Women Working To Do Good

WWTDG: Eva Radke

They say that in order to succeed in business-one must take risks and follow one’s passion.  For Eva Radke, taking risks supplemented by following her passion has been a defining characteristic, or rather-virtue.  Growing up in the South, Eva chose to study her passion – film theory – at the University of Texas-Austin.  Eva describes “Harold and Maude” as one of her favorite films-inspiring her lifelong love for the cinema.

After graduating, Eva chose to leave the lone star state in pursuit of a career in film, which took her to the biggest, baddest apple in the game – New York City.  In life, sometimes you have to ask yourself: “What would Maude do?”  So with just $500 in her pocket, Eva ditched impending Southern Belledom and took a huge leap of faith and followed her gut and passion all the way to New York City.

Starting from the bottom up, Eva began working in film production.  A self-described, “chick on a truck,” Eva wasn’t afraid to get her pretty little hands dirty-earning her stripes in the world of film production by getting physical; eventually moving her way up the production ladder from assistant (“would you like cream and sugar with that?”) to actual film production assistant (“lights!”).

Toiling away for several years in New York, Eva finally settled into the coveted role of Art Department Coordinator-responsible for acquiring and coordinating all of the art, props, and materials for major corporate commercials.  Although the hours were long and arduous, Eva had finally realized her dream of working in the film industry, and she became one of most sought after Art Coordinators in New York.

Despite having realized her film-career dreams, Eva couldn’t get over one gross injustice in the industry: the morally prodigious waste of all the production art, materials, and brand new supplies that were being dumped and discarded after every commercial shoot.  Since these commercial materials were never going to be used again, the industry practice was simply to dump and discard them-quite literally in a “dumpster.”

Living in New York City, Eva understood the premium necessity of space and the logic behind dumping, but still, this practice didn’t sit well with her.  In New York, it’s not uncommon for people to happily dwell in 900 square feet of living space for rent equivalent to that of a mansion mortgage (okay, maybe not a mansion mortgage, but at least a suburban split level mortgage).  Since no one had any intent on actually renting a space to store the pre-owned, yet “reusable” production materials-they were considered “junk.”

This “junk”-purchased with “huge multinational production company dollars” ranged from: brand new 500-thread-count (goose) down pillows to designer paints to sturdy lumber to expensive art supplies to runway-ready clothes to tooth paste to custom made sofas, etc.  Anything you can imagine that would be used for a commercial shoot was fair game to throw away.  With “so many in need,” Eva found this practice quite disheartening – as did so many of the artists and coordinators who worked so hard to acquire and design these valuable materials.

The senseless waste of so many reusable items continued to bother Eva’s conscience. Eventually, the straw that broke the production camel’s back was on a shoot for a major tooth paste commercial in January of 2007.  Soliciting the authentic beauty of an actual “mint plant,” Eva was put in charge of finding a mint plant in the middle of winter in New York City.  “Good luck, right?”

Realizing the impossibility of this task-Eva did her research and was able to locate a hydroponically-grown mint plant all the way in southern Florida, which, after great expense (“over $7,000”), Eva had shipped in a moisture controlled container directly to the commercial shoot.  The corporate toothpaste executives took one look at the magnificent, hydroponically grown-mint plant and opted for a plastic one, which meant that the beautiful, wondrous, $7,000 mint plant would be able to RSVP early for her date with the dumpster.

This senseless act of waste proved to be too much for Eva’s conscience, because To Kill A Mint Plant was the epitome of moral dearth; therefore, Eva took that gorgeous mint plant home with her that very night, which got her thinking about all of the other perfectly good, reusable supplies being wasted every single day in New York City.

Wouldn’t it be great if all of those perfectly usable supplies and materials found homes?  Seeing that “these items needed a place to go,” Eva concocted a brilliant idea of starting an online forum for other art department and production coordinators, where people in the industry could connect with each other and disclose what they had at their disposal for others to use before they went to the dreaded dumpster.

Establishing “Art Cube” was the beginning of a very smart idea: a place where set designers, set decorators, production managers, lead men, and art department coordinators could seek out and acquire perfectly good, usable materials for their own productions.  All they had to do was find a way to pick it up.  Initially, this forum was very insular – just for people in the industry.

By May 2008, Eva was astonished by the rapid growth of the Art Cube forum, and fueled by her gut and passion to preserve that which was previously considered “junk,” she decided to permanently quit the world of commercial production and pursue a career in miraculous salvage.  From dream to reality, this led to the inception of Film Biz Recycling.

In March 2009, Eva signed a lease on a space in Long Island City, where she could store the precious “waste” that would otherwise have been discarded.  Also, Eva was able to bring her precious son into work with her everyday, so it was a win-win situation.  Initially, the goal was simple: “finding homes for things.”  Conceived as merely a “transfer station,” a place where production people could send their formerly used, reusable materials, Film Biz Recycling (F.B.R.) transformed from a void-filler to an actual “social mission.”

“It was a social mission that turned into preventing pollution by not sending anything to landfills, [and] it was a way to help the entertainment industry wash its own plates.”  Eva trusted her gut instincts, and she could immediately see that F.B.R. filled a much needed niche focused on creating solutions to prevent waste and pollution.

Expanding on the idea, Eva expanded her “collection” into a huge warehouse in Brooklyn.

Within the expansive confines of this old warehouse, F.B.R. found its vocation: 60% of all donated materials would be donated right back to those in need.  The other 40% of the materials would be sold on the warehouse floor, and these funds would be used to employ the 9 people (all with health benefits), dedicated to working for F.B.R.

According to Eva, F.B.R. took on a life its own in Brooklyn: “What we created is an organism and a culture of a happy work place.”  By supplying necessary raw materials, F.B.R. has been able to sustain many charities with necessities they would have normally spent money on: “It was important to do the right thing by the not for profit by saving them money that can be used in non-tangible ways, i.e. therapy, [development] classes, etc.”

Among the many charities that are supported by F.B.R., the three most frequent nonprofit recipients are:

1) Blissful Bedrooms – a charity that redecorates and redesigns bedrooms for severely disabled teens, who are mostly bound to their bedrooms. F.B.R. supplies them with pillows, paint, beds, etc.

2) CAMBA Women’s Shelter – a Brooklyn shelter for homeless and abused women and children.  F.B.R. supplies them with clothing, blankets, household goods, and toys for children.

3) Room to Grow – a charity providing immediate assistance to struggling families with children from 0-3 years of age.  F.B.R. provides them with essentials like cribs and toys and beds, etc.

By creating F.B.R., Eva Radke has combined her passion for the film industry and her passion to help people into one beautiful fusion-mission.  Eva firmly believes that “ethical business is sustainable,” and F.B.R. has sustained itself by fusing priceless items with those in need, as well as those who recognize the quality of these remarkable, rare items.  To date, over “180 tons of change” has been recycled by F.B.R. and they are still going strong.  According to Eva, the ultimate goal of F.B.R. is “for people to be happy.”  And who doesn’t love happiness?

For more information on Eva Radke and Film Biz Recycling, please check out their website at http://www.filmbizrecycling.org/

Women Working to Do Good is a series that Hello Giggles and the White House have been collaborating on. We will bring you stories of women in communities across the United States who we think are stars in their own right. Whether they are young entrepreneurs, active community organizers, or making a difference in a single life or community, we think these women are amazing and want to share their stories with you! Each story will also be featured on the White House blog, and we are working together to bring more strong female role models to the forefront.

If there is a woman in your community who you think should be honored in this series, email us at info@hellogiggles.com!