Trilith Studios

Housing in Trilith is built in a range of styles and within walking distance of the studio and the town center. 

Patrick Kolts
Trilith Studios

At the Barleygarden Kitchen & Craft Bar, locals can share ideas along with a bite.

Patrick Kolts
Trilith Studios

One of the biggest one-stop-shop studios in the country, Trilith has twenty-four soundstages, a 400-acre backlot and more than forty production vendors on site.

Patrick Kolts
Trilith Studios sound stage

Trilith Studios sound stage

Patrick Kolts
Frank Patterson

Frank Patterson

Patrick Kolts
Fill 1
Fill 1
October 05, 2022

A Creative Community at Trilith Studios

Creatives who work at Atlanta's Trilith Studios can have a home there, too — and a school and a park and a place to grab a beer....

Leanne Potts

Frank Patterson believes in television.

That's why he's positioned Trilith Studios to serve small companies making streaming shows right alongside big companies making blockbusters.

"Television is the medium of our age," he says. "It's where a lot of creativity is happening, and it's where a lot of storytellers are finding their voices."

The 935-acre facility — located south of Atlanta near Fayetteville, Georgia — is home to twenty-four soundstages, a 400-acre backlot and the brand new Prysm Stages, a first-of-its-kind virtual production facility. But what sets Trilith apart from other studios, says Patterson, the president and chief executive officer, is the creative community around it.

Trilith has built a town adjacent to the studio complex with some 600 homes that run on geothermal power, supported by green space and a walkable town center with restaurants, shops, a theater and a hotel — an area run by Rob Parker, President of The Town at Trilith. There's also a district of offices and workshops designed to house content and technology companies and provide collaborative space to filmmakers, writers and production teams.

"We offer everything a creative would need so that makers and artists can live and work here," Patterson says.

The master-planned community was inspired by Patterson's memories of 1980s Los Angeles, when he was a young filmmaker fresh out of Texas. "When I first moved to L.A., I lived in a tough neighborhood, but the camera house was three blocks away, my friend's post house was just over the hill and my favorite art director lived two blocks west," he recalls. "Everything I needed was right there."

At Trilith, Patterson sought to re-create that feeling. "I wanted to make a center of excellence where people can feel like anything's possible," he says. "It's a dream place, the sort of place I wish had been around when I was young."

The realization of that dream — and of Atlanta as a production center — also has its roots in Georgia's tax incentives for film and television companies, which are among the world's most generous. Since they were introduced in 2002, the state has become an industry hub, with several large facilities. Tyler Perry Studios, for example, is a 300-acre town in its own right, founded in 2006. Other studio lots include Turner Studios (1986), EUE/ Screen Gems Studios (2010) and Areu Bros. Studios (2018).

In 2014, England's famed Pinewood Studios launched Pinewood Atlanta Studios, drawn by those same tax credits. Patterson was named president two years later. Known as a tech guru, Patterson — cofounder of Pulse Evolution, a digital media company that produced a digital likeness of the late Michael Jackson for the 2014 Billboard Music Awards — was drawn to the new studio's technological capabilities.

In 2020, the studio was rebranded as Trilith and expanded into a master development with a live-work concept. Today, Trilith is one of the largest production studio facilities in North America, with TV credits including WandaVision, Family Feud, Judge Steve Harvey, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, Hawkeye and Moon Knight, and film credits including Avengers movies, Ant-Man movies, The Suicide Squad and Spider-Man: No Way Home.

For the companies behind these shows and movies, Trilith offers easy access to everything from Panavision cameras to lighting and grip to fabrication. There are more than forty production vendors on site, including Technicolor, MBS Equipment Company, SGPS/ShowRig, Herc Rentals, Smart Post and The Third Floor.

But Trilith upped the ante with its most recent addition: the 18,000-square-foot "extended reality" Prysm Stages. The largest such facility in the world, the stages have LED screens that create dynamic 360-degree virtual backgrounds. Support is provided by a full-time crew of specialists, headed by Barry Williams, Trilith's creative director of virtual production, who spent fifteen years at Industrial Light & Magic.

Studios have long built on affordable land, and Patterson says Trilith follows in that tradition. "If you think about the history of Hollywood, the stages were built there because it was cheap land back in the day."

Nor is Trilith the first studio to incorporate housing for workers into its plan. "For a long time, we called this project Laurelwood," Patterson says. "That was the name of the neighborhood that the developers of Studio City [California] bought before they built the stages in Hollywood. And Mr. [Walt] Disney did this originally, creating a town that put workers living next to studio facilities. All we did was take a page from Mr. Disney's playbook."

Trilith puts a twist on the old studio town, though. Instead of building at low cost to maximize profit, Patterson wanted housing that would inspire and provide a good quality of life. "We thought about how people want to live," he says. "We focused on the lifestyle of the person who's creating, so they feel loved, seen and heard. They want to know 'Do I have daycare?' 'Do I have a school that I will want to send my kid to?' 'Am I living in tract housing or someplace beautiful?'"

The community includes a wellness center, a beer garden and parks with art installations. Houses range in size from microhome to mansion, and styles range from Tudor to Italianate. There's a small K–12 private school. The Georgia Film Academy works out of one soundstage to train students for careers in the film industry. And the University of Georgia offers an MFA film program that lets students live and work in Trilith. Multifamily housing allows people to rent at a relatively affordable price.

The mix of housing is key to Patterson's plan. "There's a $2.3 million house next to a $380,000 house, which is four houses down from a $250,000 micro house," he says. And the array of options keeps economic diversity alive and well, so young people aren't priced out. "We need a pipeline of young and diverse talent, period," he maintains. "But you've got to have seasoned people, who the young people can be mentored by."

The mentoring doesn't happen officially, he notes. It happens informally when folks run into one another in town, at the beer garden or a restaurant. "You get all this energy happening naturally," he says.

Patterson doesn't live there. He lives in Decatur, an Atlanta suburb. "My wife says I already live at work, and she wanted me away from there," he explains. But his mother and her husband bought a home at Trilith.

Positioning Trilith to attract young talent fits Patterson's history of mentoring up-and-coming creators. He's a professor at Florida State University's College of Motion Picture Arts, where he served as dean for fourteen years. He has taught at the University of Texas and southern California's Chapman University, where he also served as associate dean, and at the Los Angeles Film School, where he was president.

"We have to serve the pipeline of talented storytellers coming up through television," Patterson says. "And the only way to do that is to give them the whole tool set, right there. And while we're ready to serve the biggest filmmakers in the industry, we are also available to serve emerging filmmakers."

Clearly, nurturing young talent feeds Patterson's soul. "I've always focused on mentoring young people to become storytellers," he says. "Now I have a place where they can come and make anything they imagine."

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine issue #9, 2022, under the title, "If You Worked Here, You'd Be Home Now."

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