Following our latest Who’s Who entry, we had a chance to talk to the most inspiring Eva Radke about the evolution of her Film Biz Recycling project, as well as some of her more personal thoughts regarding green filmmaking and the future of an environmentally sustainable, socially conscious industry: tête-à-tête.

Image: Danny Kim, New York Magazine

How and where did you get your start- the film side, or the sustainability side?

In film, I went to the University of Texas. I have a film degree, film theory. So then I came to New York, started working in film, and I spent 15 years in the industry – mostly in the art department. And basically, all of my work went into a dumpster at the end of a job, and I took a tremendous amount of time trying to find homes for everything in New York City. I was really frustrated. This industry trained me to get things done, you cant work and stay in this industry if you are not a problem solver. So I took my natural abilities plus my training from the industry, and created a not-for-profit. I contacted everyone I knew, created a Google group, so we could all talk to one another, and just did it. And now we’re five years later…

How then did you see your project into fruition without any funding at the start?

First it started at a single storage unit, then it was based on a $6000 start up fund, then when it was time to move out of that small place I fundraised and I said “Guys: this is going to grow, or die”, so then, I was able to raise $20,000 in a week. Mostly from people like production assistants. The most I got was $1000 from one business, everything else was from $5 to $100 donations…tiny

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little amounts from lots of people…it was mostly the crew – the boots on the ground, set decorators.

Great – so this was obviously a sign that they were happy to invest in a change that they really wanted to see happen…

Yeah, and everyone talks about it. Everyone talks about how wasteful the business is, and shakes their head, and gets in their car and goes home. And people said, ” I thought about doing this, I cant believe you did it”. One reason that I think it became possible is because of the communication platforms that we have: Google groups, Facebook, emailing, really communicating our needs. If it wasn’t for Google groups, I don’t think there would be a Film Biz Recycling. Because that was a way for what was 30 people, to become 1600 people, and in 7 different cities. Now, I don’t even have to be in the city to green it.

It sounds like you had a lot of support from within the industry, but what were some of the obstacles in seeing your idea come into fruition?

I think there are still obstacles. Even though I have support of the people working in the industry, it’s hard to get to the big production companies. This is an industry that is exceedingly wasteful. And a part of the problem is getting the production companies to see that there is a problem. So when I say “the industry” I’m talking about the people that see the dumpsters. The people who never touch the dumpsters, or never see them, or never step on set- they don’t realize what is happening. It’s not getting the people who’s job it is to throw it in the dumpster, but who is ultimately paying for it? and whose movie is it?

Have you been able to get any of those larger production companies on board? I’m sure that they have heard of you by now…

They have. And very recently we took all the clothes from the tv series “Gossip Girl“. We got the clothing in garbage bags, 81 garbage bags. And, lot’s of sets just throw all their stuff away. They are now buried under landfills somewhere…So it’s become a part of the ‘cradle-to-the-grave’ cost of doing business. You buy it, you use it, you throw it away.

Whoa! That’s an expensive designer closet to be throwing away!

I know, it was great. So we partnered with them. I approached them and said “Hey Warner Brothers, we’d like to do this, will you let us use your name?”. That was how I got to work with Warner Brothers, which makes them look good, and also provides them with content. All they had to do is approve. And we did all the work. With that, we got to associate ourselves with Warner Brothers, and it went under their social corporate responsibility page. I also had a really good meeting with HBO recently, with their social corporate responsibility department…so its happening really slowly but, we’re just at 5 years old. We’ve really had to prove ourselves… And, our story is going to be in ‘O’ magazine in May. It went from a small article to a bigger one, and a bigger one. So we are really excited that 18 million readers will see this!

Where is Film Biz Recycling headed for the future?

Getting the corporate guys on board, in trying to form these partnerships. So I can expand. So I can do more. Hopefully a shop in Los Angeles, I’d love to see one in L.A., there could be one in every single city. But it has to click-in with those companies in the industry, who have deep pockets. First, we need to get these guys to see that there is a problem with the industry’s wasteful habits. And that it needs fixing. It can be fixed!

Watch a short video on Film Biz Recycling’s repurposing of couture wardrobes from American tv series “Gossip Girl” here.