Catalogers go Hollywood

Jun 01, 1999 9:30 PM  By

Every Thursday, millions of television viewers tune in to see an array of products from Skokie, IL-based medical supplies catalog Anatomical Chart Co.; oh, and while they’re at it, they watch NBC’s ER. Fans of Anatomical Chart can also catch glimpses of their favorite skeletons and prostheses on NBC’s Providence and CBS’s Chicago Hope, and in the motion pictures Patch Adams, Never Been Kissed, and Entrapment.Although medical charts and skeleton models aren’t everyday purchases, Julia Stock, vice president of sales and marketing for Anatomical Chart, says the cataloger gets orders as a result of the exposure. “People tell us they saw our charts on TV or in a movie when they order.”

Anatomical Chart is in the unique and enviable position of dominating its market. Since the company is the primary manufacturer of these items, according to Stock, its target audience usually doesn’t have to be told that the medical props that pop up on TV are from Anatomical Chart. Nonetheless, “we try to get into as many places as we can,” Stock says. “It’s a constant reminder of Anatomical Chart Co.”

According to David Scott, property master of the WB’s Felicity series, catalogs hold a definite edge over retail sources when it comes to finding props. “My schedules are so tight-I usually need things yesterday. Catalogs help me because I can find what I need and get it fast. I’ve tried to get items online, but unless I know exactly where to find things, it’s a waste of time. I know I can go through the catalogs in my office and find what I need right away.”

Scott uses a host of catalogs, particularly nostalgia collections, depending on the project he’s working on. “Last year on [sci-fi series] Sliders, I used a couple of high-tech catalogs, particularly Sharper Image, to find up-to-date electronics,” he says.

Although such TV exposure is ostensibly free, finding and mailing catalogs to set designers and property masters is not. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the Burbank, CA-based union to which most set professionals belong, will not release its mailing list. But catalogers can contact the union directly; if IATSE believes a catalog contains valuable props, it will mail copies to its membership. For this the cataloger must prepare approximately 750 copies for mailing and pay IATSE a handling fee of approximately $1.00 per copy.