
Favorite Magazine: ”Vanity Fair. And I read all the cooking magazines, Food and Wine, Bon Appétit and Gourmet just to keep up in terms of what's going on in food trends.”
Favorite Drink to Have at Events: “Red wine. I'll have a cocktail now and then, but I prefer red wine.”

What is the biggest challenge facing the events industry?

I think for a lot of corporations it's trying not to appear too showy, as though you're spending all your shareholders' money on a big, flashy event, but doing something that's nice and tasteful and brings across the message that you're trying to get out there about your product.

Do you think it's harder to justify spending large amounts of money in this economy?

Yes, without a doubt.

Have you had the opportunity since the economy has soured to let things show more?

A little bit. We have Harry Potter coming up in November and we're going to be doing something really fun for that. We're working on that right now. But it's really geared towards children—because it is more of a children's film—so I feel that justifies it. Because it's for kids, it's got to be fun and you've got to do some really neat fun things so that the kids have a good time.

How is your budget changing for events?

It's lower. Really with the last year—we were spending a bit more; but I would say [now it's] maybe 20 percent lower. You have to spend a certain amount of money to do what you need to do.

Has that changed your job?

I negotiate more. I have better negotiating skills.

How do you measure an event's success?

In terms of return on investment, will that affect the box office? Maybe [there's] a little bit of additional publicity, but a film's going to do what it's going to do. Dealing with films is a little bit different. The way I look at it is, did we get press coverage? Were the filmmakers and the talent happy? Those are my main priorities. Did the guests appear to have a good time? Those are the things that are important to me, and that the event runs smoothly.

What do you think your guests are expecting at one of your events?

I think as long as they have good food and there's an open bar everybody's happy.

What's your biggest challenge right now?

I think there are so many events going on right now that the challenge is picking a day and time that's going to work with the release schedule of the film and is going to work around a certain period of the year. It's a little bit more complex now, I think, in terms of picking the date. Other studios are doing more in New York and you just have the general competition of fashion events, and getting celebrities to come to your events and that kind of thing.

Have you noticed any significant trends in terms of event style?

It seemed for a while things were gravitating more towards comfort foods in terms of food and in terms of d?cor there's been less—it may be a financial issue, it may be a we-may-not-want-to-appear-too-flashy issue. Nice and tasteful.

Do you have a preferred list of vendors who you work with, or do you constantly try out new companies?

In terms of event spaces, we're always looking for new places to go because people like to go to someplace different every time. We absolutely have vendors we use over and over. If I've got something that works and they're doing a great job—I'm a loyal customer. We have used PGI a couple of times for lighting and staging things, and they're terrific. The Catering Company we've used for catering and they've done a fantastic job. The whole Cipriani chain. They're completely professional—they know exactly what they're doing and you ask them to do the smallest thing that you think is absolutely beyond what they typically do and it's not a problem, and it's there and it's perfect.

What makes certain vendors stand out?

Flexibility—that's very important. Quality. And reliability.

What's your vendor pet peeve?

I would have to say people that are overly aggressive. If you say, “We have somebody that we use consistently that we're very happy with—you can send your information,” and then they continue to call you every other month.

Where do you look for inspiration for your events?

I look at the movie. I watch the film—if there are any sort of recurring themes or something that stands out specifically. If I'm wondering what I'm going to do on the tabletops—and I may see something in the movie and I think, “Wow, that's a great idea, let's do that.” I pick colors a lot from the movies.

How did you get started in events?

I had worked in human resources and started helping to coordinate the company holiday party and different events during the year like Take Your Daughter to Work Day, and when this position opened up I spoke to the VP of the department and he hired me. There was someone else who was working on events and she left the company and I took over for her. That was four years ago. I had only been in the job about three months when that happened. It was baptism by fire, I guess they call it.

Anything you wish had known before you started planning events?

Well, it was on the job learning. I enjoy entertaining and I had gone to the Cordon Bleu for a three week class right after college, so I knew about food and I know something about wine, so it wasn't as though I was entering it completely blind. I do entertain at home quite often, so it was sort of a natural progression. A lot of the things specific to film, you really have to learn by doing it.

What's the best piece of advice someone's given to you?

To keep things in perspective. You're not saving the world. This is a party, it's supposed to be fun. Nobody knows if you've made a mistake, because they'll think that's the way it's supposed to be. There are obvious big mistakes you can make, like sending the wrong date on an invitation. And I am completely anal retentive about proofreading all the invitation information because that is one of my biggest fears. Or you call the RSVP line to leave your name and number and it's the wrong number and nobody knows where to call. I mean that's happened to me. I called to RSVP one time in particular, for a screening at another studio, and they put the wrong number, and you're calling around saying, “Is this your movie?”

What do you like about the job?

It's really interesting. There are always different people that you're dealing with, because it's a different product, or a different director or different talent in every movie. So everything's new, every film is different—I love that.

Posted 11.06.02

Photograph by Anna Persson for BiZBash

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