Show and Tell: The Palm Springs International Film Festival

Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala

The Banquet Area for the 2004 Awards Gala (Source:

The very first event we’ll be featuring for eVenues show and tell is the Palm Springs International Film Festival, a star-studded gala event which Richard De Santis, President and CEO of Event Management Productions, helped plan as the Executive Producer:

What were the goals of the event?

In January, as has been the case for the past 13 years, we produced the Palm Springs International Film Festival awards Gala. It is one of the major fundraising events for the Palm Springs Film Society which is its parent 501 C3 Corporation.

The event is a black-tie movie awards show which is a major precursor to the Academy Awards. Every year for the last decade more than half of our award recipients have gone on to be nominated for an Academy Award and about two thirds combined for Academy and Golden Globe awards. The goal is more an issue of branding than of attendance or execution. The Palm Springs Film Festival Awards Gala has become an international brand rivaling both the Academy Awards and the Golden globes in its reach and stature.

The challenge is twofold. First we have to guess right on whom we are offering awards to. We know what quality and merit in filmmaking is but on many occasions quality and award worthy films and actors never received the recognition that they might or should. The challenge is to avoid selecting films that may be exceptional artistic successes but don’t necessarily reflect that in the box office. Our biggest challenge is cutting off ticket sales because even though tickets to this show can be extraordinarily expensive we are usually sold out in less than 3 to 4 weeks.

What did you feel was the biggest challenge for this event? How did you overcome that challenge?

This show began essentially as a homegrown celebration of film to promote Palm springs. It has largely remained that way for over a decade but in 2000 with new and invigorated leadership the scope and direction of the show became less a local party and more a very glitzy social event aimed at seriously promoting filmmaking as well as Palm Springs.

There was a refocused effort to kindle or in fact rekindle Hollywood’s love affair with Palm Springs. With the film society and the city working in partnership it became relatively easy to reignite the excitement that Hollywood had for Palm Springs. It was a little more difficult to redefine the quality of the show as a very serious cinema awards event but again, a new board in a rededicated effort was able to accomplish this feat in a fairly short period of time.

What do you feel was the most successful aspect of this event?

There are two parts of the show that are success stories. The first is that the event has grown into a strong international brand with sponsorships such as Cartier and Mercedes-Benz and many more. Palm Springs International Film Festival awards Gala is recognized virtually everywhere as a very serious path to other awards.

Model Astrid Bryan poses in front of a Cartier backdrop (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

This has also led to a Renaissance of Palm Springs itself with a new downtown emerging that keeps the flavor of old Palm Springs of its early Hollywood heyday and enhances some of the other phenomenal growth success stories such as the Palm Springs Art Museum, the desert air Museum, the Palm Springs Opera Guild and many other interesting cultural activities held within the city.

What were some lessons learned? How would you do the event differently the second time around?

I think the biggest lesson learned is not to look back. This has been a very successful branding effort and unless there is a major need as there was about 15 years ago to retool the entire event there is very little that we would do differently. The extraordinary growth of this event to an international brand suggests that the path we are on at least for the current period of time does not require a do-over.

Richard DeSantisAbout Richard DeSantis: Richard DeSantis is a well known producer of quality shows such as the Palm Springs International Awards Gala, Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, Virginia Waring International Piano Competition, and many others. He is an instructor in the use of lighting for special effect and event management, and has won national awards for his productions. He spent years in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington DC developing his craft.

About eVenues Show and Tell

Over the past couple years at the eVenues blog we’ve conducted several interviews about putting on green events, political events, even social media war rooms. Each of these meetings had different challenges and goals. Considering how popular these interview posts have turned out to be, we’ve decided to make them a regularly occurring feature: The eVenues event planner show and tell.

To participate, you just have to tell us about an event that your recently helped plan by answering these 4 questions:

1. Describe an event you recently helped plan. What were the goals of the event?
2. What did you feel was the biggest chalenge for this event. How did you overcome that challenge?
3. What do you feel was the most successful aspect of the event?
4. What were some lessons learned? How would you do the event differently the second time around?

Feel free to send your submissions/questions to kenji[-at-] and your event could be the next one featured!


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