Q & A

Running the Show

Since Overland Entertainment's founder died in 2004, Leane Romeo hasled the production company—and increased its business—while producinglarge award shows and strategic marketing events.

February 8, 2006, 12:00 AM EST

Romeo after the Glamour Women of the Year awards

Leane Romeo
Overland Entertainment Company

What She Plans: Romeo has run the full-service event production company as its president since Overland founder Jonathan Scharer died of cancer in September 2004. Under her management, the company has continued to increase its sales while producing large-scale events and marketing tours for clients including IBM, Allure, and The New Yorker. One specialty is award shows—Overland produces the James Beard and Condé Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice awards—and Romeo runs promotions and marketing tours for liquor brands including Tanqueray, Johnnie Walker, and Veuve Clicquot. The firm started with a focus on talent booking, which still accounts for about half of its business, and Overland produces the entertainment and opening ceremonies at tennis’s U.S. Open.
Staff: Thirteen people, including three event producers and a talent department that books celebrities
Age: 40. “When you reach 40, you kind of think, ‘Ah, my 20’s and 30’s are gone!’ But there is certainly a lot to look forward to.”
Career Path: At Mount Holyoke in Massachusetts, Romeo got involved in music promoting on campus. Out of college, she worked for a commercial real estate firm as an assistant for a woman who hated the financial.phpect of the business. With her budgeting experience, she went on to work at Ron Delsener Presents, where she met Scharer. When he started Overland 18 years ago, he took her with him.
Where She Grew Up: Douglaston, Queens
Where She Lives: Stuyvesant Town
Proudest Noncareer Moment: “The birth of my son—bringing him into the world, and creating someone that is so unique and so inspiring every day. [Nicolas is three.] I have a stepson who is 16, Lucas, and I have known him since he was four years old, so he is a son to me as well. I have two boys. My husband, Marc, I have been married to for seven years, and we’ve been together for 12 years. I’ve got great men in my life.”
Favorite Drink: “I love a vodka martini with olives, but I don’t necessarily make that required at events.”

What has been the biggest change, now that you’re running the company since the founder, Jonathan Scharer, died last year?
I am still very hands-on with the projects and up to speed on everyshow and event that we’re working on, even if I’m not running it day today. But I also have to be out of the office a lot, meeting with[existing] clients or new clients. I am taking a lot more meetings nowthat I’m running the company, not only on potential new projects, butalso on the nuts and bolts of running the business—meetings withfinancial advisers and accountants.

When it became obvious that you were going to take over, how did you approach your clients to tell them about the change?
Jonathan was very involved in the business up until about four daysbefore he passed away. Because of modern technology, he was able to beon email and conference calls. He had a very sudden decline, so withthe projects we were really in the thick of at the time of his death,for example the U.S. Open and The New YorkerFestival, he was still really participating. So we had alreadyestablished with all of the clients that we were working together, andtherefore, when he did pass away, there were a certain number thatalready knew, and there were some that definitely didn’t know just howill he was. But because we had been in touch with everyone, there wasno doubt that the continuity was there. There was just sadness that hewas gone. Every single client across the board was extremely confidentin Overland and just sad for the loss of such a great person.

You’ve been producing events all over the world this year. What are the challenges of working in new markets?
Certainly you face challenges because every market is somewhatdifferent, but we have a very good network of people that we work withworldwide. If we don’t already have a local representative in themarket, we have a market close by that recommends someone that wequickly forge a relationship with. The challenge is mostly in the timechange, in having to conduct business sometimes in the middle of thenight because of the market that you’re working in.

So what do you do—just take conference calls from your bed?
Exactly. Alicia Keys opened the Glamour Women of the Yearawards in 2004, and we had to finalize the production needs for heropening number and I had some questions logistically for [her crew] andthey at the time were in Japan. So her assistant was calling me at 2 AMto go over the details. So I made sure that I was up at 2 AM to getthat call, to get the information that I needed and to ask myquestions. You have to be very flexible. It is a 24-7 business.

How do you find new vendors or venues out of town?
We’re still trying new venues. We try to keep up to date as much aspossible. In January we were in Barcelona for IBM. As time progressedtheir number [of guests] increased and they were divvying up theirevents, so we had to go back to Barcelona to scout more places. Wefound a location called the Fira, which is the old fairgrounds. It was really successful.

One of your clients told us you’re great at staying calm under pressure. How do you do that?
I’ve always liked to approach anything in my life with a sense of calmand a very positive outlook that we’re going to make this happen, anddo whatever it is we need to do to make this happen and not get crazy.That can be just simply trying to organize Thanksgiving with my familyor the GlamourWomen of the Year awards. Too many times, I have heard of or seenpeople get frantic, and that doesn’t really get you good results. Beingcalm and having that sort of focus creates a positive environmentaround the job that you’re doing, and helps clients and the people whowork for you be confident about the job that they’re doing.

We’ve also heard praise for your creativity. How do you come up with novel ideas for your corporate clients?
We certainly love to hear the client download as much information abouttheir upcoming event to us, and hear the commentary that comes fromtheir internal colleagues about what they want to achieve from theirevents. But it also comes down to the team here. We sit down togetherand throw out ideas. Something might not be really appropriate, but itsparks another idea for someone else at the table. The creativity comesfrom everyone bouncing ideas off of one another. The process of mixingand matching ideas brings a lot of different approaches to the client.

How do you define a successful event?
When the production and presentation of the event exceeds [theclients?] expectation, and their audience and attendees give themraves, and the client can measure their success, as far as the marketand demographic that they?ve reached, and the press they were able toget.

You produce several award shows. How do you keep them interesting year after year?
The events I produce haven’t changed very much in their structure, butthey have in who participates, who their hosts are, or how you changethe special segments that happen in the shows to make them topical ortimely. This year, for Condé Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice awards, for the host we had the three stars from Spamalot. That’s one of the hottest tickets out there now. Mary J. Blige opened the Glamour Women of the Year awards, and with her was a choir from New York and 12 girls from the New Orleans Children Chorus,which we had contacted right after Hurricane Katrina hit. We offeredthem the opportunity to come up and join the choir to back up Mary J.Blige. They were thrilled beyond belief. All of these girls had beendisplaced. Their director was just in tears thanking us for giving themthe opportunity to come up here because it was such a light of hope forthese girls.

How do you see award shows changing?
I think philanthropy will come into play. The content of these shows isgetting a lot more inspirational. People leave these shows wanting toget a lot more active and get involved in whatever area has beenbrought to their attention. I think there is a trend that causes willbe present at the shows, so people feel, how do I get in touch withso-and-so?s charity because she so inspired me? And you have thatinformation available on-site.

You’ve been doing marketing tours for clients. How are corporations using tours differently?
I am not sure that they?ve changed that much, because ultimately thegoal is always to market the product, and to market it in the excitingand inspiring light that it should be marketed in to get the word outthat it exists. If anything, the tours that we?re doing now, ratherthan a big branding initiative, they?re getting much more fine-tunedand focused.

Erin Parker

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