Jennifer Hackett remembers the first time she took a tender boat out to Octopus, the superyacht owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen that boasted two helipads and an onboard submarine and hosted one of the most exclusive parties at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2015, while vp special projects at Paradigm, where she was responsible for everything from corporate sponsorships and event planning to high-end gifting and ticketing, Hackett had signed with Allen (who died in 2018) and his Vulcan Productions to curate his Cannes experience, including film recommendations, liaising with protection teams and helping oversee Octopus’ guest list.
Two years later, the Florida-raised and Vanderbilt-educated Hackett founded JNH & CO. to address a very specific niche in the entertainment industry: “The most intricate 2 to 5 percent of what other companies do — talent relations companies, personal publicity companies, event management companies — is 100 percent of what we do,” she says. Hackett, who is unbending about confidentiality with the kind of decorum that would make Emily Post self-conscious, has clientele that encompasses top studios, individual C-suite executives and financiers. In addition to the late Allen, clients have included Participant Media, ICM Partners and Pulse Films.
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While she assists clients around other high-end industry events like the Venice Film Festival and the Oscars, the French Riviera is her office of choice. An average day at Cannes could mean fielding multiple day-of requests for tickets for the festival’s biggest titles to securing a 12-person reservation in the 35-seat Le Maschou, despite the restaurant having been booked solid for two months. According to multiple insiders, Hackett can make miracles happen — at least as close to miraculous as you can get on the Croisette.
“When I first started going to Cannes in 1981, there was a much more selective group for any event. She reminds me of those people who were creating something meaningful,” says Sony Picture Classics’ Tom Bernard, who recalls sitting in a helicopter with Woody Harrelson on the top deck of Allen’s yacht at a Hackett-coordinated party, where he saw everyone from hockey star Sidney Crosby to Mick Jagger. “When you go to these things [now], it’s a brawl outside and you wouldn’t even say it’s an event that you need to get into. That’s just not the kind of event that she’s part of.” According to Hackett, the ideal mix of invitees on any given Cannes guest list will include leaders from various industries, not just entertainment: “Parties are made and broken by the guest list.”
There was the time in 2017 when Allen — always “Mr. Allen” to Ms. Hackett — requested tickets to the festival opener, Arnaud Desplechin’s Ishmael’s Ghosts, an hour before theater doors closed. Unable to get a hold of her high-level festival contact, who already had left for the opening-night ceremony, Hackett took off running down the Croisette to pull the contact out of the night’s welcome dinner to release the tickets and then head to the Palais’ artists’ entrance of the Grand Lumiere, where, 30 minutes after she received the request, Hackett handed Allen tickets in the presidential loge, a spot often reserved for jurors. Another time Hackett received a call on behalf of an Oscar-winning actor to secure a car to the premiere of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (the massive ensemble cast had maxed out the fleet) only a couple of hours before the screening. She secured a festival car but took it a step further: “He had good tickets, but for an actor of his echelon, we felt that he needed to be seated in close proximity to the film delegation.” He was then sat in front of Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and the rest of the Tarantino cast.
Hackett continuously credits her tenacity — seen in her work to her father, a pension consultant, which, while a vastly different field from her own, she notes, “Is always about connecting with people.” Tickets, cars and guest lists may seem trivial, but Hackett has become a go-to in Cannes, where the square footage of star power is condensed to a handful of city blocks and everybody who is anybody (and some who aren’t) are constantly demanding something.
Just don’t call her a concierge. “We are not a concierge business,” she insists. “We are an executive and talent relations business, and tantamount to that is creating experiences that make clients feel safe and comfortable.”
A version of this story first appeared in the May 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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