I had the pleasure of having a private sit down interview with Event Producer extraordinaire, Cheryl Cecchetto. This was during her ‘Passion to Create’ book launch party held at the upscale Bouchon Restaurant in Beverly Hills.
The appetizers were flowing and the chit-chat between elite executives from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Television Academy and PMK.BNC were in full effect. I wouldn’t expect anything less from Cheryl Cecchetto who produces high profile events such as: The Academy Awards Governors Ball (25 consecutive years), the Emmy Awards Governors Ball (17 consecutive years), The G’day USA Gala (11 consecutive years), and who produced events for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Warner Brothers Studios, Entertainment Weekly, 20th Century Fox and more.
Cecchetto grew up in Sudbury, in Northern Canada but is of Italian heritage. Her dreams of being an actress are what motivated her move to Hollywood. Like many of the people who come to Hollywood in search of becoming rich and famous, Cheryl had to have a survival job. This is what drove her back to her roots and landed her in the Event Producing business.
I spoke with her about her book, about advice for people wanting to get into the business, and what it takes to survive here in Hollywood.
PPLA: How did you get started and what inspired you to get involved in event planning?
CC: You know, I didn’t get started on purpose. I came to Los Angeles from Canada to be an actress. I was actually Shelley Winters’ assistant. And what happened was, catering became my day job. I was working for a catering company as their floor manager for two years, and during Oscar season I was working very closely with the late Otte Spoerri of the Motion Picture Acadamy. The Academy just came to me and said, ‘Look, we would really, really love it if you would be our coordinator for the Governors Ball.’ And I thought to myself, ‘Well that’s great’.
PPLA: What made you want to write a book about your life?
CC: Because when I speak – and I do speak publicly – people have asked me nonstop when am I going to write a book? And I thought to myself, ‘I have a lot of great stories and I want to share them with the world.’ The book contains terrific stories about work ethic, integrity, communication, and how one can open doors and create opportunities for one’s own business. So I think that it was just time.
PPLA: What do you want people to take away with them after reading your book?
CC: I hope readers will realize that I’m coming from a place of positivity, possibility, and definitely humor. And I think more than anything, I feel like we are moving at quite a fast pace. I haven’t even looked at my phone right now and I probably have 80 emails waiting for me. So actually my holiday tip is: When people walk into your home – have a phone check-in station. When they depart they can have their phone back. The idea is just unplug and really connect. And that’s what throwing events is all about. If I’m asked to throw an event, I really need to be able to connect with the client and the guest through all senses.
What I want everyone to realize is that this book is really for everyone. If you love cooking there are some phenomenal recipes. There’s a lot of great Hollywood stories, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes and there is a lot of giving back because as I say, anything is possible. I really want everyone to pour a fabulous glass of wine – or not, a great glass of Perrier will do too with a slice of lime and maybe a little mint- and just sit back and enjoy the book. I really want everyone to hear the words: “We need to celebrate a little bit more; get off the grid a little bit more.” Technology is fantastic, advanced technology has done wonders. I salute it, but let’s not stop personally connecting because that’s what we’re really doing, we are here to celebrate each other. That’s what I do for a living. I celebrate acknowledgments, I celebrate accomplishments, and I celebrate milestones for my clients. I just want to encourage everyone else to do the same.
PPLA: What advice do you have for people who want to get into event planning?
CC: Well run in the opposite direction unless you want to work your tush off! If you sincerely want to get into the event business you need to make sure this is what you really want to do because it is very high-pressure. There are a lot of high expectations. I will also suggest there are all sorts of great educational avenues like being an intern for a year with someone you trust. That’s your Master’s Degree.
PPLA: What was one of your favorite events to plan and why?
CC: You know I have such phenomenal clients such as the Academy of Motion Pitture Arts and Sciences, the Television Academy, G’day USA, too many to name. But I think my favorite event experience was working with the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. We are also producing the opening of the San Francisco Mission Bay Medical Center. They set a new level as to what is possible and what can be done. It’s all about giving back to that community for those who really need help. My purpose during this project is to support and celebrate service, generosity, health, integrity, and especially the children.
Cheryl’s book ‘Passion to Create: Your Invitation To Celebrate’ is now available on Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com Her company is called Sequoia Productions and can be found at www.sequoiaprod.com for more information. As Cheryl states in the opening pages “This book is your personal ‘All-Access Pass’ to a comprehensive, behind-the-scenes look into Hollywood’s event business.” She also stresses, “It’s not what you get, but what you give” and to “work hard.”
On that note: buy the book, unplug, pour yourself a glass of wine, and enjoy.
By: Sheri Nadel