By Jodi Rall for the Williamson Herald

The Business of Entertainment, the topic at the monthly Williamson, Inc. meeting at the Cool Springs Marriot, highlighted the impact that the entertainment industry is making on Williamson County.

More than 2,200 people in Williamson County work in entertainment, an industry that has grown significantly since 2002. The burst can be contributed to the rise of Franklin’s own Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival, the renovation and grand re-opening of the Franklin Theatre, and the increasingly popularity of music, movie and television production careers in Middle Tennessee.

The industry is also attracting thousands of visitors who shop at local stores, stay at hotels and eat at restaurants in the county, who contribute financially to the viability of commerce and tourism in Williamson County.

The panel of speakers in the industry included Brandt Woods, Pilgrimage Festival co-founder; Dan Hays, executive director of the Franklin Theatre; John Boyd, president and creative director of LabeLive and Lauren Woodard, studio manager of Pargon | Studios. Panelists discussed how Williamson County can only benefit from becoming an entertainment destination.

Moderators included Bryan Doleshel, Chief Community Development Officer Williamson, Inc. and Ellie Westman Chin, President and CEO the Williamson County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

In September of 2015, Woods co-developed the Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival that takes place each year in Franklin, Tennessee featuring a 50-band, 5-stage production which has become the signature boutique festival for the Nashville/Franklin area.

Woods shared that Pilgrimage Festival is “curating the business community.”

“It’s a cultural awakening to the music festival, more local, more boutique to build a festival,” Woods said. “Franklin and Williamson County are the best partners.”

In addition, the festival works with the arts in Williamson County Schools and Woods believes, “supporting education is what a good festival does.”

Discussing the economic impact, the festival has grown in three years. When Justin Timberlake was announced as the keynote performer last year, numbers went from 10,000-15,000 participants each day to 27,000 tickets being sold in a day.

“Shops were crazy, a minimum of five hotels sold out,” Chin said.

The moderators and attendees were all hoping an announcement would be made of the 2018 lineup for Pilgrimage at the luncheon. However, Woods did not disclose but said the lineup would be coming very soon.

Meanwhile, the goals of the theatre are to become the “Best 300 Seat Music Venue in the World,” while also continuing to feature movies, live theater and to host other corporate and community events.

Since the renovated, historic Franklin Theatre reopened in 2011, Hays feels what is offered to the community reflects “world class entertainment.” Citing statistics, he said in 2017 the theatre hosted 591 events, while 3,600 events have been held since 2011.

Noting customer service ratings of 98.5 percent satisfaction and 94.5 percent above average expectations with programming, 96.6 percent of people would very likely recommend events to others.

“The Franklin Theater has helped raise over $5 million for charity,” Hays shared.

From the creative standpoint, Boyd has had the opportunity to create unique experiences for his clients, with an emphasis on the marriage between aesthetics and performance, he explained.

“Music is an art. We work directly with artist, band members to see the vision and direction of to life,” Boyd shared.

In discussing the culture at LabeLive, Boyd shared they are in the people business, explaining for example, the “cube,” a café built into the office, which offers a place for employees, musicians, families etc. to come together.

“Coffee makes connections,” Boyd said.

Sharing why his company chose Williamson County and the expensive real estate off Seaboard Lane that has paid off, “a high number of artists and managers in the industry live in Williamson County.

“They like The Cube where artists can sit and write and be in the the rehearsal room. And artists can bring their families, beat rush hour – this is an investment in people’s lives.”

Woodard described her role at Paragon as “anything involving audio.”

The Paragon offices is a multi-room, world-class studio, specializing in post-production sound, picture and music. Paragon Studios has worked on several major motion pictures, including the upcoming remake of ‘Animal Crackers’, TV Series ‘Westworld’, ‘Nashville’ and ‘Still The King,’ Fox/ Bazmark film ‘Australia’, ‘The Insurgent’ and ‘A VeggieTales Movie’.

Woodard shared that they partner with Williamson County Schools and local colleges.

“The talent pool is crazy good,” she said.

One positive Woodard sees in movie stars coming to Franklin is that there is discretion.

“Stars can stay here and enjoy quality of life and be left alone.”

Paragon Studios has also worked with an extensive list of international recording artists, including Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill, Keith Urban, Amy Grant, Kenny Loggins and Peter Frampton.

The future of entertainment in Williamson County is flourishing and growing seemed to be the consensus of the panel.

With the announcement soon for the 2018 Pilgrimage Festival lineup, continued programing at the Franklin Theatre, a growing number of artists/movie stars coming to the area to produce, and many calling the area home, the community can be assured great things are ahead with music and the creative arts.

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