Female Disruptors: Charity Hill of EPIC Entertainment Group On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

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“Stay nimble” was something we were told by someone very successful, that we adopted as a motto. It was something so simple that I hadn’t considered. And honestly, I am not sure our company would have made it through the pandemic if we hadn’t taken that advice to heart. We work hard to stay lean and nimble as a company so it’s easier to roll with the punches of our ever-changing industry.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charity Hill.

Charity is an award-winning creative producer and experience architect of immersive attractions and themed entertainment. She is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Epic Entertainment Group — a collective of executive producers, experiential operators, creative designers, and technical builders focused on developing, producing, and operating live events and immersive entertainment experiences.

Paving the way for female leaders of color in the live entertainment space, Charity is known for executive producing some of the most well-known annual attractions in the country, including Dark Harbor and Chill at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, Holiday by the Bay in San Diego, and Dark Horizon in Orlando.

From creative direction to strategic execution, Charity’s entertainment experience spans two decades including film, television, theater, themed entertainment, festivals, haunted attractions, fashion shows, sporting events, and brand activations.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I grew up entertaining on stage and in front of the camera. I realized early on that I wanted to be the creator of my own entertainment and not the performer of someone else’s. I studied Marketing in college and became one of the founding members of USC Spectrum, an on-campus production company made up of faculty and students who booked and produced all the entertainment coming onto campus. From world-renowned thought-provokers like Iyanla Vanzant to up and coming artists, I found fulfilment in shaping young minds through engaging entertainment. It was then that I realized education could be entertaining. That was really my first taste of being a producer. From there, I went on to work for WET (Water Entertainment Technology) Inc. — the company behind the Bellagio water feature. It was there that I noticed a gap that I would eventually seek to fill; one that married destination attractions and themed entertainment with live immersive events. I honed my skills producing hundreds of large-scale public events in a myriad of genres at the legendary Queen Mary in Long Beach before my business partner and I launched Epic Entertainment Group in 2016.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I like to think that I am creating a disruption in people’s perceptive parameters through culture-forward, themed entertainment. I thrive in immersive storytelling that celebrates the traditions of other nations, and work to show the world how uniquely symbiotic we all are as a race.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Oh, there are so many mistakes I have made along the way! One that stands out was when I was still getting my feet wet in production. I was producing a private concert series in West Hollywood and had the opportunity to bring in Eddie Van Halen to perform a few songs. Without thinking, I jumped at the chance without considering the budget implications of what his rider might include. I found myself scrambling to meet his needs and having to navigate what could have been a very sticky situation. He was wonderful and ended up springing for the cost to crane in his own piano into the space, but it could have been a total disaster. I was saved by a very seasoned veteran who just found my scrambling amusing. I can tell you, I’ve never booked another artist without first redlining the rider.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

One of my mentors in storytelling came while I was attending the University of Southern California. Working as a founding member of USC Spectrum, we booked and produced the entertainment series of artists, musicians, poets, and speakers on Campus and one of them was Ice-T. Later I was able to tour Europe with him along with his rock band, Body Count. Being an early adopter of disruption, he taught me that some controversy can be good if it will provoke out-of-the-box thinking. I found it so amusing that he turned his rebel rap persona into a heavy metal movement through storytelling. Being able to enjoy the vantage point of his impact from the stage looking out over a sea of nearly 100,000 people was magnetic. It sparked something in me — the need to become a thought-provoking disrupter in my own way. Equally, growing up in Minneapolis, I had the privilege of working with Prince starting at a young age. Being exposed to such early adopters of disruption has definitely made an impact on how and what I produce from a creative perspective.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I think that disruption can be monumental when it is clever, and well thought out with a clear and concise positive intention. However, disruption for the sake of disruption can be reckless and very damaging. For instance, if I want to shed positive light on cultural differences, I might juxtapose two cultural celebrations in one event to highlight their beauty and show similarities in their origins to invoke a better understanding of both. Conversely, if I drop a foreign cultural celebration into the middle of a differing community without a narrative, it may be seen as obtuse or offensive. It will certainly disrupt, but not necessarily in a positive way.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each. As a partner in a start-up, we made sure to seek out the advice of other successful entrepreneurs. The three best words of advice we have been given along the way are:

  1. “Stay nimble” was something we were told by someone very successful, that we adopted as a motto. It was something so simple that I hadn’t considered. And honestly, I am not sure our company would have made it through the pandemic if we hadn’t taken that advice to heart. We work hard to stay lean and nimble as a company so it’s easier to roll with the punches of our ever-changing industry.
  2. “Never take no for an answer”. Some of our largest clients are the ones who first told us “no”. As a creator, it’s easy to get caught up in the rejection of our ideas, but I think spending my early years pounding the pavement as a performer, I learned to let rejection roll right off my back. It has been proven to serve me well in my career to this day.
  3. “Your team is your commodity”. For us, our team really is the secret sauce. Our work culture celebrates our team members. We don’t operate in a hierarchy; we are a collective. We learned very quickly that a fun positive work-hard-play-harder environment with little parameters and a great deal of trust promotes greater creativity, over-achievement, and efficiency. It’s the sweet spot for our team to thrive.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I am not sure I will ever be done. Ha! But my next project is with an iconic brand, Hershey. I can’t say much about it at this time, but I am so honored to have been chosen to shake things up with them this fall. Stay tuned.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Well, quite simply put, when a man is a disrupter, he is seen as an innovator and when a woman is a disrupter, she is often seen as disruptive.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

I don’t. I wish I had more time to read and soak up podcast chats. Time is something that I am always chasing, my most precious commodity. The few moments I have to myself, I usually tend to take advantage of the silence.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I have spent most of my life trying to tear down stereotypes of who I am as a woman, and that of a woman of color. If I didn’t see myself represented, I would push myself into the center of it for sport. I guess I have always been a disrupter. For example, when I was growing up, I never saw women, let alone women of color on a golf course. So, I took up golf and became the youngest woman of color to have a whole-in-one plaque on the wall of Robinson Ranch clubhouse. I spend many days in war rooms across the country as “the only” — the only woman, the only person of color, but I stand boldly in it. If I could impart any advice to young women, it would be tear down those walls one by one by standing boldly in it. Ignore those parameters set upon you by society and go out and get it. You can be ANYTHING you want to be. #sobeit.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

If you are standing still, you are moving backwards.” I think that we only have this one precious life, and too little time to live it. I have always had this feeling of responsibility to lead the collective whole to connectivity. However big or small, if I can share something that changes the trajectory of where someone is headed, then I am contributing in a positive way to bettering humankind. There are a lot of people in this world, and a lot of experiences left to create. I believe shared experiences are what we will measure life by in the end, so if I am standing still too long, I am missing it.

How can our readers follow you online?

Visit www.epicentertainmentgroup.com for our latest projects. On Instagram, you can follow my work @epicentertainmentgroup and my travel antics @1worldwithcharity.

@epicentgrp on Twitter and Facebook and @Epic-Entertainment-Group on Linkedin

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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Candice Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.