Fons PR Enhances SXSW With Creative Installations and Notable Movie Premieres
Mastermind husband-and-wife team Ryan and Brandy Fons use their lifelong love of movies to create unforgettable events
By Britni Rachal
Photos by Brian Fitzsimmons
This year’s SXSW Festival will include a lot of new beginnings — A screening and premiere of Roku’s first-ever streaming TV series, an outdoor Disney film series at the Long Center for Performing Arts — among dozens of other surprises as the festival’s live events return after a two-year hiatus. Behind the creative lens of much of the publicity is mastermind husband and wife team, Brandy and Ryan Fons, who own a small boutique agency that specializes in promoting movies and film.
Excitement is evident as SXSW returns, after being one of the first major events to be abruptly canceled, just six days ahead of its planned 2020 opening date. Representing Fons PR and sitting on the advisory board of the festival, Brandy is also a publicity mentor to SXSW organizers each year.
One of the events most notable is the opening night of the film, “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” After a tumultuous two years, the movie may be relatable for fans. Directed by a duo known as “the Daniels” — Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert — the plot is centered around a woman named Evelyn who is having the worst day of her life, first learning her taxes are being audited and then entering a cosmic battle that will decide the fate of everyone, everywhere. Michelle Yeoh, James Hong and Jamie Lee Curtis star in the movie.
“The film is hilarious and exciting. It’s the perfect SXSW film,” says Ryan, who has had a lifelong knack for spotting the best films.
“Meeting people who knew Ryan in middle school, they would tell me that instead of signing ‘have a great year’ in their yearbook, he’d write, ‘Go see Batman Returns or you’ll regret it,’” says Brandy. “He was promoting movies before he became a publicist for movies.”
Little did Ryan know, much of his life would center around movies. A press party for 2001 movie Pearl Harbor brought him and Brandy together for the first time. The two had been working together at different Disney locations and talking on the phone for a year. With social media not yet invented, they didn’t know what one another looked like. That is — until Director Michael Bay brought his entire crew to Honolulu ahead of the film’s opening.
Fast forward to Brandy transferring to Los Angeles where Ryan already lived, a once “secret” relationship found out by a co-worker and then a proposal at the “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” premiere and the two have now been together for over 20 years and have a 14-year-old daughter.
The couple moved to Austin in 2006 — a decision made easy after Ryan spent a weekend working at Alamo Drafthouse’s Fantastic Fest event.
“Literally within three hours of touching down and only having spent my time at Alamo Drafthouse, I called Brandy up and I said yes, let’s move,” said Ryan. “I thought if this is representative of what Austin is, then this is where I want to be. Everybody seemed to know each other, and everybody was in love with movies. I had never experienced a theatre with such a sense of community.”
Now 16 years later, and eight commemorative Fantastic Fest tattoos shared between Brandy and Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League, a genuine and trusting business relationship only seems to grow stronger.
“It’s interesting that our paths would cross with this amazing couple — Tim and Karrie — and that we’ve been able to work in film and grow with Alamo over the last 13 years. I think that a lot of our success is from this union,” says Brandy.
A long, entrepreneurial route — some of the Fons’ team’s best memories include a PR event that allowed four people to watch Ryan Reynold’s movie “Buried” while buried inside coffins with TV screens, a moment also featured in the New York Times. Other memorable events include a Blair Witch takeover on South Congress that caught the attention of Entertainment Weekly.
“A lot of the things that we do have the goal of trying to gain coverage outside of Austin,” says Ryan.
“We enjoy being so creative that we can spread our love for film in Austin, so others can see what’s going on here,” says Brandy.
Growing with the city, the firm currently has eight employees and was able to keep the entire team — to weather the pandemic together.
“All of our employees have been here for four or more years. We know that all of our successes are because of our team as well.”