• APDGreen Conversations: Prop Starz

As many APDG members know, sourcing a wide range of vintage props, costumes and set items for a shoot in northern NSW and South East QLD can involve a lot of interstate phone calls, web searches and overnight freight.

Luckily for all those working up over the border, there is a great new prop shop open in Brisbane called Prop Starz. Owner Emma-Louise Clinton is an emerging production designer and has worked on Film, TV and music sets across Southeast Queensland. She and her business partner Matt have been operating since December 2021 and are keen for APDG members to know about them and pop into their Brendale warehouse in North Brisbane for a visit.

As an incentive to try their services, Prop Starz is offering APDG members up to 15% discount when they hire props for events and short hires. More details at the end.

The APDG’s intrepid sustainability detective Imogen Ross caught up with Emma for a chat last month to find out a little bit more.

How did Prop Starz get off the ground as a small business?  

The initial idea for Prop Starz came about in my final year of a Bachelor of Film and Screen Media at Griffith University. For one of our assignments, we had to pitch a business idea and many of the students pitched themselves as freelancers in their respective departments. I too did that too, but I included the concept of a props store as a 2 for1 deal.

Griffith gave me the foundations I needed to understand how set work and the different roles that came together to create a screen production.After graduating I worked as a set decorator on different sets and learnt more about the big prop stores that existed in other Australian states. I worked with quite a few dressers from other states who had made passing comments about how strange they found it only having retail shops to rely on for props buying and hiring. It was then that I realised my idea had potential.  It reinforced to me that there was a need for a prop hire business in SEQ and that there was no better time to do it. Of course, no one could have predicted Covid-19 was around the corner…

How did you go about setting it up and who helped?  

When the first wave of excitement kicked in about starting the business I spoke with my parents and partner. Only a day or two later, my dad Matt came back to me with the proposition of becoming business partners as he could see the potential behind the idea. My stepmother has been a big help as our un-official finance advisor and general business advisor. My mother and my partner have also given up much of their free time to assist us with product shoots and running around when needed.  It really is a ‘family-run’ business.

You told me your dad runs a vintage and collectable store? Tell us a bit about that and how has that experience formed your personal aesthetic and sense of design

My Dad has always been a collector of interesting things. Growing up as a child I distinctly remember seeing his record collection. It never felt like I grew up around old things but rather in a home where Dad’s hobbies and passions lived. Now though, as I look around his shop, it does very much feel like an extension of himself.  

I think it has formed an appreciation in me for vintage style and I admire the general knowledge my dad has about period pieces

When I look back as a kid, I was always finding ways to be creative and thrived when doing so. It wasn’t until I was in my final year of school after reading the book ‘Looking For Alaska’ that I recognised the spark in me to find something more. For weeks, all I could think about is how it would make such an amazing movie and how much I wanted to be involved in the making of it. That’s when it clicked to me that people do it as a career and so that is what I was going to do.   

How did you begin working your way into art departments?   

Like most fresh-faced film students I went to university thinking I wanted to be a Director. During my first year I tried many different roles and realised Directing was not the skill I was most passionate about. In my third year I production designed two of my three graduate films and enjoyed the experience. Outside of university there were various design projects I would work on with my peers but what re-affirmed to me my decision to work in Art Department was interning on the third season of Harrow. I had approached the production designer Helen O’Loan (APDG member) for a job, and she brought me on as an intern.  I learnt more about the Art Department working on Harrow than at uni, as I got to be more hands on while working with the props and set decoration teams throughout the production.  

What are some of the more interesting jobs you have done in the last few years?  

Buying and dressing is the area I thrive in. In the last twelve months I have worked on smaller screen projects as I wanted to focus on building Prop Starz and getting it on its feet. I thoroughly enjoy working in the set decorating team.  

I have also had the pleasure of working on numerous occasions with a company that create highly stylised bars in Brisbane.  The themed pop-up bars have been a highlight for me because often they are very over the top and nostalgic in their design.

I think the most interesting work so far has been working on Joe Vs Carol last year. After being someone who got sucked into the original Netflix documentary about Joe Exotic during the Covid lockdowns, it was quite bizarre to see their crazy world being brought to life in Brisbane.

