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.
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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 Gov. Brian Kemp Delays Hollywood Film Trip Amid Backlash To Anti-Abortion Bill
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.
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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.
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.
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.
Georgia state Representative Renitta Shannon wrote to VICE that while boycotts can be effective, they adversely impact actual residents. This is a two-part answer: History has shown us that economic boycotts are effective, think the Montgomery Boycotts of the 60s,” Shannon said. “When those in power show that they have no regard for the human rights of an entire class of people, major losses in revenue—which almost always has political repercussions—are the only thing they understand. The problem is that a Hollywood Boycott would hurt workers who didnt ask for womens bodily autonomy to be stripped and dont support this regressive policy. It would hurt small businesses and the hospitality industry, both of which have grown because of all of the filming, and any loss in revenue will come from our state budget which more than 50% of goes to schools. Republicans are always walking around the House chamber saying they dont want the film industry in Georgia because it brings those kinds of people who dont have family values, but these are the same Reps who cant wait to spend the revenue brought in by the filming industry every year.
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.”
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 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.
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.
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.
Georgia governor postpones L.A. visit amid Hollywood clash over abortion 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.
Georgia Governor Puts Hollywood Trip On Hold After Heartbeat Bill Signing
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.
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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