Following a controversial anti-abortion bill, major stars and studios alike have threatened to abandon a $9.5 billion industry.
Extreme abortion laws seem to be taking over America state by state, and now Georgia is facing a major challenge with Hollywood Studios as they threaten a boycott following the state’s decision to ban abortions after six weeks.
Georgia’s film industry has been a cornerstone of the State’s economy for over a decade. In recent years it has been the home to several blockbuster productions including Black Panther, the Hunger Games franchise and Avengers: Infinity War.
Brian Kemp, Georgia governor told the Georgia GOP convention: “We value and protect innocent life – even though that makes C-list celebrities squawk.”
By August 2018 $2.7 billion had been generated by the film and television industry in direct spending with a record breaking 455 productions taking place in Georgia.
According to the Motion Picture Association of America, Georgia’s film and television industry create more than 92,100 jobs and generate nearly $4.6 billion in wages. The Georgia Department of Economic Development’s film office expressed in a statement to the Guardian: “Georgia continues to be the most advantageous place in the country to create compelling stories. Not to mention, we have the best-designed tax incentive program that has stood the test of time and is here to stay.”
The booming film industry within Georgia has seen several studios relocate to the state including Pinewood Studios. A huge amount of Marvel movies, including Ant Man and Spider-Man: Homecoming were shot in Georgia and many forthcoming superhero films were set to follow suit.
Melissa Silverstein of Women and Hollywood explained that the new law opens up an opportunity for other states: “People went to Georgia because they had really great tax incentives. Maybe this is an opportunity for another state to step up and put in some tax incentives.”
Natalie Portman, Kerry Washington, Lena Waithe and Alec Baldwin are just some of the celebrities who have answered Milano’s call to boycott. The Writers Guild of America East and West also oppose the law, calling it “draconian” and telling Georgia representatives its implementation would make the state “inhospitable” for its members.
Chief Content Officer for Netflix, Ted Sarando was the first to speak on the matter in the industry, expressing to Variety: “Given the legislation has not yet been implemented, we’ll continue to film there, while also supporting partners and artists who choose not to.
“Should it ever come into effect, we’d rethink our entire investment in Georgia.”
Stranger Things, a hugely popular series for the streaming giant was filmed in Georgia, but there is now the potential for later seasons to change location.
Following Netflix’s announcement, Bob Iger, Disney chief, said: “I think many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard.”
Warner Media and CBS & Showtime have released similar statements, insisting their productions would probably not continue to be made in the state if the law went into effect. It seems that Georgia has not completely thought about the repercussions that could very easily come with implementing such a controversial law.
Amongst the opinions in favour for boycotting however, there are those who feel that ignoring the state would punish the people and workers of Georgia.
Such people include Amy Nicholson, a film critic for Variety. She expressed to the Guardian: “I think a boycott is a hard way to protest because it does affect the local people but sometimes, I think it’s the only way. Sometimes, it feels like money is the only thing that does the talking in America.”
Oscar-winning production designer of Black Panther, Hannah Beachler, also expressed her dislike for the idea via Twitter: “Don’t boycott Georgia! Leaving comes from a place of privilege. Stay, donate, help fight w the women & children. Give to orgs. FIGHT 4 the people, fight against this bill. Don’t abandon those who need us most. Govt. want u 2 go, by design. & when u go they’ll do worse.”
While negations continue, some productions have already been pulled from shooting and debates in the industry what to do should the new law pass remain ongoing.
Ilana Glazer, Broad City star, has actively pulled a production in opposition, expressing: “I’m, like, paralyzed and depressed over it. Doing a movie in any place, or you know, film and TV is like such a huge advertisement for the city and for the state that it’s in, and I just don’t want to be there and support it.”
At present there are 32 productions being filmed in Georgia. Including three that have been commissioned by Netflix and AMC’s The Walking Dead.
Women and Hollywood’s Silverstein regarded: “There’s a lot of money that comes in now from the entertainment industry to Georgia and it is a tool to use to show the people who signed this bill that many people do not agree with it and will not be putting their money, their time into a state that doesn’t support women’s reproductive freedom.
“The infrastructure that they’ve invested in Georgia is something that is very hard to walk away from. There are studios down there now. This is not an easy decision, in terms of money that it’s going to cost people when they walk away. But this is a time in our country where you have to take the hard stance.”
Nicholson has summed up the situation this way: “There will come a point where, if enough companies already take a stand and say, ‘We don’t want to do business there’, then it puts more pressure on the companies remaining to have to make a choice.
“It’s not impossible that they really will carry through on this threat.”
As the potential of an anti-abortion bill draws ever nearer for Georgia, it will be interesting to see how this affects not only the people of the state, but the wider economical and cultural factors – inclusive of its once enviable film industry.