A few weeks ago, we were fortunate to have a conversation with the Director for the City of Atlanta’s Mayor’s Office of Film and Entertainment, Cardellia Hunter, where she leads the permitting process for film productions and the local community. She is certified by the Association of Film Commissioners and is an active member of Women In Film & Television Atlanta, and Black Women’s Film Network.
Atlanta Film and TV: You have a background in music and the entertainment industry. Can you take us on your journey of how you got your start, to where you are now?
Cardellia Hunter: "I honestly didn’t desire to work in entertainment, and working in it was by fate. I began working in entertainment in 1997 as an assistant at Hitco Music Publishing, where I oversaw copyright publir writers and producers. Working at Hitco was a great experience and an introduction to the entertainment world. This experience allowed me to learn the ins and outs of publishing, what a publishing deal looked like, how royalties are recouped, amongst several other things.
Once I left Hitco, I remained in the music industry but worked more on the management side. I managed Anthony Dent, who wrote Survivor for Destiny’s Child, and Kelly’ Price’s A Friend of Mine. I also managed She’kspere, who has a long list of discography."
Atlanta Film and TV: Growing up, did your parents recognize your gift of the arts, and if so, how did they nourish your gift to facilitate growth?
"I always loved music, and I am a music head of all genres. My first taste of anything entertainment-wise was taking drama in high school. I thought I was pretty good at acting, and I shared a class with Niecy Nash, but I was not nearly as good as she was! I always had a creative mind and had fake characters in my head, where they were my friends. I never saw myself working on stage or behind. My gift comes more in the form of administration or people skills. I didn’t have a desire where I wanted to grow up and become a singer or an actress. I grew up in Los Angeles, where everyone would call it the "hub of entertainment,” especially when it came to films and television."
- Cardellia Hunter
Atlanta Film and TV: For someone who may not know, can you talk to us about what your job consists of as Director of Operations and Productions under the City of Atlanta?
Cardellia Hunter: "I oversee permitting when it comes to a production wanting to film in the City of Atlanta. My job is to be sure productions filming do so without any incident. I represent productions permitted, but I also represent the communities where productions are filming. Anyone who wants to film within the City of Atlanta, or anything pertaining to impeding the right of way, then you will have to come to our office to obtain a permit. On the other hand, the production side is busy, and there is never one production that is the same. It comes with many challenges, but all have been great challenges."
Atlanta Film and TV: What types of places do filmmakers need permits for?
Cardellia Hunter: "If you are filming within the City of Atlanta, you need a permit if you are impeding the right of way. What that means is, if you need a lane, street, or sidewalk closure within the City of Atlanta. Filmmakers also need to obtain a film permit within any of the City of Atlanta Government buildings or parks. We do not, however, permit private properties. However, we only permit for private properties if filming requires a lane, street, or sidewalk closure"
Atlanta Film and TV: Say I’m a filmmaker with a decent-sized budget. How do I go about getting a permit to block off a street, etc.
Cardellia Hunter: "The first thing filmmakers would do is call our office to let us know what they’re doing and we figure out how feasible it will be to complete. There are a few components a filmmaker would complete if their filming would need a full street closure. When applying, we’ll need the certificate of insurance, which lists the City of Atlanta as the lien holder, just in case anything happens on the street. It also ensures that we’re able to fix and recoup our money. We have a three-block radius, and filmmakers have to notify those within the community about filming.
Afterward, filmmakers will have a Traffic Engineer draw their plans to be submitted to our office for approval. Whenever filming is blocking the right of way, we require filmmakers to have a Police Coordinator to ensure things flow smoothly. Police Officers are there to implement street closures and for the safety."
Atlanta Film and TV: How long is the process for obtaining a permit?
Cardelia Hunter: "Most productions know in advance where they want to film,and the dates they want to film, and they come to our office sooner than later. On the other hand, it takes us at the Office of Film and Entertainment at least five business days to complete a full street closure. We’ll need at least three full business days for a lane or sidewalk closure. For instance, if a filmmaker wants to shut down Peachtree Street, that will take a little more planning.
Many productions are aware of this and will come to our office months beforehand to strategically notify communities and be sure the detour routes are sufficient. I advise filmmakers to get their applications in sooner than later, especially now since there is a lot of filming. But, we have to be mindful of our communities because once productions are gone, our communities are still here!"
Atlanta Film and TV: Atlanta’s already a booming market for film and television. Is there still room for growth, or have we reached capacity?
"There is always room for growth! Of course, productions are coming to Atlanta because of our great tax incentive. We also have studio lots and a need for a writers room! We do need things to be greenlit in Atlanta, which would mean having a writer's room or an infrastructure set up in Atlanta instead of going to Los Angeles or New York for post-production. I believe we will continue growing as long as the tax incentive stays and productions continue filming here. One of the main reasons production continues filming in Atlanta is because of the tax incentive. We have the world's busiest airport, great weather, and the cost of living in Atlanta is a plus."
- Cardellia Hunter
Atlanta Film and TV: Can you share with us what the day and life is like for Cardellia Hunter?
Cardellia Hunter: "My day usually starts around 7:30 or 8 am. I will check my email, and afterward, I look on our film app to see what applications submissions we have. Then, I figure out what it is we need to do to get them processed.
I then make sure my other team members (three of us total) are all on the same page. I sometimes have production meetings scheduled or meetings for educational programming. I am always returning calls from constituents regarding concerns about filming.
I can start my day working in the office and end the day on the street on a scout if need be. Or, if we have a street closure, I will go out to ensure that everything is intact. No two days are the same, nor is it quiet! Pre-COVID, I would go to speak to students, and I would attend College Day. Clark-Atlanta has become one of my “homes,” where I’ll speak with their students."
Atlanta Film and TV: Atlanta Film and TV is hosting its first in-person networking event in a few weeks. Can you share with us the importance of networking and building relationships in the film and television industry?
Cardellia Hunter: "Relationships are what have kept me thus far from the longevity of working in the film office. Anyone can come into our office, and do what they need to do regarding the permitting process. But, it’s the relationships you build that will keep you relevant to do whatever it is you’re trying to do. I am big on building relationships, and I believe it is the number one component to growing in this industry. Surround yourself with like-minded people to get that energy feedback, so you can continue moving forward in whatever project you might have set before you.
Pre-pandemic, any industry event I could attend, I was there. Not only was I there, but I always made a point to collect at least five business cards, which meant I needed to speak with at least five different people I didn’t know beforehand. Doing this has paid off because you never know when you’re going to need someone. Sometimes, when you have built a relationship with a particular person, they might not be able to help you. But, since you’ve kept your networking open, that person could point you in a direction to help you get to where you’re trying to get. You also don’t know if the person next to you is just as creative as you. Or if someone could have a piece to your puzzle for what you’re trying to do. It is very relevant that you get out and meet people because there is a possibility that you could work on a project together."
Atlanta Film and TV: What is a piece of advice you have for someone wanting to pursue a career in film and television?
Cardellia Hunter: "Nothing happens overnight. Continue honing your skills, and whatever you have in your head, write it down! Find the different avenues that will help launch what is inside you that will help you to become a contributing factor to the film and television industry. The only way you’ll experience any longevity in this industry is to be passionate, patient, and learn all you can."
Atlanta Film and TV: How can people connect with you?
Cardellia Hunter: "I am Cardellia Hunter on all platforms! You can also find me on my website at cardelliahunter.com "
Click here for our conversation!