After working in the film industry for 15 years, owner Eva Radke became all too-familiar with the waste produced by the industry. She started the Film Biz Recycling non-profit in a space near Long Island City’s Silvercup Studios, but her business soon outgrew the tiny studio, and a move to a larger location was in the cards for December 2010. Since opening in 2008, Radke has diverted more than 122 tons of unwanted building material, set props, and wardrobe items from landfills.
The shop is in constant contact with production companies, and sometimes Radke has to take donations on a moment’s notice when a film wraps. Because so many items are donated, the shop also acts as a reference for other non-profits, with a strict policy of re-donating anything animal or baby related. For anything that doesn’t fit in the store, the Prop Shop creates a link for the production company to donate to another organization, like Build it Green, Materials for the Arts, and charities or shelters like Baby Buggy or Hour Children. About 80 percent of the items received get re-routed to other organizations.
With all of their stock donated by motion picture, TV and commercial productions, the shop is a treasure trove of furniture, light fixtures, home décor and vintage items (even an electric chair is currently available). The store’s stock also differs from a thrift store, as each piece was at one time specially curated and chosen by a film industry prop stylist. The shop curates their own quirky displays, making it feel more like a prop gallery rather than a second hand store. Each day, the latest donors are listed on a dry erase board at the entrance, such as TV Land, Gossip Girl and Roundabout Theater. (We tried to recognize any Gossip Girl memorabilia, to no avail!)
The prices are nothing to laugh at either. A ridiculously huge sectional will run you about $1,500. Side tables range from $20-$100, depending on their condition and origin. Vases and decanters are under $20, and rolls and rolls of wallpaper are under $10. The prop box wall contains everything from a “Butt Box” (ashtrays) to fake flowers or wigs. Props are even available to rent for your own photo and film shoots; a vintage vacuum cleaner rental will set you back about $30.
The Film Biz Prop Shop is a must for furnishing an apartment on a budget. And what’s better than explaining to your mother that your impulse purchases were for the sake of recycling?