Gaffer Rhomberg sells grip/ lighting gear to Essanay

Marty Rhomberg

Marty Rhomberg of Northern Lighting & Power emphasized that “I am not retiring or moving to the Bahamas,” with the sale of his equipment to Essanay Studio & Lighting. Nor is he is going out of business, he makes clear.

“The equipment sale makes sense to both of us,” says Essanay partner/studio manager Wayne Kubacki.  “Marty will continue working as a gaffer with his many clients, but now he will refer all but one of them to Essanay for their equipment needs.”

One lighting package that stays with Northern Lighting has been rented exclusively to Big Deahl Productions, where Rhomberg has been gaffing for several years.

The transfer of the rest of Northern Lighting’s equipment from its Schiller Park warehouse to Essanay is planned for March 1. Rhomberg estimates that his inventory, if new, would have a value of $1 million.

Rhomberg couldn’t give the number of items he sold to Essanay, but says an organized index of equipment — including everything from warehouse shelving to trucks, generators and LED and Kino-Flo lights — runs 22 pages long.

“This is a big win for both of us,” says the veteran lighting director/gaffer. “The big location equipment adds to Essanay’s inventory and strengthens the rental market.”

Kubacki estimates that if Essanay had to replace its current inventory “the cost would be in the neighborhood of $10 million.”

Equipment stored at a second building

Early last year, Rhomberg sent out feelers about selling his gear.  Essanay’s president Jules Tomko responded, “but then we got busy during the summer and we dropped it,” he says.  “Talks resumed the beginning of December and we reached an agreement before the holidays.”

Coincidentally, Tomko recently bought a one-story, 9,000-sq. ft. building at 1538 W. Homer, where Essanay’s excess gear and Northern Lighting’s equipment will be consolidated and stored. The move is planned for March 1.

Bill Colaprete, Northern’s office manager for the past decade, will join Essanay’s staff of 10 employees as a technician.

Rhomberg’s clientele has been 90% commercial production since he  started his company in 1986 with a $75,000 bank loan to purchase equipment.  “We kept expanding with the needs of the industry in the ‘90s. Trucks, dollies, electric scaffolding, lights — all the materials we were asked to bring to a shoot and that were necessary to compete in the market.”

Now, Rhomberg says, he’s very happy to be gaffing with David Deahl and still supply equipment to him directly while working with Essanay’s gear on projects for all his other clients.

“I thoroughly enjoy working with David, but what’s not to like working with an A-list director?” he asks rhetorically.