Featuring Brian Colgan
ACME Brooklyn has been one of the biggest supporters of ArtCube Nation from day one — they have even been with us since the original google group! We feel so fortunate to have such an extraordinary group of people who work at ACME as a part of our growing community. It is our great pleasure to share with you a bit more about how they formed and how they’re helping folx during the pandemic as we get back into the swing of set.
“Every day is a new adventure these days,” Brian Colgan, studio director of ACME started off our call. With prop rentals, since we’ve returned from the standstill, they’ve been consistently busy. It started with the retail mall stores to fashion brands and then TV, which is back with vengeance. Film is only just starting and it’s been a slow, consistent build for the last quarter of the year as everyone is burning off their budget before the holidays. It seems like people are getting as much in the can as they can to catch up as much as possible.
Brian started off working in the industry as an editor in TV writing, but as folx were getting laid off he connected back in and realized he wanted to work more with his hands. He started on sets and working on studio builds, which is where he met his now business partner, Shawn, who is an accomplished print set designer. He was building, painting, and all-around working with Shawn and he realized, “Hold on there’s a lot of behind the scenes, business organization that could help this flow and I wanted to take it on” and so he did! He jumped in and learned on the go. “It was a unique opportunity — to have the latitude to make things and learn from the mistakes, and we were learning to build a business together.” They’ve been a great team for the last eleven years, continuously growing together.
They balance each other; “What I’ve always said about Shawn, he is an amazing individual and a creative New Yorker, he is a limitless well of ideas and I’m always wandering behind him picking up the good ones.”
The business started off as a photo studio with a large cyc in Williamsburg that they’d rent out to video and photo shoots. Since Shawn is a set designer they had all of these props, which made for a really cool space. When folx would come in to film they would see everything they had and rent it out the day of — it became their calling card. However, they realized they just needed a catalog to rent out these awesome pieces.
After a while, they realized they were tight for space: the studio’s need for things to be tidy and sleek fought with the desire to keep building up their resources. The studio was on its own for a year and a half and when the lease was up and the prop business growing, they shifted in full gear to the prop house.
Their goal is to make the prop rental process as simple, seamless, and painless as possible. “We know that doing sets, design, and events can be complicated and stressful because we do it too! Renting props shouldn’t add to that” and they truly try to help in every way. “What’s really been core to ACME from the beginning — if people call and we’ve been big on connecting, that’s especially where ArtCube comes in with the connection; that’s what’s great about ArtCube — someone says, ‘I need 14 severed heads by 1 PM today’ and someone is like ‘it’s so weird I have that.’”
Brian and Shawn have always been big on helping people find what they need and emphasize that to my staff. “You may think it’s a waste of time helping someone, but not get a sale — it’s a small New York industry, it’s the same people coming back around, it’s the same circle and the more helpful and kind and patient you are — it’s all a part of it.” They want to support folx in our industry; that’s why we love working with these gents because they’re always looking out for everyone and care.
When the pandemic hit, they had this bittersweet moment where they were able to slow down and go through everything. They feverishly organized and realized they can finally get to the things that they’ve needed to do. “We’re always trying to improve and make things better and we really ran with that and now we’re back and business is good and that time was time well spent.” His dream is to make everyone’s lives easier, even if it’s by having a helpful site. Since they updated their website so recently, everyone can see their catalog right online and they don’t need to come into the store.
“For the most part, it’s been good, our lives go on and it’s been a better rapport with our clients — we’re dealing directly with the people we care about,” Brian shared as they’re getting back into the swing of things. “We’re trying to meet everyone where they are. What we were already doing seems in line with what was needed now.”
We’re excited to see ACME Brooklyn growing, shifting, and connecting to the heart of the community. Work with ACME Brooklyn and check out their catalog on their website. Connect with more helpful, kind-hearted people and businesses by joining ArtCube Nation, The Social Professional Network of the Art Department.
Brian Colgan of ACME Brooklyn
Brian Colgan is the Managing Partner of ACME Brooklyn, a prop rental house and set design studio. Founded by set designer Shawn Patrick Anderson in 2010, ACME has been hailed by the New York Times as “a studio that helped define that Brooklyn look that made the neighborhood a global brand.”
Under Brian’s watch, ACME has grown from its roots as a photo rental studio space into a multifaceted creative powerhouse. Part furniture and prop rental house, part set design and fabrication collective, ACME works with a wide range of creators and brands to tell stories through objects and spaces.
ACME’s first employee, Brian created then rose in the ranks to oversee its current full-time team of nine, wearing many hats and learning by doing as the company grew. And grew quickly: Brian’s hands-on approach to business development has allowed ACME to adapt nimbly, with a near doubling of annual revenue each year since 2015. His natural knack for hospitality and client relations has established ACME’s personality and brand in an industry that typically remains anonymous and (quite literally) behind the scenes.
In 2018, he guided ACME’s transition from its 4,000 sq. ft. Williamsburg home to a new 17,000 sq. ft. facility in Bushwick. He has overseen ACME’s creation of a robust online catalog at PROPRENTAL.com, where designers can view ACME’s thousands of unique items online at any time.
Brian graduated from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where he was the editor in chief of the school’s newspaper. After stints in traditional and online journalism at The Village Voice and Gawker, he moved into advertising, before landing at ACME in 2011. He became a partner in the company in 2016.