I also worked this year on an Indie-feature Christmas movie.  It was a great opportunity to create distinct spaces for very different characters. Prop Starz was fully functioning by the time of filming, and this helped me enormously when it came to sourcing props and set dressings, making my set decoration job so much easier.   

How would you describe the ongoing work relationships Prop Starz has with art departments and art directors in QLD and other states?  

Prop Starz has had fantastic experiences working with local buyers, designers and art directors. From those who I had met prior to starting the business to the new people we have met in the last 12 months; we have only been met with positivity. Many of the work relationships we have formed haven’t come just from them hiring from us. We have met many as they had approached us with donations they didn’t want to see going to landfill as well as through my Griffith university networks,

We want to be a reliable source that our customers can go to because they know we understand how they operate and can trust that we will do our very best to support them in return

What are some examples of how you embed your sustainability ideas in the business and with your staff?  

At Prop Starz we believe that we could all be doing more to be more sustainable and create less waste. We actively try to save materials and items that would otherwise go to landfill to give them another life. Not everything needs to be purchased brand new.  Most of the time a little TLC is all that is needed to have props ‘photo ready’ again. We also strive to source our prop hire inventory via sustainable sources wherever possible.

We have purchased some of our inventory from auctions and prop sales of productions that were filming in SEQ; saving those items from potentially ending up in landfill. We also accept donations from art departments wrapping up production. In the past, some of these items had been constructed brand new for different projects and other items have come to us already recycled from other sets. We like to think of ourselves as prop rescuers when we can do this. 

We see the future of filmmaking within Australia as an industry that actively works together across all departments towards sustainable practices. For the art departments, that could be hiring props and equipment from us, to consciously using recycled materials rather than purchasing brand new. 

We’d also hope to see that the industry as a whole will do better at re-using items and keeping materials for future productions.  Prop Starz creates less waste by keeping items in constant circulation and we hope the film industry will be able to do the same as well.   

What has been the biggest sustainability WIN for you recently?

Our biggest sustainability win so far has been that we were able to assist a local production company that had been affected by the floods earlier in the year. They had their own private prop collection and from what they could salvage they decided to not keep it and to move it on. We assisted them by taking a large portion of what they were getting rid of, so keeping those items within the industry as well.  

What has been the biggest sustainability HURDLE?  

The biggest hurdle we have come across so far has been our fuel consumption. We offer delivery to our customers and do not have an eco-friendly vehicle to do this in.   

Where do you see Prop Starz going over the next 10years?  

In the next ten years you will see Prop Starz expanding into a much larger building and operating as a fully-fledged prop house. We want to continue catering for the smaller productions and shorter hires, but also plan to have enough variety and bulk items to suit the larger productions as well.

 We also envision that we will have a full team working with us, not only to maintain and manage the prop house but also make new props and sets sustainably.   

As a keen supporter of APDG members, what are you offering art departments and production design teams when they choose to hire from PropStarz ?  

We currently have two offers available for APDG members:  

  • A 15% discount on short term hires (under 1 month) or an additional 5% discount on long term hires. This will be on-top of the existing long term/bulk hire discounts we provide to all our customers  
  • For personal event hires APDG members can also access a 15% discount. We have a small collection of wedding, birthday and general party related decorations that is separate to our prop collection.  

How can APDG members access the offer?  

When contacting us APDG members just need to let us know they are a current member and that will grant them access to the offer once confirmed. 

So long as they are an active member with the APDG there is no deadline. We just recommend they let us know sooner rather than later so we can make sure the correct quote is provided to them. 

Where are you based and how do Designers and Art Directors find you?  

We are based in Brendale in North Brisbane. Art Directors can find us on our website or across our Facebook and Instagram pages.  

As it says on the Prop Starz website ‘We care about the Film & TV Industry; we care about the success of your next event and we love getting to see our props in whatever scene you create.’

Thank you so much Emma-Louise – it is great to know that APDG members can easily access a screen-friendly prop hire shop up in QLD, just like they can in Victoria and NSW.

Imogen Ross, 2022

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