LUMBERTON — Hobnobbing with the likes of Michael Bay and the creative team behind the “Harry Potter” film franchises has become just another day on the job for Robeson County native Eric Hunt.
Hunt, who is 46, had spent the better part of his young life in Lumberton, working construction and doing various other odd jobs, that he says were a far cry from his current job, designing attractions and rides as creative producer of the creative studio at Universal Creative in Orlando Florida.
According to Hunt, as a child, he had always had dreams of working in some capacity within the film industry, however his financial status had made that dream an uphill battle.
“We were Lumbee Indians making ends meet with nothing. It was a challenge but because it has been a passion, I have always had the drive and the vigor to make my goals happen,” Hunt said. “One of the things I did even before graduating high school, is that I drove the school bus, and worked at the Village Inn as a busboy for a couple of years, just saving money so I could get into a good school.”
Hunt graduated as a design major from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and immediately began applying for jobs in his field of interest, while building his portfolio. After three consecutive years of applying for work at Universal Studios, in 2000 Hunt said he received the phone call that changed his life.
“I was working full-time for a construction company,” Hunt said, “doing project direction and technical design and when they called, I was so excited, that even though they said it was only for two weeks worth of work, I immediately turned in my two weeks notice … Had that two-week consultation job not turned into what it did, where would I have been today? That was a gamble.”
It was a gamble that paid off. Hunt worked his way up the company ladder, eventually becoming the creative producer on one of Universal Studio’s most anticipated rides, “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts,” which is part of the Universal Orlando Resort’s popular “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” themed space.
Previous accomplishments with the company include serving as designer for the attractions “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey,” “Hogsmeade,” and as senior production designer for all three “Transformers: The Rise-3D” attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Singapore.
Though Hunt now calls Florida his home, Lumberton remains a source of great pride for him, and for those who still live in Lumberton who were there when he was growing up, the feeling of pride goes both ways.
“My mom has been over to our parks. She is an elder so she has seen the photos and she is so proud,” Hunt said. “I hear from my other family members who say they meet my parents and they brag about me. That makes you feel good.”
Hunt believes his time working odd jobs and construction in Robeson County had prepared him in unexpected ways for his work with Universal, noting that many of the people he has worked with have been surprised with his knowledge of not just design, but function.
“People will ask me, ‘how do you know so much about construction?,’ and I just say that is part of where I come from,” Hunt said. “A lot of the people we have in Lumberton have those skills, it was part of what my dad did in his career, and I gained that experience as part of my design process.”