How I Made It: Event planner Tony Schubert gets the party started

The gig: Tony Schubert, 44, owns Event Eleven, an event production company he founded in 2001. Schubert’s company produces large-scale events, including designer fashion shows, blockbuster film premieres, celebrity weddings, product launches, awards show after-parties and dinners. Among Event Eleven’s notable events were the 2016 Oscars Rolex Greenroom, the annual ESPN Super Bowl party and the annual Screen Actors Guild Awards after-party.

The production bug: Schubert began his career investing in and promoting nightclub and bar events. Soon Schubert and friends began arranging their own productions. “I was the one out of the group that cared a little bit more about what the experience was for the guest, such as the décor and what they were taking away when they left,” he said. “I caught the production bug and started my own production company.”

Lucky No. 11: Schubert was involved in sports since he was a young, attending UCLA on a volleyball scholarship with a major in broadcast journalism. Schubert grew up on 11th Street in Santa Monica and 11 was his former uniform number, both of which inspired the company’s name.

Career changes: After a stint in professional volleyball, Schubert tried acting but decided the social side of the entertainment industry was more his style. “What I found was the agents and managers that were turning me down for acting jobs, I was planning their events,” he said. “Once I launched my company, I never looked back. People just started hiring us. We would, at that time, take on anything we could. At the end of the day, we are serviced-based business. The word ‘no’ is never in our vocabulary.”

Keeping a cool head: In the event production business, a lot of pre-production work goes on behind the scenes, similar to a film set. Challenges can come up, such as the weather not cooperating, last-minute location changes or the permitting process to secure an event site. “I’m a pretty level-headed person by nature, so I excel when stressful times happen,” Schubert said. He advises his staff to take a moment to breathe during stressful times and come back with a fresh perspective. “I know when the clients are freaking out, it doesn’t do any good when the staff is freaking out with them,” he said.

Making it work: A career goal for Schubert is to have enough cash flow to operate the business and pay — as well as keep — his employees. His team of 15 people does the work of 35, he said. The most enjoyable aspect of event production is doing something different on each project, Schubert said. “I’m a huge people person. I love dealing with people and love creating something from nothing,” he said. “Every one of our projects gives us the wherewithal to do that.“

Locking down locations: Event Eleven plans larger-scale events — such as ESPN’s annual Super Bowl party — at least a year in advance. Two weeks after ESPN’s Super Bowl party is held, Schubert and his team are already flying to next year’s location. “We get into the market, scout the venue, look at closing the streets down … it really does take a good year to do that,” he said. “With the big award parties and after shows, you know you have five to six events competing right on your tail. What we try to do is scout locations early enough and really lock down the location for the client.”

Getting creative: For TV Guide’s Emmy after-party in 2008, Schubert’s team imported 1,000 origami cranes from Bali. “Our job and some budgets allow us to get uber-creative,” he said. One memorable project was a seven-day event held in Jamaica for a personal client about 12 years ago. “We took over an entire resort for 200 people. We handled all the travel, had the bands Kiss, Nazareth, Scorpions and Sugar Ray there, and built a stage for them on a golf course. We had fashion shows and brought in the Sushi Roku chefs,” he said. “Money was no object. When you get a client or land an event like that where you are able to get really creative is the ultimate.”

Personal: Schubert and his wife, celebrity stylist Joey Tierney, recently welcomed a baby boy, and he’s the primary focus in their free time. But they also enjoy traveling. “We have a boat. We’re always surrounded by the ocean. We love Catalina and Montauk [in New York] in the summertime,” he said.

Advice: A successful event production career hinges on making the client happy. “You have to be there for your clients 100% of the time, sometimes 120%,” Schubert said. “You have to be available when they call, sometimes on weekends when you are with your family.” He advises to trust your instincts and keep it simple. “There will be some clients you won’t gel with and that you might say no to and that’s OK,” he said. “It’s also super-important to really understand the value of a client, what they are bringing to you and make sure you can deliver. Don’t over-promise and under-deliver.”

amy.edelen@latimes.com

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