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July - September 2008

August 14, 2008u

SIMZ Productions is in the news! Bob Shallit, a business columnist for the Sacramento Bee, wrote a snippet about SIMZ Productions' reality series, "Poker Trips."  The article can be viewed at or in it's entirety below (after the Sterling Hotel bit). 

In other SIMZ news, we wrapped on the production of a green-screen shoot in our studio for Kaiser Permanente for their online health coach videos.  Featuring Dr. Sheri Pruitt, a psychologist with Kaiser, the internet videos highlight steps to reducing stress in our lives.  It was a pleasure working with Sheri - she was extremely professional on camera even though it's not her expertise - and we look forward to seeing the final product.

We also shot a music video this weekend for Phil Putnam. We shot the video at the Geery Theater in downtown Sacramento, and then had a follow up shoot on Wednesday night at our studio.  It was the first time we go to use our upstairs hangout area for a shoot and it was a lot of fun. 

Downtown's historic Sterling Hotel won't be closing this month, after all. General manager Martin Vale is taking over Sunday with plans to refresh the Sterling's 114-year-old building while still "retaining its Victorian charm." The future of the 17-room boutique hotel and its on-site Chanterelle Restaurant became uncertain last month when longtime owner Sandi Wasserman announced she was shutting it down in mid-August because of the economic downturn. Property owner D&S Development began looking for a new operator. That's when Vale and Alain Foisy, the Sterling's food and beverage director, stepped forward to lease the building. "We know the place and we understand its potential," says Vale. Their strategies for making the Sterling more profitable? Scaling back "an overburdened payroll," for one thing. Vale says they also have the advantage of managing a single property, instead of juggling three, as Wasserman did.  After 20 years with the Sterling, Wasserman will focus solely on operating the Vizcaya Pavilion events center at 2019 21st St. and the adjoining nine-room Vizcaya Mansion B&B. Vale says many people have been dropping by the Sterling and "sharing memories," since word went out that the 13th and H streets hotel might be closing. "This is a grand old lady of Sacramento," says Vale of the 1890s former boardinghouse, "and people love it."

Deal 'em: Playing poker for a living isn't all that glamorous. The hours are awful. Losing money – lots of it – isn't unusual. That "gritty reality" is what local video producer Leslie Simmons aimed to capture in the pilot episode of "Poker Trips," a reality TV show that she and husband Jim are creating. The couple, owners of midtown's SIMZ Productions Inc., mostly do training videos for corporate clients. The poker show, a more ambitious undertaking, is being pitched to several cable networks. It follows the adventures of three, convivial Sacramento-area guys who gamble nearly full time. Serious poker players will love the tourney footage. Regular viewers will like the players' distinctive personalities, plus segments with their families and friends. The 30-year-old producer says the show will be "edgy and fast-paced." If the first episode is any indication, it won't romanticize the players' lifestyles. The guys attend a tournament in Reno. All lose big. They get depressed and angry. "It was pretty dark," Simmons says of the pilot. But she contends the underlying theme is upbeat: "You have to follow your passion."

Royal abode: Kings owner Gavin Maloof has a very nice home about a mile from Arco Arena. But it's nothing like his Sin City mansion, pictured in a recent issue of Vegas magazine.The two-story, 14,000-square-foot palatial home wraps around a massive L-shaped pool (with an underwater Kings logo on the bottom). There's a theater, a massage center and a "Marilyn Monroe" room with a framed dress once worn by the movie starlet. Another room has a platform displaying Gavin's $40,000 custom-built El Diablo II motorcycle with a leather seat inlaid with stingray hide. The two garages provide ample room for his car collection: a Bentley Continental GTC, two Lamborghini roadsters and a Ford Shelby Cobra.The $10 million home, acquired last year, is a fabulous place. We don't resent a minute of the time that Maloof spends in Vegas. As long as he leaves his ballclub right where it is.

July 18, 2008

The Poker Trips screening went extremely well!  Poker Trips cast and crew entertained between 30 and 40 people on Wedneday, July 16, 2008.  Friends, family, clients, colleagues and a few folks "in the business" were present, including Bob Shallit from the Sacramento Bee, Greg Dowden from Bongo Post, and Rich Leeson from Comcast SportsNet.  The casual evening started out with drinks and appetizers upstairs in our newly renovated entertainment area.  After a bit of mingling, folks headed down to Studio A which was temporarily converted into a theater for the screening.  Leslie introducted the cast, crew and the premise for the show, and the 22:30 pilot episode was started. 

About 25 people provided written evaluations for the television show that asked viewers to rate their agreement/disagreement with a number of items such as, "The show kept me engaged," and "I was able to follow the emotions of the players." Viewers gave very high marks for the show and indicated that they kep engaged, that they'd be interested in watching a second episode, and perhaps most importantly (from our standpoint!) they were able to follow the plot of the show. 

Comments for the show included:

"The phsychology of playing poker for one's sole income is fascinating. That was the strong point of the show.  So focusing on the collateral effects or the actual playing should remain a subplot. Great job. Gritty and unflinching."

"Liked the fact that it was indeed non-scripted and that it was real emotions coming out from the 3 players.  Makes for a lot more creative interaction on the show."

"I loved it! It was "Entourage" meets "Deadliest Catch!"

Below is a copy of a current press release about the upcoming screening of the pilot episode of Poker Trips.

Sacramento TV Production Company Launching Reality Series

Sacramento, CA – July 7, 2008 – SIMZ Productions, a Sacramento-based television and video production company, has just completed a pilot episode of a reality series titled “Poker Trips.”  The documentary-style show follows the three men – Mark Simmons, Robert Brown and Vic Campana – as they travel throughout the U.S. playing tournaments and cash games to make their living. 

Poker Trips offers a gritty look into the lives of three good natured men as they face the challenges of risking thousands of dollars playing a game that some call risky, some call skill-based.  The show is an alternative to the glitzy poker-style tournament shows that highlight the high life that most television shows put across.  It shows the players experiencing ups and downs with their bank roll as well as with their emotions as the cards fall and their futures are laid out on the table. 

“We’re just normal guys, grinding it out and doing our best to support our families.  It’s not glamorous, but I think it’s intriguing to show how we make our living,” says Mark Simmons, Executive Producer and also a featured player in Poker Trips.

 SIMZ Productions, along with Executive Producer Simmons, are working on garnering sponsors for the show and contacts at both regional and national networks.  They are currently planning their next “trip” to shoot Episode 2, potentially traveling to Las Vegas. 

There will be a private screening of the pilot episode at SIMZ Productions studio on Wednesday, July 16 at 6:00 PM.  Please contact Leslie Simmons at to learn more about the show and the screening. 

For additional information, contact Leslie Simmons at (916) 442-0408, (916) 216-3102 or You can also go to  for more info about the company.

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