When it comes to creating blockbuster events, many planners are taking their cues from Hollywood and using props to set their scenes. To Eliot Brodsky, owner of New York-based Eclectic/Encore Props, the relationship between the entertainment industry and the special event industry is a natural one. “There are a lot of similarities between theater, movies and events,” Brodsky says. “The producer of a film is very similar to the producer for the party. The director obviously is your event planner.”
In the early '90s, after Eclectic/Encore had been in business for a decade, Brodsky, reacting to growing concerns over a possible decline in film production in the city, decided to expand his customer base to include event professionals.
To manage Eclectic/Encore's growth and to make the warehouse more accessible, Brodsky began to organize the props in thematic environments, or “vignettes.” “I got the impression that event planners needed [the items] presented in a clearer picture,” he says. These days, clients can walk through the company's 85,000-square-foot warehouse and view approximately 100 different setups. Brodsky reworks the mini-scenes about every six months, drawing from an inventory that currently tops one million items and is constantly on the increase.
On rare occasions, Brodsky enlists his skills as a former contractor to create new props, including four large mechanized dinosaurs he designed for a Bar Mitzvah last year. “They wanted the people to literally walk through a dinosaur scene,” he says. “So we built [a T-rex], something that was big enough to make a statement. Then we also built a triceratops, a raptor and a spitter.”
According to Brodsky, the key to effective prop use lies in setting the scene flawlessly and making sure the wizard stays hidden behind the curtain. In order to accomplish this, he advises his clients to be prepared with a realistic budget. “We try to work as much as possible with an event planner's budget,” Brodsky says. “I don't think there's anything worse than skimping through. You see that the idea was there, but it wasn't executed to its fullest.” He adds, though, that the reward for guests at a well-decorated event is being able to feel “like part of the show.”
It's not just behind the scenes that event planners are following filmmakers' leads. Brodsky says that reality-based television shows such as “Survivor” are currently sparking an interest with clients, who are requesting items such as tiki torches, fiberglass rocks and tiki bars. He cautions, though, that themes driven by popular culture have a shorter life, and points to generic subjects as being more flexible and reusable.
One of his most popular vignettes over time: “New York City-oriented props,” he says. “I think people like to recreate the look of the city indoors.” Still, for those who want to create a party that blends the spectacle of the screen with a classic theme, Brodsky says Eclectic/Encore offers the original props from famous television shows such as “Your Show of Shows” and “The Honeymooners.
JOIN THE SHOW
“[When] you go into a party that has the props set up, it almost forces the guest to become a cast member. It loosens everybody up. And obviously, it makes for great photo opportunities.”
LOOK TO THE FUTURE
“I think the grandiose movie-oriented way of entertaining is going to be more and more prevalent at events. I'm referring to interactive robots. I'm referring to effects. We will be sort of the icing on the cake that makes the illusion come to life even further.”
“When [event planners] come in, we try to steer them in a direction of inventory that will be able to withstand whatever they're planning on doing. We're obviously trying to avoid any after-the-fact problems.
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