Matt Donnelly Senior Film Writer @MattDonnelly FOLLOW Matt's Most Recent Stories Georgia Calls Off Hollywood Event, Governor Pushes Studio Meetings to Fall Amid Abortion-Bill Tension (EXCLUSIVE) How Ugly Will It Get for STX Entertainment? Participant Media Film and TV President Jonathan King to Step Down View All Facebook Twitter Reddit Email Show more sharing options LinkedIn WhatsApp Print Pin It Tumblr CREDIT: John Amis/AP/REX/Shutterstock As tension escalates over a controversial abortion bill in Georgia, the state film office has called off a Los Angeles celebration touting its industry ties, numerous individuals familiar with the event set for next week told Variety.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is pushing that event, dated for May 22 at West Hollywood’s Sunset Tower hotel, and his previously reported meetings with top studio executives to the fall, an individual with knowledge of his plans said. The changes come as show business weighs boycotting Georgia as a production hub, following Kemp’s signing of HB 481 — a bill that seeks to outlaw abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat.
In the meantime, Kemp will pivot to local strategy, the insider added, by embarking on a tour of state production facilities and vendors in efforts to “reaffirm” his commitment to the industry. In a statement last week, the MPAA estimated that film and television production accounts for 92,000 jobs in Georgia.
The legislation has sparked a huge backlash in Hollywood and could impact Georgia's thriving film and TV production industry. Five production companies have already vowed not to use the state for future productions. The Wire and The Deuce creator David Simon, who runs Blown Deadline Productions; producer Nina Jacobson, whose company Colorforce is responsible for such hits as Crazy Rich Asians and American Crime Story; and Mark Duplass, whose production company Duplass Brothers Productions has a four-picture film deal with Netflix, have all said publicly they will not film in Georgia while the law is in place.
Gov. Brian Kemp postponed an annual trip to Los Angeles to promote Georgia’s film industry on Tuesday as a growing number of movie executives and celebrities criticized his decision to sign the anti-abortion “heartbeat” bill into law.
Georgia governor postpones L.A. visit amid Hollywood clash over abortion law
Abortion rights activists had threatened to protest the May 22 event, and Georgia film executives were worried that tepid turnout and no-shows from studio chiefs could do lasting damage to the state’s movie-making business.
Kemp spokesman Cody Hall said that the trip would now take place in the fall, and that the governor plans to soon tour Georgia film production firms and meet with employees to show support for the industry.
The delay is the latest sign of how quickly the fallout over House Bill 481, which outlaws most abortions as early as six weeks, has rocked Georgia’s film industry since the Republican signed it into law a week ago.
Video: Gov. Brown negotiated deal with GOP
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp Delays Hollywood Film Trip Amid Backlash To Anti-Abortion Bill
The annual event in Hollywood is usually a cause for celebration, drawing the state’s top officials and big-name film executives to a ritzy hotel. In past years, Gov. Nathan Deal used the occasion to thank studio chiefs and actors for their business.
The relationship between conservative state leaders and left-leaning Hollywood elite has persevered through other rifts, including threats from major studios to ditch Georgia over the “religious liberty” measure that Deal eventually vetoed.
Brian Kemp decides hell stay away from Hollywood — for now
Several film production companies have vowed not to shoot anything in Georgia, and dozens of actors including Alec Baldwin, Don Cheadle and Sean Penn signed a protest letter saying they won’t work in Georgia because of the law.
Last week, however, the state legislature enacted—and Kemp signed—one of the most extreme fetal heartbeat abortion prohibitions in the nation. HB 481, which declares that unborn children are a class of living, distinct persons, limits abortions to the first six weeks of pregnancy. If the law is allowed to take effect in January—rather than being held up in the courts—women who miscarry could be investigated by the state to determine whether their pregnancy ended unintentionally or with the help of a doctor or an abortion pill.
One of the first to call for a boycott, “The Wire” creator David Simon, said shortly after the law was signed he will “pull Georgia off the list until we can be assured the health options and civil liberties of our female colleagues are unimpaired.”
That ruthless partisan gerrymandering also turned Georgias legislative elections into some of the most uncompetitive in the nation. In 2016, 83 percent of state House races lacked a Republican or Democratic candidate. Those numbers improved modestly this past November, as Georgias high-profile race for governor propelled the highest midterm voter turnout there in modern history: 112 of the states 180 House districts—and 33 of the 56 state Senate contests—featured no major-party opponent.
Georgia governor postpones LA trip as Hollywood protests abortion law
Others have taken a different tack: Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams will shoot an HBO horror drama in Georgia but will donate fees to the ACLU and the Fair Fight Action group founded by Stacey Abrams, the Democrat defeated by Kemp in November.
The Maryland and North Carolina cases are now before the U.S. Supreme Court, where justices have long recognized partisan gerrymandering to be a problem but struggled to determine when a gerrymander crosses the line—and how involved the court should be in such a political process. But the lower courts, and many voters, have sent a clear message to the high court: Partisan gerrymandering is toxic to American democracy, and its within the justices ability to curb its worst excesses.
The Motion Picture Association of America, which represents Netflix and other leading studios, is taking a wait-and-see attitude. In a statement, the group pointed to similar legislation adopted by other states that was blocked in the courts.
But Georgia’s purple status is one reason why we’re getting much of the attention. “We are a swing state. And we are going to continue to be a swing state, far ahead of the other states that are competing to get to the U.S. Supreme Court — and bragging about it,” state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, said on Monday’s edition of GPB’s “Political Rewind.”
A legal challenge in Georgia, too, is inevitable. The ACLU and other opponents plan to file a lawsuit this summer, and conservative backers of the law hope it will wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court to test the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
”I understand the desperation of people wanting to get women heard,” Tomlinson said. But she said a better way to do that may be to emphasize, in a very public fashion, the details of HB 481 – including the criminal liability that physicians say it poses for them and mothers, and the impact it’s likely to have on a state already starved for obstetricians.
Georgia film boosters hope that when the “Film Day” event is held in Los Angeles later this year, the legal challenge helps cool the heated debate over the law.
“Oddly, I believe the governor will be better received in Hollywood once the ‘heartbeat bill’ moves to another branch of government for judgment,” said Kris Bagwell, chairman of the Georgia Studio and Infrastructure Alliance.
Lee Thomas, the deputy commissioner of the Georgia Film Office, said in a memo to local production executives that the event was delayed due to “numerous factors” and likely would be held in November.
Georgia has become one of the leading locations for movie and TV productions thanks to a lucrative incentives signed into law in 2005 that allows film companies to earn tax credits for up to 30 percent of what they spend here.
Why Hollywoods Boycott of the Georgia Film Industry Isnt Cut and Dried
In fiscal year 2018, 455 productions were shot in Georgia with an estimated economic impact of $9.5 billion. The state celebrated “Film Day” in March, and state leaders routinely attend premieres of movies shot in Georgia.
The industry has become so influential in state politics that even the fiercest fiscal conservatives see the tax credits as untouchable. That includes Kemp, who said during the campaign he would review every tax incentive except for the film breaks.
Still, the governor said in a recent interview he would not be deterred from supporting socially conservative legislation by threats from the movie industry.
“I cant govern because Im worried about what someone in Hollywood thinks about me,” Kemp said.
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