Q & A

Miramax's Meryl Katz

December 4, 2002, 12:00 AM EST

Title: Director of Awards & Special Events
What She Plans: Premieres for films like Full Frontal, Tadpole, and Martin Scorsese's upcoming Gangs of New York, plus parties aligned with film festivals and award shows. She also oversees Miramax's notorious Oscar campaigns.
Budget: “Anywhere between $5,000 for cocktails in a bar to $300,000.”
How Long She's Been at Miramax: Six years
Events Per Year: 30
Staff: “It's just me and an assistant and we work as part of the publicity team.”
Age: 31
Favorite Magazine: People
Nights She Goes Out Per Week: “Three times, plus weekends.”
How Long She's Been in New York: Nine years
College Major: Television, radio and film production at Syracuse
Where She Lives: Chelsea

What's the biggest challenge facing the special events industry right now?

I think finding new venues is always difficult. It is also getting harder for the small one-man shop to survive because there are so many of them.

Is it harder to justify spending money on events in this economy?

We have tried to cut back on our budgets. Our invitations are very simple, not elaborate. There is no flashy cover art. We've cut down on the amount of guests and we make the parties a bit smaller.

How is your job changing?

The budgets have changed so now we have to try harder to find sponsorship. If, say, Renée Zellweger is on the cover of In Style [and in a Miramax film], we'll see if the magazine wants to sponsor a party. We've also signed a two-year sponsorship deal with Coors for our parties.

How do you measure an event's success?

I ask, has everyone sat down? Has the movie started on time? Is everyone happy? Is the big boss happy? Return on investment and press coverage is something the publicity department would evaluate.

What do you think your guests are expecting at one of your events? How are the expectations changing?

I think the guests expect to have a good time. I think there is more emphasis on that. People are more understanding that times are hard, people don't expect as much. But they love a goodie bag.

Do any of your guests have special requirements?

We deal with a lot of celebrities so we have to work with their security people. They like to know what's going on and we usually seat them next to their clients. With guests who don't want to do the press line, we find a side entrance. We reserve tables for the cast and Harvey Weinstein, he likes to talk to the cast and congratulate them.

How do events differ between Los Angeles and New York?

In New York they tend to attract a variety of people from different industries. We'll have politicians, people in publishing and writers from fashion magazines. In L.A. it tends to be more people from the same industry. We'll have the agents, managers and publicists at a party. Also in L.A. the weather works in your favor. In New York it's harder to predict, though there are restrictions in L.A. in terms of residential zoning and how late a bar can stay open.

How is the legendary Miramax pre-Oscar party?

It's in L.A. and we get Best Events to help us. We've held it in the Beverly Wilshire hotel and the Mondrian. We get agents to fax us a list of who they want to invite and then we decide who they can bring. We have the Max awards, a little skit. It's a two-hour cocktail party the night before and everyone is relaxed because there are no press and TV crews and people can come in and out as they please.

What's your biggest challenge right now?

For me the fall is a very tough time because there are so many movies out and finding space on the calendar is tough with venues. We are competing with other studios. With the Oscars moving to February in 2004 that will be even tougher.

How do you see events changing?

There is not as much glitz and glamour—it's an added expense. For us the event is about celebrating the completion of a film. It's not about food.

What trends are you seeing in event style?

Food has been reduced a little, it is passed around instead of serving at carving stations. Events are not as elaborate. We tend to pick venues that already have atmosphere. But we would dress an event on occasion. For the movie Shipping News, we held it in the whale room at the Museum of Natural History and for Kate and Leopold we decorated Guastavino's restaurant in red velvet, to give the feel of the movie.

What makes a vendor stand out?

Someone who tries to keep me happy. Do you work well with them? Are they intelligent? I worked with Great Performances, a catering and event planning firm, once and they really went the extra mile. Whatever we needed, they got it.

What's your vendor pet peeve?

A vendor who puts a price on everything. If you're spending a lot of money and you need a few extra cocktail napkins, they should give them to you.

Where do you go for inspiration?

You get ideas just flipping through a magazine. I pay attention at other people's events. How does the entrance look? Are they doing a theme drink?

Who do you look up to in the event industry?

I think Desiree Gruber of [PR and marketing agency] Full Picture. She does a good job and she's expanded into so many fields and she has a broad range of ideas.

How did you start in the event industry?

I started working on one project for Miramax. I just stayed and kept saying, “See you tomorrow.”

What do you wish you knew when you started?

I wish I'd known more about the hours. They're long and often include weekends. Even when you go to the events it is still working, you're not having fun and knocking back the drinks.

Posted 12.04.02

This story originally appeared in the BiZBash Event Style Reporter newspaper.

Photo by Anna Persson for BiZBash.

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