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Petaluma Profile: Power couple launch outdoor cinema experience

Soon-to-be married co-business owners launch outdoor film event with food, wine and live music.|

While living in Los Angeles over the years, Casey Gutting and Sarah Ullman nearly crossed paths several times but constantly suffered numerous missed connections. After their first official meeting finally happened, however, the rest was history. The couple’s connection quickly flourished through shared interests in sports teams, the communications field and a love of true crime shows. That was six years ago.

The dynamic duo now run their own business.

“He was obsessed with me — no I’m just kidding,” said Ullman, a communications and marketing professional from the San Fernando valley, with a degree from the University of Kansas. “I was like, ‘Okay this guy might be worth my time.’”

Years before meeting Ullman, Gutting had a bizarre interview as a tech startup’s assistant. After driving 26 miles from Hollywood to Manhattan Beach, the young writer was surprised to spend his next three hours putting together computer parts in a stranger’s home.

“He had me build a computer and send him an email, and then take this personality test,” Gutting said. “Weird interview right?” Years later, when Ullman and Gutting spent their first Christmas together visiting relatives in Colorado, he could have sworn he’d met his girlfriend’s family before. Finally, the memory resurfaced. “It was the people I interviewed for eight or nine years prior at the house in Manhattan Beach.” Gutting learned that Sarah had actually been living there at the house in Manhattan Beach at the time. “So we almost passed each other,” he said, “but she was working that day.”

Gutting was born in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and moved to L.A. in 2010. There, he worked in TV writing and production and contributed to many shows including Disney Channel’s “Hannah Montana.”

“That was like my first job, ‘Hannah Montana’, and she was awesome,” Gutting said of the show’s star Miley Cyrus. “I’ll stick up for Miley all day long,” he said. “She’s a badass.”

Eventually, he grew tired of the entertainment business due to its unstable nature.

“It’s just a rollercoaster,” he said. “You’re constantly hunting for another gig. I kind of got burnt out.”

Having met Ullman, Gutting found himself slowly drawn to his girlfriend’s line of work, experiential marketing. He described it as brand marketing with a creative element. In L.A., he worked for an agency that developed campaigns for food trucks. At one point, that company linked up with vote.org to organize “Pizza to the Polls,” a nationally recognized initiative to feed voters at the polls. The project was designed to keep individuals from leaving when the lines were too long. Activated in 75 cities across the U.S., “Pizza to the Polls” was massively successful.

“It really felt like I did something — helped humanity a little bit,” said Gutting, adding, “By giving them pizza.”

During the Pandemic, the couple visited Northern California while weighing the prospects of leaving L.A.

“We started to explore the area a little bit and Petaluma is what we landed on,” Gutting said. “We felt it had everything we wanted in a move from L.A.”

The pair say they were attracted to the wineries, restaurants and hip community that downtown Petaluma offers. They were sold on the city’s progressive nature and friendly demeanor.

“Everyone we met here was super nice,” Gutting said. “Moving from a big city, that’s something you sort of take for granted, until you experience it again and you’re like, ‘Holy cow, people are actually nice and want to talk to you.’”

Last October, they dropped everything and made the move.

“It was one of those things where you’re like, ‘Okay, well, I guess we’re doing this,’” Ullman said.

By then, the couple had already pooled their shared passion and skills to form their company, 23nance, and now operate from their new home. As the website states, the company is “Los Angeles Grown, Sonoma County Based” and specializes in experiential marketing and brand strategy.

Movie on the Vine, which they describe as their “passion project,” is designed as a unique outdoor cinema viewing, combining live music, games, food and beverages with all-time favorite films. The first Movie on the Vine presentation was a screening of “American Graffiti,” held at the Petaluma Fairgrounds during Petaluma’s “Salute to American Graffiti” weekend. The event drew a large turnout. It was free to the public and funded by Gutting and Ullman’s company as a showcase of what they can do, while also giving a gift to their new community.

“It didn't seem like anyone was doing this consistently and in the way we wanted to,” Gutting said. “Which is watch a movie together, bring in local businesses, unite the community and share an experience.”

These community events will be a collaboration between local businesses and vendors, teaming up to provide a multifaceted experience. The goal now is to take the idea to local wineries, working together to create more multi-faceted outdoor movie events. Currently, 23nance and Movie on the Vine are developing several Sonoma County projects, and eventually hope to expand across Northern California, with Petaluma as their home base.

In other words, look for more Movie on the Vine community-wide events here in the near future.

“We just want more for the town, to bring it together,” said, Ullman, “because we love the people so much.”

Emma Molloy is an intern for the Argus-Courier. She can be reached at emma.molloy@pressdemocrat.com.

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