cinqque5tion with Sasha Stoltz (by: Jovin Tardif)
This weekend, I was asked to be a VIP and watch upcoming Canadian talent. The process of finding talent is so fascinating. I was so honoured to be selected. On Friday evening, I sat down with the owner and host of the event who was trying to pick my brain. He asked: “Tell me about yourself?” I replied: “I will give you a line that you probably haven’t heard in a long time…” I continued: “Stay tuned!” He looked back stunned and said: “you can’t leave me hanging like that.” I replied: “John…the greatest storytellers are the ones who leave you with a question mark in your head.” He smirked. I added: “I want people asking themselves…who is that guy with the baseball hat? (I paused) and continued “we don’t always have to tell everyone everything. Sometimes being mysterious is just as interesting and might I add fun. (I paused) “Remember the element of surprise? Welcome to #whatonwhatsgood”
Honestly, part of what I do is branding. I have been doing this for decades in multiple industries. John knew that I had this gift and asked if I can help people understand the power of communication. After talking to all kinds of talent all weekend I left most of them with the following messages….remember as a talent, you are a brand. Think of yourself as Nike. Show the world what you can do but understand that as a brand you are constantly selling yourself. Why are we buying into you? How are you different or unique? Remember there is a lot of work involved to make it to the top. Networking, researching, asking questions, communicating, listening to criticism, learning to adapt to change, understanding social media and so much more. It can be tricky at times, but if you do your homework, people will listen.
I figured after the Oscars and a unique weekend, I was thinking about doing something different. Have you ever asked yourself who are the people behind-the-scenes in the entertainment industry? What is a publicist? What do they do? How does talent get to the next level? I decided to reach out to my friend Sasha Stoltz to get a bit of information. Sasha is a well-respected member of Toronto’s publicity elite in the Film & Music industry. This is going to be awesome. Are you ready? Let’s go!
When did you know you wanted to be a publicist? How did it all begin?
It sort of snuck up on me. I started working for The ReelWorld Film Festival and Tonya Lee Williams. I always worked in our family’s businesses and both my father, entrepreneur and producer Tonya Stoltz and my mother, author, screenwriter and producer Lynne Stoltz were board members and friends of Tonya’s. I started from the bottom as they say and worked my way into more responsibilities under the wing of Tonya. Working long hours at whatever was asked of me over the years, from setting up for events, to handling media, directors, showing their films in the best light, I got my stride and the rest is history. Having a family that instilled a strong work ethic was a blessing.
2. You have been a publicist for TIFF, Have Faith Productions, Sasha Stoltz Publicity, and publicity for actors, recording artists, films, etc. Can you give us a general idea of the typical duties of a publicist?
The duties of a publicist are many and can vary with each client. I do my research first and make sure I know my client. We have a meeting sometimes a couple and talk about their expectations. Unless it’s something unrealistic I don’t put up roadblocks, most importantly, I listen. They usually know my track record before we meet, so, this is about their vision. I’m here to offer guidance, but at the end of the day, this is their show. I am very serious when it comes to my clients and work hard at making their public life free as I can from drama.
They say relationships happen at the Red Carpet. Can you tell us about some of your red carpet experiences at MMVA’s, Toronto International Film Fest, Gemini Awards, the US Daytime Emmys & NAACP Awards?
I love working the Red Carpets. It’s very fast-paced and you have to be able to navigate your client towards the right interviews and ready for the next. It’s a little different if your client isn’t as well known in the media world as some of your clients. In this case, you have to manoeuvre the carpet and be alert as it moves fast. It helps to have a rapport with the media. Being aggressive is a must but always respectful. It’s a fine line. Remember, you got your client on the Red Carpet, not always easy, now make the most of it. With more notable, seasoned clients, it’s important to remember to stay back and let the media have their time. I have the trust of my clients and know when to gently move them down the carpet. Again, it’s about you being the calming factor for your client. I always hope that comes across. Maybe one of the most humbling moments for myself was being approached by a representative for a major actor, asking if I would return to the start after I was finished with my client and walk theirs down. Of course, I acknowledged the compliment, but, declined and returned my full attention to my client. It all happened within a minute’s time, but it made me think, I must be doing something right, in the job I love.” There are parties and events after every Red Carpet, you will know which ones your client wants to attend and the ones they have to make an appearance at. A publicist is on duty 24/7. My clients know that of me.
Can you tell us about some of your clients?
I apologize, but I don’t talk about my clients in a laundry list kind of way. I have well known and not so known (for now) clients, but I never talk about them in reference to myself. My reputation and client list for over twelve years have been built from word of mouth. When a potential client or his or her people reach out to me, they all say the same thing. They spoke to someone that I worked with, they saw me out at some event or at a television interview with one of my clients and liked how I handle myself. They like that I seem in control without being offensive and quietly & effectively get the best for and from my clients.
You were the Executive Producer at Have Faith Productions for the feature film “Sons 2 The Grave” filmed in Atlanta. What can you tell us about this experience? How was the premiere?
“Sons 2 The Grave “was a project my mother, author, screenwriter and producer Lynne Stoltz worked very hard to get done. It took years of persistence and Faith. Lynne will tell you it was Faith that brought us there. “SONS” is inspired by actual events, (the Toronto murder of Justin Sheppard). “We are our brother’s keeper” at the end of the day and we have a responsibility to each other, whatever side of the bridge we live on. “SONS” shows us the vulnerability of our youth, especially in at-risk neighborhoods and how cockiness, immaturity, and fear of appearing weak can lead down a dark path. We were blessed with an amazing cast. The movie has led to a television series to be shot in Toronto 2020, “HUDSON” a police drama. “SONS” was chosen by the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce to be shown at a special screen at SXSW as one of the best independent films to be shot in Atl. We then chose to concentrate on the sale of “SONS” rather than constantly screen it. I have worked in the family businesses since I was very young and this was the next obvious step for me. Combining my publicity skills with that of the executive producer role and working with my mother on this was an honour. Seeing her inspiring words on screen was very emotional for me. Danny Glover said, Lynne rips your heart out and puts it back in, nice and neatly, even if you don’t like what we see”. We dedicated this film to my father who passed away a few years ago. This was an emotional journey for me. We had the opportunity to screen “SONS” privately with Martin Luther King III, Mrs. King and their Chief of Staff. That was a moment for me.
Bonus question – Without revealing too much, can you tell us about the next project from Have Faith Productions “Loud Silence”? and the TV series “Hudson”?
Have Faith Productions has a slate of projects coming in the future. We have decided to concentrate on Faith & Family movies for television. “Loud Silence”, from a novel written by Lynne. “Loud” was to be directed by Maya Angelou before she passed away. Dr. Angelou attaching to “Loud” was truly humbling us. Other projects include, “Dropped Off”, the story of a young boy and his father having difficulty dealing with loss. The father sends him to his friend’s ranch for the summer where a group of foster kids living with the family teaches him the true meaning of knowing you are loved. “Face Value”, a story situated in the North Preston area of Halifax and how the lives of the “Africville” community lives under the cloud of its history, is never to Farr away. “Peyton’s Choice”. Successful artist, Peyton Elliott returns to her home in the very small rural Lakewood community, home to a private boys school that is home to Prince’s, future kings, political families, etc. Peyton has been invited by the school owner to teach art. Peyton’s estranged mother dies and left her the childhood house, well sort of a cranky, outspoken 70 plus-year-old longtime friend of her mothers is allowed to stay in the house as long as she wants. Peyton has to deal with that as well as working in a “good old boys” school, with its handsome headmaster.
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