Pandemic Production, One Year Later: Brandy and Ryan Fons, Publicists, Fons PR
Then: "Well, what do you want to do? What are your goals now?"
Now: "We are just so happy we're still around."
Brandy and Ryan Fons are event people. The married couple and Fons PR co-founders are known for hosting a good movie-themed ranch hangout or barbecue dinner. But public relations work has become a lot less, well ... public. When I spoke to the Fonses about their COVID-era pivots last summer, they had much to say about how South by Southwest 2020's cancellation threw them into a frenzy of last-minute problem solving. This year, Fons PR didn't work on SXSW campaigns at all. "We really dive into the taste of Austin. Like, 'Let's do our event at the coolest Austin places!'" Brandy said. "And being virtual, that wasn't something we could shine in and offer."
Still, there are upsides. They popped up on our Zoom call grinning in their home, both dressed in T-shirts and baseball caps. There's a marked difference between this comfy setup and the more distant voice-only call we had when I interviewed them last year. We joked about how we've all grown used to peering into our colleagues' living rooms.
"We actually just sent a note out to the staff today about getting back to the office this fall. We want to do a hybrid situation," Ryan said. Starting in September, they will work remotely on Mondays and Fridays and in person on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. "And [if] it's better to work from home one day, even if it's within those three days, there is so much flexibility," Brandy added. "That's not a sick day or taking vacation. It's just like, 'Okay, sounds great! No problem!'"
Virtual work is much different from the projects the Fonses are used to, such as Fantastic Fest, the Alamo Drafthouse's horror, fantasy, sci-fi, and action film festival. But because of that experience, their reputation precedes them. "[We helped launch] genre films for Amazon. They really hadn't been in that space, and they sought us out for our expertise with what we do at Fantastic Fest. That was exciting for us, to be like, 'Well, we can sink our teeth into this,'" Brandy said. She's referring to Welcome to the Blumhouse, Prime Video's partnership with Blumhouse Productions. Fons PR planned a trailer launch, press days, and a virtual meet-and-greet with the filmmakers for the four-film series released last October. "Working with Amazon was a real high point. Blumhouse does horror and genre better than anybody," Ryan said.
Fons PR has bagged a few other wins, too. They helped the Drafthouse develop their COVID safety plans and feel confident that those protocols are some of the best in the industry. Fantastic Fest is happening in person again this fall. And perhaps most exciting, projects that got paused at the start of the pandemic are reemerging. "[Last year,] we had started working on A24 films Zola and The Green Knight, and to have those put on hold, and knowing how great they are, that they were finished, just sitting there waiting ..." Ryan trailed off. "It just feels like we're finally coming out of this."
"We are just so happy we're still around," Brandy said.
Read our original 2020 interview with Brandy and Ryan Fons here.