Georgia has become a popular second home for many Hollywood studios, lured there by lower costs, interesting scenery, and cushy tax breaks. But the state’s recent passage of sweeping restrictions on reproductive choice presents a conflict for those studios. Should they continue to do business in a state with politics that may not align with that of their workforce or customers?
Filming in Georgia directly contributed about $2.7 billion dollars to the local economy in 2018, with 455 productions large enough to qualify for the state’s tax incentive programs. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the overall economic impact of the entertainment industry on Georgia comes to a total of $9.5 billion per year. It may even be greater than that, once you add in people traveling to the state to visit Walking Dead or Stranger Things filming locations, actors and filmmakers snapping up second homes for all the time they spend in town, and other secondary effects.
Given that, the argument in favor of boycotts is clear-cut. If the studios take their productions elsewhere, that money evaporates, and it puts pressure on local political leaders when they find themselves called to account for the loss of all that cash–and all those jobs.
Disney, WarnerMedia, and Netflix are among the big employers in Georgia who have publicly discussed pulling out of the state over the abortion ban. Upcoming filming projects–including one from director Reed Morano, who, perhaps fittingly, has made her name with Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale–have already canceled plans to work in the state.
“We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law,” Netflix’s Ted Sarandos told Variety. “It’s why we will work with the ACLU and others to fight it in court. 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.”
Even Spike Lee has stated that he thinks it’s time for Hollywood to “shut it down” when it comes to working with Georgia.
Not everyone is on board with the boycott movement, however. Increasingly, women in the film industry are raising their voices with a different narrative entirely.
“Please know this: Georgia’s hardworking women and many men in this industry will continue to be the resistance from the inside,” reads a petition signed by some 700 women working in the industry in the state. “Your condemnation is understandable, but what we really need most is allies.”
They agree with the sentiment behind the boycott concept, but think that by continuing to import creative, ambitious young people to the state, there is a far greater chance of making meaningful long-term political change. The margin of votes by which Stacey Abrams lost her bid for governor was less than two percent, Atlanta Magazine notes. If the entertainment industry continues to grow and flourish in the state, it might help attract and retain the type of residents that could change the course of the state’s political future for generations.
“I understand in a world in which the voter feels disenfranchised they can think their only power is through the dollar, but people aren’t seeing the larger picture—the positive influence the film industry has had on Georgia economically and politically,” film production designer Molly Coffee told the Los Angeles Times. “We came really close to flipping the state purple in the last election. Pulling out of Georgia only abandons women of the state.”
One group of Hollywood bigwigs is attempting to find a middle ground. According to Variety, Jordan Peele, J.J. Abrams, Ron Howard, and a handful of other filmmakers have decided to move forward with productions in Georgia, but have committed to donate their salaries and fees to the ACLU and activist groups on the ground in the state.
Meanwhile, Variety reports today that several states—including Illinois and Oklahoma—are making bids for Hollywood attention should the industry eventually decide to flee Georgia.
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