Sundance just kicked off and the who’s who of Hollywood have packed up their snow gear and descended upon Park City, for a time of red carpets, exciting new movies, pretty people and flashing cameras.
But there’s a lot that goes on at Sundance, and there are plenty of “regular people” there with jobs to do.
When I graduated in 2010, I knew I wanted to work in PR. I gained experience through a few internships and loved spreading the word about interesting people and cool new products. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to work in a celebrity gifting suite. My first job out of college was at a boutique PR firm in Beverly Hills and one of the highlights of our event calendar was producing gifting suites for Sundance and the Oscars.
What is a gifting suite? Every year celebrities and media are invited to suites before major events and awards shows to be given free products and services. Companies spend big chunks of their marketing budget on this with the hope some of the giftees will give them a shout out, or take a photo by their branded backdrop for Instagram.
The suite I worked at had a ton of perks – hair and makeup services, facials, massages, nails, boots, clothing, snacks and a driver for all the Angelenos unaccustomed to driving in snow. All of this was housed in a mansion overlooking snowcapped mountains. Wasn’t a bad place to spend the days…
The reality of making everything perfect for the guests meant somebody had to get their hands dirty, and that somebody was me. I spent hours trying to put together a styling chair for the hair station (the instructions weren’t included and the most I’d ever assembled was an IKEA table), and hours in a cold garage trying to organize the hundreds of boxes we had received full of various products.
But the toughest thing must have been figuring out who the “celebrities” were. The first morning our suite was open, there was an excited energy that filled the entire house. When the first person arrived, I asked my coworker, “Who is that?” She shrugged her shoulders and everyone started whispering, trying to figure out who this “celebrity” was. Turns out she was from a daytime soap opera that no one under the age of 50 has probably ever seen. That’s how it went for most of the day, but every few hours someone really famous would show up, and we’d all try to hide our starstruck grins and keep on our most professional face.
The funniest part of my experience at the suite was noticing the “least deserving” attendees aka the D-list celebrities, would always ask for the most. It taught me how to be firm, yet polite. No, Mr-minor-character-from-a-cancelled-CW-show, you may not take care of your entire Christmas list by grabbing 10 shirts and 4 pairs of boots that aren’t your size.
It also taught me a valuable lesson in dealing with divas. In any industry, you will run into divas, acting like their immediate needs are far more important than anything else on the planet. As I’m sure anyone in the service industry knows, it takes a lot of patience and control to deal with that sort of behavior. I learned to just take a breath, nod, listen to their needs, and problem solve.
Highlights of the experience?
One of my highlights was working with great clients from various brands we worked with. Events like these mean you spend days on end with brand reps from each company. I developed some great relationships. These are great people to have in your network, as you can tap into them for future connections or career opportunities, and they’ll be able to attest to the fact you can creatively problem solve and keep calm under pressure.
But the best part of my Sundance experience was definitely the free goodies! I left with enough nail polish and lotions to last a lifetime. I also got to use a shot ski (yes that’s a real thing) at a bar, and smile at Adrian Grenier at the airport.
Beyond gifting suites, PR plays a big part at the festival. There are hundreds of publicists there trying to promote their client and their role in the must-see independent film. The studios send their publicity team there to garner media coverage for their movie premieres, which they hope will lead to a big time distribution deal. For someone interested in working with celebrities and the film industry, PR is a great field, and I learned some invaluable lessons working at Sundance and other major industry events.
Tiffany Too is Vocatio’s VP of Marketing. She is a marketer who brings international perspective and experience to the team. Having spent her early years in the Midwest, she moved to Asia and graduated from the Singapore American School. While in college, she worked in both London and Singapore, focusing on advertising, public relations and marketing. She graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies.
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