Wednesday 18 September 2019

A night at the 'OsKaRs'

Ballyboughal events supremo, Kevin Rowe talks to John Manning about bringing some Hollywood magic to your fundraiser with the help of 'OsKaR'

Kevin Rowe
Kevin Rowe

Hollywood's award season is in full swing and a Ballyboughal entrepreneur is working on making the Oscar dream achievable for everyone, albeit these little golden statuettes look a little different and these 'OsKaRs' come with a somewhat peculiar spelling.

That big 'K' and 'R' stand for Kevin Rowe and 'The OsKaRs' is his brainchild and is the latest club and charity fundraising event craze sweeping the country, while also providing a novel way for the corporate sector to improve team-building and boost staff morale.

Kevin is from Ballyboughal and founded Kevin Rowe events over four years ago. In that short period of time, he has become well known across Fingal and beyond, mainly for running 'Strictly' ballroom dancing events.

While that side of the business is still thriving, Kevin is anxious to move on from the 'Strictly' tag but acknowledges that the format has made his name in the events industry and sports clubs, schools and charities across the land have benefited hugely from the idea.

He said: 'I suppose I need to lose that 'Mr Strictly' tag but yes, I've been involved with more than 100 'Strictly' shows across the country, mainly in Dublin, Belfast and Cork and I suppose what 'Strictly' has done for me is that it's led me on to working with the likes of Bank of Ireland, Vodafone and Microsoft and other big companies. We are still really. really busy doing the 'Strictly' model because a lot of companies are using it for team-building and staff morale and fitness. Last year we done Vodafone's biggest staff engagement gig of the year where they had over 70 or 80 dancers and we trained them, brought in the choreographers and managed the whole event and they raised €50,000 or €60,000 for the ISPCC so it's big stuff.'

Explaining why he has seized that particular niche in the events market that helps to stage events for clubs, schools, charities and any organisation that needs to raise cash for a particular cause, Kevin explained: ' GAA clubs and schools are the best fundraisers because they are the heartbeat of any community and everyone rolls in behind them. They make unbelievable money and the get the big gig out of it.

'Everything gets something tangible out of it, the participant gets the experience, the audience gets a great night out, we get paid and the hotel gets the bar and the club get out with the money so the it's a win-win for everybody and it's a professionally run event.

'There are one or two other guys out there doing it but it's like flying Ryanair or Etihad and we would certainly be Etihad - that's what I think anyway. We were the first to introduce that format into Dublin, Cork and Belfast but there are 'Strictly' type events being done down the country to death but people would be doing it themselves and it would be like an amateur school play without the big production we would bring. The first Strictly show we did was actually for the community school in Ashbourne and it's just grown and grown ever since.'

But now the company is moving into a new era and with a brand new idea that Kevin believes is unique, not only in Ireland or Europe, but in the world.

He explained: 'The OsKaRs is new and it's something that's really exciting. We are the first company in Ireland or UK to do it but also in Europe and I've done about 18 months research on this and I can't actually find anywhere in the world this has been done like this.

'We train ordinary, everyday Joe Soaps over a five or six week period and teach them about scripts and characters and the basic in acting techniques and then we split them into teams.

'For example, we are working in Mullingar at the moment with St Loman's who are a massive club - one of the biggest clubs in Westmeath and they are going to have 1,300 or 1,400 people going to the gig.

'There are 60 actors there who have taken up the training process and another 40 extras so there's about 100 people involved in this one. Each of the 60 have to raise money in sponsorship and sell tickets to the event.

'We put them into teams and we produce seven or eight movies, each about 10 minutes in length and in them, they re-enact some of the most iconic scenes from some of the best known films.'

The mini-films are professionally shot by an experienced crew and Kevin collaborates with some noted Irish filmmakers on the productions, who have scored notable successes in film festivals at home and abroad.

Explaining what is so unique about this concept, Kevin said: 'This is why this is so exciting. There has been Oscar-type nights where people dress up and they are given stupid awards like John is the Best Character in the Village or something like that but what we have done is create a real OsKaR night for people in the community.

'It's really, really innovative and it's something different. Some of the movies we feature are The Godfather, The Field, The Snapper, The Hangover, the Full Monty and Bridesmaids - there's something there for everybody. Each movie takes five or six hours to produce and we shoot it in locations around the community we are working with. It's also an opportunity for sponsors to get involved and their locations can be featured in the films.

'On the night it is a huge event. We've invested some money in the staging of it and we have the big OsKaR letters and the OsKaR statues and the red carpet. At some of them, the cast members get limos to the event and it's all really, really exciting. They get their photos taken and get interviewed on the red carpet and then go in and watch the movies with everyone else.'

He added: 'We have judges on the night too and they will score the actors for their performances and they are brought up on stage after their movie is shown and asked about the experience and at the end of the night then, there is an award ceremony where we hand out the awards for the Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Actress, Best Extra etc.

The OsKaRs with a 'K' works as well because you have the K and the R for Kevin Rowe. For copyright and stuff like that, we alter the scripts and the movie titles and the statues are different from the real Oscar statues - the real ones have a sword and ours have a shield so a lot of things are altered and we have to be very careful about that.

'We have had huge endorsements from people like Gavin Duffy from Dragon's Den. He said that if we had brought the idea to Dragon's Den, he would definitely have invested. We've done 15 of them so far and were are doing one locally this summer. We are doing a huge one with Skerries Harps in June which will be a great one because they are really into it.'

Kevin has big ambitions for the concept, and says it could eventually be taken to your television screens.

He said: 'The end goal for this is possibly trying to get it on to television. I think when you look at all the programmes out there like The Voice of Ireland, The Apprentice, Dragon's Den or whatever, it's all people competing or learning something and there's a judging element and audience interaction but there's nothing out there that is film-based.'

He added: 'For a company, it is an unbelievable team-building event too because, aside from us teaching people how to act, there's also the days of filming where they are working together with a director, a camera man, a sound man and that is all done very, very professionally.'

Kevin's company now has one full time employee in Louise Ellison but the Ballyboughal man said that at any one time, the company could be employing up to 25 subcontractors.

Kevin essentially organises a giant wedding-sized event every week but with his own nuptials coming up soon with partner, Rachael McDaid, the events man is taking a surprisingly understated approach to his own big event and going to a registry office and 'inviting about 15 people'.

You can find out more about Kevin Rowe Events through the usual social media channel. Look out for the next OsKaRs night, near you and maybe you can dust off that award acceptance speech you always wanted to make.

Fingal Independent