From Atomic Lighting to Beame to 4Wall PA

by Thomas S. Friedman
in Milestones
The 4Wall PA crew
The 4Wall PA crew

New 4Wall PA Division Builds on Solid Partnership with Leading Lighting Designers

When gaffers Brad Hafer and Brett Puwalski formed Atomic Lighting in 2008, they brought a unique perspective to the business of supplying lighting, rigging and production support to leading lighting designers nationwide.

“We have always been a company run by gaffers, not sales people,” says Hafer. “We can turnkey a project from the design concept to reality. We understand what goes into the truck, not just what it costs.”

It’s that approach that earned the company a long and loyal client roster, including lighting designers Allen Branton, Steve Cohen, Spike Brant and Carlos Colina. All of them worked initially with gaffers Hafer and Puwalski and followed them and veteran account executive Bob Looney to Atomic Lighting when they launched the company in Lititz, PA.

‡‡         A New Chapter

Atomic Lighting broke off to become its own entity in 2015 and took the name Beame last year. Now, a new chapter in the company’s history is unfolding. Beame has been acquired by 4Wall Entertainment, a national provider of entertainment lighting rentals, sales and system integration, and has been rebranded as 4Wall Pennsylvania (4Wall PA). The principals remain at the helm of 4Wall PA for a continuity of talent, product knowledge and expertise as 4Wall PA leverages the parent company’s national presence.

“We have filled clients’ needs across the country from Lititz, but now, with 4Wall offices nationwide, we can offer quick and efficient service throughout the U.S. without so much travel downtime,” says Hafer, who is now director of live events for 4Wall. “That also means a better return on our inventory and better use of the core labor team we prefer to use. The merger has strengthened our ability to get in the game with new gear faster, too.”

‡‡         A Solid Client Base

Lighting designer Allen Branton has known Hafer for almost two decades as a master electrician and gaffer and was an early customer of Atomic Lighting. “It’s rare for me to work with anybody else,” he says. “Brad and Brett take the art and science of reliability and readiness to a high plane. They’ve reduced my levels of stress and aggravation in ways I can never repay.” Branton expects that the merger will maintain “the Gold Standard” that Hafer and his staff have set, while making it easier for them to service shows that Branton does out of Los Angeles.

Spike Brant, founder and CEO of Nimblist in Lancaster, PA, also dates his relationship with Hafer from the early 1990s. “Working with Brad and his team is a great value proposition,” he says. “They look at a project from the user’s POV, not the vendor’s. That’s reflected in how they prep a system for television and how they think about redundancy. I have a very open and trusting relationship with them; they bring something truly unique to the work,” he adds. “It’s a win-win for us, since 4Wall PA will continue to deliver the great boutique service that Atomic and Beame were known for, while expanding its reach.”

Lighting designer Steve Cohen of Steve Cohen Productions, based in Miami and New York, remembers when the gaffers first floated the idea of opening Atomic Lighting. “Many companies have grown to the point where it’s very challenging for project managers, shop managers and salesmen to effectively execute complex designs from concept to installation,” says Cohen. “What a great idea to have a lighting company run by gaffers who look at shows from the perspective of the designers’ and producers’ ultimate goals,” he adds.

Lighting designer Carlos Colina agrees. He recalls Puwalski, his head gaffer for special events for Univision, telling Colina he planned to open a company with Hafer. “It made a big difference for them to be working in the industry,” he says.

Colina has already experienced that new advantage. “The Latin Grammys in Las Vegas was my first show under the 4Wall PA banner,” he notes. “I got a great quote, I received all the gear I spec’ed with no sub-rentals and no substitutions, and I saved on shipping via the 4Wall offices in L.A. and Las Vegas.” Colina marked his eighth year as lighting designer for Univision’s Latin Grammy Awards.

‡‡         4Wall’s Support

From 4Wall’s perspective, acquiring Beame was a case of “helping talented people to do more,” says Wes Bailey, vice president of M&A and product strategy at 4Wall Entertainment. “We already had a sub-rental relationship with Beame and knew the quality of their equipment was a good fit with ours. We never considered them tied to just one location since they serviced clients across the country. We wanted to take Beame’s great people and expertise and make them fully part of a national team here at 4Wall.”

‡‡         Economies of Scale Help, Too

Bailey notes that 4Wall Entertainment has had “a high-volume relationship with A.C.T Lighting, the North American distributor of Claypaky and MA products. 4Wall PA has enjoyed a great relationship with A.C.T, too. Now 4Wall PA will have increased access to the Claypaky and grandMA gear in our inventory nationwide, and their clients will reap the benefits.”

Branton obtained Claypaky Scenius spots from 4Wall PA for the NBC TV musical special, Hairspray Live. “Scenius is a delightful light,” he says, “big, bright and quiet — all the features I needed for a live production.” Branton also used Claypaky Sharpy washes, which he calls “the first really good utility wash light in a long time that’s not huge and is easy to work with.” Hafer and Puwalski had earlier teamed with Branton on The Wiz Live, also for NBC.

4Wall PA also furnished Colina with Scenius spots, Sharpy beams and washes and Alpha Beam 700s for the Latin Grammys. “Scenius was new for me, and I really like them,” he says. Hafer and Puwalski supplied Colina with three grandMA2 Light consoles with fader wings and two grandMA2 full size desks to control the show visuals.

Brant, a regular grandMA2 customer, used a pair of full-size consoles for the 2016 NFL Kickoff concert in Denver, where Dierks Bentley and OneRepublic headlined the Hyundai-sponsored broadcast. 4Wall PA also provided grandMAs to Brant for the Robin Hood Foundation’s investors conference and annual gala. The Robin Hood foundation is New York’s largest poverty-fighting organization. The 2017 gala, held at New York’s Javits Center in mid May, raised more than $54.5 million to help the poor.

Cohen has crisscrossed the country with 4Wall PA’s grandMA2 consoles. He’s used them for Blake Shelton’s current tour; Reba McEntire, Brooks & Dunn and Mariah Carey in Las Vegas; the iHeart Radio Music Festivals; and the Global Citizen Festival in New York City’s Central Park. “They’re invaluable for shows where networking is key and you’re running multiple show files for artists,” he says.

Just as invaluable to Cohen and his fellow lighting designers is the partnership they’ve formed over the years with Atomic Lighting, Beame and now 4Wall PA. “They’re my go-to shop for the best in client relations, staff, prep, systems engineering and custom execution of design elements,” Cohen says.

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