Chasen & Co. still a kudos season contender

Praisery soldiers on after founder's tragic death

Though Chasen & Co. lost its leader one year ago, the boutique PR firm that came to define music-related awards campaigning has soldiered on, and is now well into its first full season without the ubiquitous presence of Ronni Chasen.

Remarkably, the small, West Hollywood-based shop that Chasen started in 1994 hasn’t missed a beat. Bizzers and awards-season gurus tell Variety that Chasen & Co. has stood fast as a campaigning and consulting player, defying questions of the firm’s viability after the devastating loss of Chasen, who was murdered in the early hours of Nov. 16, 2010.

Perhaps the company’s second act is not all that remarkable, given the force of the Chasen’s legacy.

“I imagine she’s around every corner because I’m so used to seeing her during the season,” said longtime Paramount awards consultant Lea Yardum, who added that there hasn’t been a Paramount film Chasen hasn’t consulted on since 2005. “She had an expertise in music, which not a lot of people can boast, but she also consulted on performance campaigns, director campaigns, events, press outreach.”

Day-to-day operations at Chasen & Co. are now the responsibility of Jeff Sanderson, Chasen’s longtime employee and friend. Very much the old-school, publicity-averse publicist, Sanderson graciously demurred when asked to be interviewed for this story — though he did offer a statement about his former boss.

“Ronni was my mentor, business associate and closest friend for more than 15 years,” Sanderson said. “She was a brilliant publicist who was passionate about her profession and worked tirelessly for her clients. She has had a profound impact on my life.”

She also had a deep impact on the way campaigns are conducted, particularly for composers. Chasen was known for putting her job first and tenaciously pursuing her goals, which often included positioning her clients for awards consideration. One way she achieved that was by making both the Palm Springs and Ghent Film Festivals crucial stops for talent on the awards campaign trail.

“Both of these festivals were catapulted into the stratosphere based on her wrangling of talent,” said Vivian Mayer-Siskind, who started her publicity career with Chasen. “When Ronni gave them her imprimatur, people listened.”

Oscar-winning producer Richard D. Zanuck, who was working with Chasen on an Academy campaign for “Alice in Wonderland” at the time of her death, called Chasen a friend and his “go-to person” for anything awards-related.

“She knew the various branches of the Academy and their membership,” said Zanuck, who estimated he worked with her on close to 20 films. “And she had a lot of clout with the HFPA.”

Now Sanderson, who carries the title of president of Chasen & Co., is putting all his years working alongside the veteran publicist to good use.

“Every time you saw Ronni, you saw Jeff,” Yardum said. ” It was a natural progression for us to continue to work with Chasen & Co.”