By Leah D. Stone
Rob Hardy loves Atlanta. Despite being a native Philadelphian, one of the first things you learn is how much he has embraced “The A” as his own after living here for more than 20 years.
“I just want people to know how great the city is and I’ve loved watching it grow. I’m hoping that my company and I can be a part of continuing to make that happen in the right direction,” Hardy says. As a director and producer for Atlanta-based Rainforest Entertainment, a full-scale production company building content in film, television and digital platforms, he has the opportunity to do just that. Hardy began his film foray after taking a video class in junior high school and creating his first film about a black superhero his senior year of high school, “G-Man.” “That was my first time actually getting into film and friends that saw the project, said ‘you should really do this.’”
Hardy took that advice and ran with it creating his first motion picture, “Chocolate City,” with former business partner Will Packer while he attended Florida A&M University. The film earned him the institution’s highest honor — the Bernard Hendricks Student Leadership Award — and gave him a launching pad to start his company.
Post-college, Hardy moved to Atlanta and shot a variety of well-known films including “Trois,” “The Gospel” and “Stomp the Yard.” While he received critical acclaim and had great success in this realm, his ability to constantly reinvent himself led to a new path. “The only thing certain is change and I view it as a necessary evil. The more you embrace it the better.” In 2007, he began making a transition to television, which proved to be a sagacious step.
“It took me awhile to embrace the television world, but it allowed me to direct consistently and use my muscle to tell different stories,” Hardy recalls. “Ironically, once I got my feet planted in television, a shift happened [in the industry] and suddenly TV was the place to be, which showed me I had just gotten there ahead of the curve.”
Hardy has directed episodes of acclaimed shows like “Blackish,” and “The Flash;” and he recently sold his first TV series, BET’s “The Quad,” where he serves as executive producer and director. Though many have noted the similarities between the show and Florida A&M, Hardy maintains it is not based on his alma mater.
“Life imitates art as far as the similarities, and we had been shopping this story in Hollywood even before FAMU had its first woman president,” Hardy explains. “Sometimes it takes a while for these things to get picked up.”
Hardy’s life experience has inspired his professional work on many occasions, most notably in 2011, when his affiliation with Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. led him to direct the documentary, “Alpha Man: The Brotherhood of MLK,” which chronicles Martin Luther King Jr.’s connection with the fraternity. During the filming, Hardy discovered many never before seen relics from King’s fraternity days that were archived in the King Center. His involvement on a later project also had an impact on King’s legacy.
“Our film ‘Stomp the Yard’ was the first major financial contributor to make [the King] memorial happen when Sony dedicated some of our opening box office proceeds to the monument.”
Hardy’s desire to forge new ground goes beyond the screen and he can be found pushing it to the limit as an adventure seeker around the globe in his off time.
“I’m an adventure guy and into all of the extreme stuff, whether it be falling from the sky or running with the bulls,” Hardy shares. “My mischievous side has made life interesting.” AT
Rob Hardy was a 2017 Man of Excellence. This piece was originally published in the April 2017 Men of Excellence Issue.