By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
One of the entrepreneurial focus areas in the Appalachian Highlands region is what many refer to as the creative class, and we recently had the opportunity to interview a couple that relocated its award-winning international production business to Johnson City to be part of that emerging sector.
Anthony Haney-Jardine, who goes by the nickname of Chusy, is a native of Venezuela who immigrated to Florida before spending about 20 years in Asheville producing films. One of his key clients was the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. “I did a lot of work for them,” Haney-Jardine says, citing as one example a movie about the origins of country music in Bristol, part of the Appalachian Highlands.
Titled “Born in Bristol: The Untold Story of the Birth of Country Music,” the 2016 film describes two weeks of music recording sessions organized in July 1927 by Victor Recording executive Ralph S. Peer, where music legends including Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family were discovered. Shot on location in Bristol, the film was directed by Haney-Jardine, and it received shortlist consideration at the 2016 Cannes International Festival of Creativity.
A promotion for the film notes that “everyone knows where Rock n’ Roll came from, but no one knows where Country Music was born. Combining fictional reality (re-enactments that play more like scenes from a narrative movie) and interviews with Country Music legends such as Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, Marty Stuart, Steve Earle, and Sheryl Crow, this documentary feature film shines a light on one of the most unrecognized yet momentous occasions in County Music history.”
“Born in Bristol” is just one of a number of award-winning films that Haney-Jardine has directed in his career, and now he’s brought his global connections and reputation to a region that is committed to further growing its creative sector by leveraging initiatives a number of its assets and newer initiatives. They include:
- The newly announced Center for Digital Innovation (see November 2021 teknovation.biz article here);
- East Tennessee State University’s (ETSU) Brand Storytellingprogram that provides the first-ever professional certification program focused on industry professionals and recent college graduates looking to better understand the intersection of business, brand and film; and
- ETSU’s Digital Media Program that offers a Master of Fine Arts in Digital Media and a minor for undergraduate students with concentrations in game design, animation, visualization and visual effects.
“As beautiful as Asheville is, I moved the whole business here about three years ago,” Haney-Jardine says. That business includes Plan A Films, his longtime production house, and Tri-City Media LLC, a company he and his wife, Kathryn, started after relocating to Johnson City. The latter is a content producer. There is also a vision for opening a sound stage in the community.
“I fell in love with Northeast Tennessee,” he says, adding that his mantra is “home grown, world known.” That translates into using local crews to produce the films, and that ties back to the complementary vision that civic, business, and educational leaders have for the region.
“I want to help young people like those at ETSU by exposing them to world-class work,” Haney-Jardine says. It’s an area in which he’s clearly excelled, as evidenced by a listing on its webpage that notes winning Cannes Lions, Clio’s, ADC Gold Cube, and Effie awards. Those as the result of more than 150 pieces of branded content produced for clients as diverse as Gatorade, Kellogg’s, Wendy’s, Microsoft, Toyota, US Bank, NAPA Auto, Stella Artois, and Disney.
When we asked for some examples to share with our readers, he offered these:
- “It All Begins With a Song”;
- “Not Afraid To Fall – The Brian Hall Story”; and
- “TN Colorblind, Fall Colors.”
Haney-Jardine sees the metaverse as the next disruptor for the sector where he specializes. “The thing here is the story,” he says, adding, “Finding the right delivery platform is the answer.” That’s a whole new area that is emerging but one that he will find exciting and aligned with what Haney-Jardine describes as his three-word personal slogan: “Celebrate. Innovate. Elevate.”