Secret Summer, being held this Sunday, August 14th, is a collaboration between Highlife Productions, Rapt Affairs, and The Foundry. It was born from the collaboration of Tyler Hollinger and Andrew Maturana with the idea of the classic cocktail soiree mixed in with the magic of immersive theatwe. It is NYC’s only Farm-to-bar cocktail festival with an emphasis on urban farms like. When asked to provide us with an “elevator pitch” about the increasingly popular Secret Summer event, both Hollinger and Maturana emphasized the Farm-To-Bar concept.
A key to making this event, now in its second year, successful is listening to the feedback from the fans and knowing the audience. The target event guest are youthful (but 21+) bohemian chic New Yorkers with a taste for mind-blowing cocktails and something a little different. The fans are young, hip, fashionable, and hungry for something exciting and new to tease their palette. They draw them in by creating an aesthetic identity that transcends with certain individuals. In addition to having a keen sense for marketing to the right audience, both Tyler and Andrew have substantial experience in event planning that goes back well before the Secret Summer NYC concept was born.
Read on for our interview with Hollinger and Maturana about Secret Summer NYC!
Where did the Secret Summer party concept from? When and how did you originally come up with the idea?
Tyler Hollinger, High Life Productions (TH): Secret Summer is a collaboration between Highlife Productions, Rapt Affairs, and The Foundry. It was born from the idea of the classic cocktail soiree mixed in with the magic of immersive theatre. It is NYC’s only Farm-to-bar cocktail festival with an emphasis on urban farms like (Farm One). We wanted to throw a festival where the cocktail was the focus first and foremost. Granted there is a lot more to Secret Summer then the cocktails like the live music, ballet dancers, aerialists, art, technology and more. Our focus is a “Farm-To-Bar” aesthetic where the ingredients are locally sourced (thanks to FarmOne) and the vibe is bohemian chic. At only 800 people we are a super small festival but unlike the larger “music festival” our focus is on the cocktail and cuisine and expanding the boundaries and
Andrew Maturana, RAPT (AM): Two years ago, out of feeling like what we were doing with our companies would be more successfully received through a ticketed immersive event, open to the public.
If you were in an elevator and had to pitch this event in 3 sentences or less, how would you describe it?
TH: Secret Summer is a farm-to-bar midsummer’s’ dream that takes place at the stunning Foundry. It is NYC’s only farm-to-bar cocktail festival riddled with surprises and entertainment.
AM: New York City’s premier Farm-To-Bar immersive, Secret Summer; a curation to elate all the senses.
Was it a long process to bring your vision to life?
AM: Wasn’t long at all. As soon as we decided to launch a ticketed event we quickly thought of a cool name and concept and started promoting it. The ideology of farm-to-bar and quality entertainment was already instilled in our day-to-day operations.
TH: I personally have been thinking about a festival for well over five years. This festival is currently in its second year and is a true reflection of the hard work, creativity, and far-out ideas from all the gangs at HighLife, Rapt, and The Foundry.
What is your work background and how does it influence your event productions?
AM: RAPT began catering and planning for private clients in the fine art industry: Dominique Levy, Luxembourg & Dayan, Mars over Manhattan then evolved to create custom farm to table and farm to bar menus for a more vast category of NY clientele. Our focus and passion for hyper-seasonal ingredients and new exhilarating experiences in food have influenced the Secret Summer brand heavily.
TH: Highlife Productions is a creative event production company. We help brands, companies, and the individual realize their dreams when it comes to innovative event production. We always take a creative approach to event design and planning especially when a client wants their event to stand out or set new boundaries. With Secret Summer I have always said “I’ve never seen that done, let’s do it.” These are the kinds of things that interest me the most. The original. The unique. The weird. My background is wide and varied. I am an accomplished actor appearing on such TV shows as Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Taxi: Brooklyn, ABC’s What Would You Do?, as well as films like Old Fashioned and Devoured. I also produce and write my own films like 2014’s Trust me, I’m a Lifeguard which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and was subsequently bought by United Airlines. I’ve worked in finance, advertising, film, and theatre.
Would you say you target a certain audience? If so, who is that target audience and what do you incorporate to draw them in?
AM: Our target audience is the fashion-forward, discerning millennial. People that value quality and innovation, fresh looks and ideas. We draw them in by creating an aesthetic identity that we know transcends with certain individuals.
TH: Our fans are young, hip, fashionable, and hungry for something exciting and new to tease their palette. We have a pretty substantial following but always want to expand our reach and word of mouth. We use a lot of social media to communicate with our community. Instagram is first and foremost, Facebook second, and Snapchat third. If you haven’t followed our Instagram account: @SecretSummerNYC. It will make you thirsty!
You have now put together a number of events. What have you kept the same from year to year, and what changes are incorporated due to feedback?
TH: We love hearing feedback from our fans. This is our priority number one. To put together unique events that entertain all the senses. The cocktails by Rapt will blow your mind, the food will be out of this world, and the entertainment top notch. There are a couple surprises for Secret Summer this year but we wouldn’t want to spoil them 😉
AM: The only thing that changes from event to event is our efficacy while accommodating our clients. Our approach to culinary is an ever-evolving synthesis.
Do you envision expanding High Life Production events to other cities?
AM: We will be expanding the Secret Summer concept along with a series of SS pop-ups but we cannot divulge exactly where at this moment.
TH: We have planned and produced a number of events in LA for our fashion clients. Looking down the next five years we hope to have offices in LA, Miami, and Chicago. The best part about the Highlife Team is that we are game to travel anywhere!
What has been some of your favorites moments so far during the planning process? And any moments you’d prefer to forget?
TH: Booking Lucky Chops to play at Secret Summer in the round was a big thing for me because they are incredible and I am a huge fan. We had a couple sponsors who didn’t work out with the aesthetic of the festival and that was kind of a bummer. But overall the planning process has been very smooth with stellar help from the excellent Rachel Van Dolsen and RVD PR who brought city-wide exposure to our intimate festival.
AM: Luckily, we have not encountered any scathing criticism to-date and have very much enjoyed working as a team to create new and transporting experiences for our clients, brands and productions.
Dead or alive, real or fictional – who would be your dream “celebrity” to attend your soiree that you would try to impress?
TH: Captain Jack Sparrow
AM: Bill Clinton, he loves balloons.
For more photos from past Secret Summer events, please check out the gallery below!
Tickets are still available for the upcoming event on Sunday, August 14 from 4-10PM at The Foundry in Long Island City.
Photos via Secret Summer