Skip to main content /CAREER /CAREER

'What more could I ask?'

Cheryl Cecchetto:
Best supporting Oscar party

iconWhat's to eat? When Academy Awards Governors Ball producer Cheryl Cecchetto got together with Spago's Wolfgang Puck on a dinner menu, nobody was likely to leave hungry from the Academy's Governors Ball Sunday. Click here for a look at the post-Oscars party menu.  

(CNN) -- "Nothing will stop our party. I'm even set up with backup generators. And I've had the work lights gelled. So if we lose power, it all goes on."

In her 12th year producing the Governors Ball that immediately followed the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday night in Los Angeles, Cheryl Cecchetto proved she'd learned to be prepared for just about any eventuality -- including rolling blackouts in Southern California.

Consider just the musical presence she laid on for the big night.

•  She placed six musical ensembles on the red carpet arrival plaza at Shrine Auditorium.

graphic Would you like a career producing high-profile parties like the post-Oscars Governors Ball?

Totally. Just imagine the guest list.
Yes, but I'd have to consider the commitment -- months of work on one big project.
No, I'd rather attend it than produce it.
View Results


•  She added a 36-piece orchestra to provide the core music for the ball after the show.

•  And Cecchetto tossed a 12-piece Latin band into the mix, too.

"And grips walk up to me and say, 'I need my chicken well-done.'"

Cecchetto's forces numbered about two-thirds of the official party's 1,700 invited guests. "I have 1,200 people working with me -- not for me, with me," she says. "My second-in-command is Mary Jane Belasco. She's a general. A nice general, but a general. And the trick of this whole thing is in preproduction and planning."

This annual big event in Cecchetto's career is handled under the aegis of her Sequoia Productions company. In consultation with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Cecchetto and her people this year developed an Edwardian theme for the ball's decor, inspired by the history of moving pictures.

The party -- first stop for celebs after the show -- was staged at the Shrine Exposition Center, immediately next to the Shrine Auditorium, the awards show venue.

Colors incorporated into the party's decor included gold, ivory, cream and burgundy, with sepia accents. And there was an effort made, Cecchetto says, to highlight architectural features of the Shrine Auditorium, itself.

Canada to California

"I'm from Sudbury, in Canada, 300 miles north of Toronto," Cecchetto says. "Our freeway's a bridge. I wore snowshoes to school until I was 18. Very, very cold, completely different upbringing."

Cecchetto moved to California some 15 years ago, to work as an actress -- "but I had a lot of production-organizational skills that came natural to me. When I came out here, I arrived with both a theater degree and a business degree.

73rd Academy Awards Governors Ball menu

Hors d'oeuvre: •   Assorted Spago Pizza
•   Smoked Salmon Pizza
•   Tempura Shrimp with Wasabi Glaze
•   Spinach and Feta Spanikopita
•   Wild Mushroom Vol au Vent
•   Tandori Style Lamb Skewers with Raita
•   Spicy Tuna Tartare in Sesame Miso Cone
•   Za'atar Tarts with Babaganouj
•   Canape of Smoked Sturgeon Mousse and Dill
•   Sweet Shrimp and Lobster Springrolls with Five-Spice Ginger Sauce
Trio Salad •   Vine-Ripened Tomatoes, Fresh Bufala Mozzarella, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Aged Balsamic and Basil
•   Chino Farms Chopped Vegetable Salad with Shaved Parmesan
•   Roasted Beef and Goat Cheese Salad with Citus-Shallot Vinaigrette
•   Yellow Finnish Potato with Crème Fraiche and Osetra Caviar
Main Course •   Roasted Veal "Oscar" with Sweet Maine Lobster, Asparagus and Sauce Choron
Dessert •   Tower of Three Valrhona Chocolates
Wines •   BV 1999 Carneros Chardonnay
•   BV 1998 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon
•   Champagne Laurent Perrier

Source: Sequoia Productions

"I started managing things and loved it -- loved it. So I worked myself from the bottom up. I've schlepped and cooked and waitressed and bartended and draped -- I was even a musician at one time.

"And about 12 or 13 years ago, Otto Spoerri spotted me." Spoerri is a member of the Academy's administration, its controller -- a post that falls fourth in authority. "At the time, I was the floor manager for the caterer. A few things came up, I added my ideas and he sent me a letter and said, 'Your organizational skills do not go unnoticed, thank you.' And the next year, he called me in and asked me to coordinate" the Governors Ball.

What began as just the post-show party now is a more complicated job that includes a press reception and the pre-show as well as the ball.

"I'm 43," Cecchetto says, "but write that I have a 9-month-old and a 3-year-old. And you can turn the numbers around if you'd like to. 34."

Her husband is actor-writer Michael Michaud, currently in pre-production, Cecchetto says, for a film on which he'll have both writing and acting credits. It's Michaud, Cecchetto says, who convinced her when Spoerri had contacted her, that "we had to do this for real. An office in Culver City, for example. Before that, I'd hire friends. But with Michael -- we've been together for eight years now, married for five -- it became clear it was time for Sequoia Productions to go professional."

And the phrase now seems almost an understatement for a firm that recently produced a birthday party for a grandmother, mother and daughter. It's a few special, "personally meaningful" events during the rest of the year, Cecchetto says -- and then the big soiree each spring.

"Listen, we spend half our lives working, right?" Cecchetto collars you with her intensity. "Of course it's going to be stressful sometimes but it's also got to be rewarding. You choose to do what you want. And you choose who you work for -- I mean AMPAS -- with Sid Ganis and Alan Bergman as chair and vice-chair of this ball?

"What more could I ask?"


Academy announces Oscar nominations
February 13, 2001
The 10 best films of 2000
December 29, 2000
'American Beauty' comes up with five roses
March 26, 2000

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Valrhona Chocolate

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.


4:30pm ET, 4/16

Back to the top