Richard DeSantis is no stranger to the Hollywood crowd. As executive show producer of the Awards Gala at the Palm Springs International Film Festival—considered the prelude to the Academy Awards—he’s rubbed elbows with celebs like Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon and Johnny Depp for the past 15 years. Welcoming more than 130,000 attendees this year, Jan. 1-11, the PSIFF is celebrating its 27th consecutive season. The 2016 Awards Gala kicked off the festival, drawing more than 2,000 film lovers and industry insiders. Held inside Palm Springs Convention Center, it included the awards show and an after-party at Parker Palm Springs. DeSantis gave us a peek behind the velvet ropes.
How is the convention center space altered for the show?
We build our own stage, and seating risers are set up on both sides of the room and in the back. All 230 tables are illuminated with pin spotlighting to enhance the look of the centerpieces and create an overall aura of intimacy.
Do you provide any special backstage amenities?
There’s a photo opportunity room with food-and-beverage service and a screen to watch the show. We also have a dedicated room for “Entertainment Tonight” interviews. Still, we don’t want to hold the stars backstage; we want them to move as quickly as possible back to their seats out in front with the audience.
The backstage area encompasses a space that’s 20,000 square feet. It houses a television studio built specifically for the show, and it’s probably one of the largest broadcast TV centers in Southern California. This is our command and control center.