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Beth Bell

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Over more than 20 years building, designing, and dressing sets for film, theater, and television, Beth Bell has seen firsthand the power of what goes on behind the scenes. Now, the Green Product Placement founder is working hard to channel that power towards positive change.

Bell began her theatrical education as a high school student at the Baltimore School of The Arts. After graduation, she continued her studies at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, majoring in Technical Direction. She earned a BFA in Design and Production in 1987. Throughout her education, she worked as a freelance scenic technician for film and television projects, continuing to do so until March 2000. In 1990 she joined IATSE Local 487 - Mid Atlantic Film Industry. Bell, who is still a member of the union, spent more than two decades working as a studio mechanic, set decorator and dresser, carpenter and painter. She has worked on over 28 productions, including serving as set dresser on over 150 motion picture sets and assistant set decorator on more than 30 major motion picture sets. her credits including “Salt,” “Runaway Bride,” The Replacements,” “Tuck Everlasting,” “Veep,” and “House of Cards.”

In 2000, Bell took a position with holiday decor firm the Becker Group. She left the company nine years later to again pursue freelancing, this time as a management consultant and production coordinator. She’s been a consultant to The Bhutan International Festival and The Becker Group, and has done management consultation and sales representation for Downtown Decorations, Inc, Parker 3d, and MDM Design and Display. She also spent a year as the Consulting Managing Director at GreenBox Films, helping direct and implement business growth.

Inspiration for Green Product Placement arose in 2011, when Bell noticed that documentarian Morgan Spurlock had posted that he’d be answering questions about his product placement movie Pom Wonderful Presents The Greatest Move Ever Sold on TED.com. Joining in to the conversation over her morning coffee seemed like an interesting way to spend her Saturday morning, so Bell went to check it out. Thinking of the difficulties she had trying to stock the salon set for “Runaway Bride” with natural products, she asked Spurlock what a production could do to be more conscious about the brands it used. After chatting on the topic for a bit, Spurlock informed Bell that he thought she may have just discovered her next career.

He was right. Bell searched Google, Bing, Yahoo and the National Trademark Registry for a green product placement company. When she came up blank, she bought a domain name and founded one. Using her experience in set dressing and her knowledge of the power of product placement, Bell created Green Product Placement with a mission towards placing green, sustainable, local and socially enterprising brands in films and television. Since its founding, the company has placed products in over 185 productions in the US, Canada and the UK. Projects their brands have appeared in include HBO’s “Veep” and “Enlightened,” NBC’s “Law and Order: SVU,” Netflix’s “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black,” and films for 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers, Universal, Lionsgate, and independent producers.

(Sources include a 2012 Idea Mensch interview, the Green Product Placement website, and the entrepreneur’s LInkedIn profile)

Companies and Investments

Green Product Placement (Founder, President), GreenBox Films (Consulting Managing Director), Becker Group (Technical Services Manager), IATSE Local 487- Mid Atlantic Film Industry (Studio Mechanic, Set Decoration, Set Dressing, Carpentry, Painting)

Lessons Learned

We vet our prospects like someone who runs a ecommerce site or say, a natural grocery, might vet what they sell.

The brand must fit within our ethos of being one or several of these elements: sustainable, all natural or organic, socially enterprising or what we call “local entrepreneurial”- think carefully crafted smaller enterprise product.

If we research a brand and find none of these elements, we won’t agree to represent them if they contact us. It is important to us to stick to our ethos- as it is the reason we exist as a company. (Beth Bell on the importance of defining and sticking to your core values, in an interview on GreenFilmShooting.net)

We feel that we’re contributing to making the business more sustainable by doing what it is we’re uniquely qualified to do. As a film and media professional, I also worked for experiential marketing companies and managed an emerging film production company. Together with my business partner Lisa we have over 35 years’ experience in the Film/TV business, primarily in set decorating, set dressing and props- the primary departments that utilize product placement. We know that we’re not only a resource for productions to get good, great looking, cleared product, but we also know that product placement works on unconscious decision making. (Beth Bell on finding ways to use your unique experiences, talents and skills to create positive change, in an interview on GreenFilmShooting.net)

One that comes to mind is when I worked on the “road crew” for the movie Beloved. We had to “dirt the roads” on over a mile’s worth of road at a historical park. Basically, big dump trucks brought in excavated dirt and then we had to spread the dirt and sift the rocks out by hand with a rake so that the horses didn’t hurt their hooves. This was before a big trip to South East Asia that I went on for fun. I remember being in Bali and taking a picture of an old guy bent over, cutting rice by hand with a scythe. I asked to take his picture, and he stood up and gave me the warmest grin.

I thought back to “dirting” those roads, and although it was physically really hard, we were compensated with decent union wages. I remember thinking, “If that guy can be that happy out cutting his rice fields by hand for probably pennies a day, I should be able to find the joy in whatever work comes my way.” On my next job, I kept a picture of that guy by my desk to remind me. (Beth Bell on the importance of perspective, in an interview with IdeaMensch)

Inspiring Quotes

Beth Bell's Quotes

Always thank those who help you. Always commend people when they do a good job. Follow the golden rule and treat others how you would like to be treated.

Beth Bell

Influential Books

- Tracks: A Woman's Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback by Davidson, Robyn (1995) Paperback