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Emmys 2017: Governors Ball Borrows From ‘Harry Potter’s’ Great Hall

If there was one guideline Hayma Washington, chairman of the Television Academy, gave Cheryl Cecchetto and her team at Sequoia Prods. regarding the design of this year’s Governors Ball, it was that it needs to be epic. It is, after all, an event for the best the television industry has to offer.

Washington’s was a limited direction, but Cecchetto doesn’t need much after creating grand productions for Governors Balls for both the Emmys and the Oscars over the past two decades. She has a wealth of inspiration to draw upon from projects from both the TV and film worlds. Upon hearing the word epic, Cecchetto immediately thought of imagery from a piece of pop-culture history from the latter: the Great Hall from “Harry Potter.”

“It just popped in my mind, the long rows of rectangular tables lined up,” Cecchetto says. “It is so streamlined. It is so clean. It is so powerful. It feels like it continues forever.”

This year, Cecchetto’s goal is to provide attendees with an experience that “puts them in an altered state” and lets them forget the outside world while they are at the ball.

“We try to hit our guests with all five senses,” Cecchetto says. “We get them grounded with great music, great food, and a great atmosphere so we can get them into their body in present time.”

The menu will consist of three courses — salad, filet mignon and dessert. Sequoia Prods., in partnership with Patina Catering, have dubbed the salad course the Last of the Heirlooms, denoting its emphasis on the tomato, while the dessert course will be an Alunga brownie bar.

From the moment guests enter the room, they’ll be offered a drink. “It’s the first thing we do,” Cecchetto says. “Because usually if someone has something in their hand, if they can sip on something, they are more relaxed.”

Music, too, is key for establishing the right vibe but just as background notes to help loosen the mood.

Cecchetto says she wants to make everyone feel like a winner, which is why she chose gold as the main color for this year’s bash. It not only connotes elegance, but also reflects the statues themselves.

“There are uninterrupted lines of gold and white to create visual harmony and a sense of limitlessness,” she says. Waves of gold will extend across the room, from the ceiling to the set pieces on the floor.

The ceiling treatment is unique this year, designed as the most significant portion of the decor installation. Hundreds of feet of vertical tubing will be constructed of recyclable, paper-based materials. Sequoia Prods. is working with Sosa Sisters Designs, which specializes in wall and ceiling treatments, to ensure the bulk of these tubes will be repurposed after the event. Going green is increasingly important to Cecchetto and the Television Academy.

Feng shui is also a priority for Cecchetto, who notes that with so many attendees, it is her team’s job to make sure there is a sense of balance for everyone.

“It’s important to take them into a space and make sure it’s basically dispersed so that they don’t feel like they are ever packed and that everything is at their fingertips,” she says.

In order to accomplish this, everything at the Governors Ball will be at a right angle. There will be a bar in each of the four corners of the room and dessert stations in the center of both the north and south wall. The rectangular tables will be evenly spaced to further flesh out the symmetry of the design.

More than anything, Cecchetto hopes guests will tune out the outside world while they’re at the party, and “just be in the place they are,” she says. That’s why she and her team will set up device check-in (and charging) stations for cell phones and tablets. While they’re not mandatory, she hopes attendees will take advantage of them so they don’t succumb to the temptation of experiencing the event through a screen.

Keying into people’s needs is extremely important to Cecchetto, who adds that she wants guests to feel like they “have a place to go and to know they belong” at the party.

“We want to make sure people can talk to somebody or connect,” she says. “It’s all a very subliminal match with television where anything is possible. That’s the vibe. You’ll walk in there and say ‘anything is possible.’”

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