Kalena Boller thought she’d missed her chance to make it into the movies.
After graduating from Howard University in 2004, the Atlanta native initially stayed in Washington, D.C., and attempted to become a documentary filmmaker.
“I was a waiter at three or four different restaurants, I was a temp at some corporation,” said Boller. “I took as many jobs as I could, but I still got priced out of the city, so I had to move back out of necessity. It ended up being the best move of my life.”
Boller came back to Atlanta at a time when Georgia began offering tax credits for film productions. Some relief was offered beginning in 2005, then an unlimited 30 percent credit became law in 2008, among the most generous policies in the world.
Just like that, Boller suddenly found herself in the middle of a burgeoning Southern movie scene, and she took full advantage. Today, she’s a location manager for 20th Century Fox, scouting projects such as “The Walking Dead” and the Clint Eastwood film “Trouble With the Curve.” As a way to both further her career and showcase the work of others, she also highlights behind-the-scenes showbiz types like herself through a podcast titled “The Credits.”
“I am one of those people in the credits,” said Boller. “It has always been a dream of mine to become a storyteller in some capacity, and now I get to do that.”
After a year of production, “The Credits” has come under the umbrella of Georgia Public Broadcasting. GPB, which operates 88.5 FM in Atlanta, is in the midst of ramping up its podcast offerings and now has a full-time director of podcasting named Sean Powers.
“The Credits” podcast with GPB premiered Nov. 9 with two episodes. Now it launches a new episode each Friday. The podcast will be available on GPB’s website (under the podcasts tab) and on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, TuneIn, and NPR.
Beyond the A-listers
The concept behind “The Credits” is simple: When a movie ends and the credits roll, most patrons stick around to see if they missed any big-name actors in cameo roles, who brought life to a favorite character or maybe who penned the soundtrack.
Hardly anyone sticks around for the hundreds of names to follow later, most industry disciples filling obscure but essential roles.
Boller shines a light on those people, not least because she’s part of the group. Her Atlanta career began in 2005, when she landed her first gig as a film location scout for T-Pain’s “I’m ‘n Luv (wit a Stripper)” music video. The experience was a lot different from working on a high-profile film project, but she learned from it just the same. Part of what Boller loves about film is all of the different types of opportunities that come with it.
“You can come from the Ivy League or you can come from around the corner and have an amazing career in this industry,” she said.
As a location scout, Boller is even able to give back to her community by choosing locations in sometimes underserved neighborhoods. Locals can be hired for short-term jobs, giving the area a financial boost along with more exposure. In one small example, she was able to help a veteran land a temporary gig working security for a film shoot.
Through “The Credits,” she hopes to help viewers understand that there’s an entire industry full of middle-class people behind every big-budget film. Those people are increasingly spending time in Atlanta as the region’s film cachet grows, and it’s important for both the city’s economy and its regional pride.
Powers, a non-Southerner who attended college in Missouri, said there’s lots of curiosity in other parts of the country about Atlanta’s movie industry, the same way there is for Los Angeles or New York City.
“The Credits” is often shot on location, perhaps with a stand-in fresh from the famous couch in FX’s hit show “Atlanta,” or maybe with an assistant director from Netflix’s “Stranger Things” (hint: an assistant director is not the assistant to the director). One episode highlights a grip, someone who builds and maintains camera support equipment, who worked on the film “Black Panther.”
Conversations with movie industry professionals are a big part of “The Credits,” as are behind-the-scenes stories. Believe it or not, many film industry roles can be described as thankless, at least until Boller enters the scene.
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Boller found herself in the right place at the right time by moving back to Atlanta after college, and may have done so a second time with “The Credits.”
She launched the podcast last year, at a time when the medium’s popularity was beginning to jump.
The word “podcast” first entered the American lexicon in 2005, when Apple founder Steve Jobs described them as the “next generation of radio.” The term stems from the then-ubiquitous iPod music device.
While they took a while to catch on, research from Concordia University St. Paul found that roughly 80 million Americans now listen to podcasts on a regular basis, more than double the number found just four years ago. They’re especially popular with younger listeners, which means advertisers have become interested in podcasts as well, jumping from $69 million of ad spend in 2015 to $220 million in 2017.
“Podcasting can be used as an incubator for radio shows,” said GPB’s Powers, who began working in radio as a high school student in Illinois. “This is a way to expand our storytelling.”
Powers is working on six new GPB podcasts, of which “The Credits” is one. Since there are no limits on length or airtime, podcasts can be much more expansive than radio segments. Aside from the basics of a job description, listeners get in-depth information about what drives film workers, and what makes them passionate about what they do.
With so much of the conversation tending to rotate around a few dozen A-list celebrities, Boller wants to shift some of that focus.
“There are literally hundreds of film industry jobs that people have no idea about,” said Boller. “Everybody wants to be a writer, director, producer, actor or extra.”
She’s doing her part to help give those people a moment to shine.
“When a film comes to town, it’s more than just big-name stars who you might see randomly in a restaurant,” said Boller. “There are actual people with families and lives who are directly affected by this industry.”
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