Hollywoods big players stay quiet on Georgia abortion law – Minneapolis Star Tribune

Hollywood\s big players stay quiet on Georgia abortion law - Minneapolis Star Tribune

Hollywoods big players stay quiet on Georgia abortion law

By Chad Ress/The New York Times/Redux.Over the last several decades, Georgia has become known as the Hollywood of the South. It’s become one of America’s top movie and TV locations, thanks to generous tax incentives; in 2017, it surpassed California as a shooting site for the highest-grossing domestic films, and it’s also the backdrop for many TV shows, including Netflix’s Stranger Things and Ozark, AMC’s The Walking Dead, and the forthcoming HBO series Watchmen. But on May 7, when Georgia governor Brian Kemp signed into law an extreme “fetal heartbeat” bill that bans women in the state from having abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, the film community’s many liberal denizens began questioning the industry’s future in the state.

A handful of Hollywood producers and production outfits such as David Simon, Killer Films (First Reformed), Color Force (Crazy Rich Asians), and Mark Duplass vowed to boycott the state in the wake of the law. “Don’t give your business to Georgia,” Duplass tweeted last week. “Will you pledge with me not to film anything in Georgia until they reverse this backwards legislation?” Actress Zoe Kazan joined in, tweeting, "Actors, producers, directors: refuse to film in georgia & alabama. call the governors, tell them why."

Yesterday, in an interview with the LA Times, Abrams offered Hollywood an alternative to a boycott: Stay and help join the fight.

Amy Berg, a show-runner known for her work on Counterpart, Eureka, and Leverage, also supports a boycott. “It’s disturbing as hell that these men think they can legislate our bodies and we need to band together with our male allies to make them feel the consequences of their decisions,” she told me by e-mail. “They clearly don’t care about our rights, at least we can make them care about their money.”

Homepage Local Earthquakes Data Desk California Times OC California Journal Education Readers Representative Journal Local + L.A. Now Politics Business Company Town Autos Michael Hiltzik Consumer Confidential Business + Auto + Nation Politics Entertainment Arts & Culture Hero Complex Movies Television Music Gossip Envelope TV Listings Entertainment + Opinion Op-Ed Opinion L.A. Editorials Readers React Top of the Ticket Endorsements Food Sports Dodgers Lakers USC UCLA Clippers Rams Chargers Boxing & MMA High School Varsity Times Angels Kings Soccer Ducks Olympics MLB NBA NFL More Sports World Afghanistan & Pakistan Africa Asia Brazil Europe Mexico & The Americas Middle East Obituaries Real Estate Hot Property California Living Fashion Health & Wellness L.A. Affairs Pets Home & Garden Books Health + Living Plus + Technology Science Travel Cruises Mexico & Latin America Theme Parks Travel + Visuals Graphics L.A. Times en Español Sabor EEUU Entretenimiento Internacional México Política Vida y Estilo Deportes E-Newspaper Design LA Extras Find/Post a job Games Comics Shop Los Angeles Times Archives Los Angeles Times Store Los Angeles Times Photos Local Ads Marketplace About L.A. Times careers Press Releases Staff Directory Search xml:space=”preserve”> Local Politics Sports Entertainment Opinion Politics Stacey Abrams weighs in on abortion bans, boycotts and California By Jenny Jarvie May 15, 2019 | 12:55 PM | Atlanta Stacey Abrams, a former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, in Atlanta last year. (Alyssa Pointer / Associated Press) Stacey Abrams, the rising Democratic star who narrowly lost a bitterly contested race last year for Georgia governor, launched a campaign this week to urge opponents of the states stringent new abortion ban to donate to local groups fighting for reproductive rights.

Berg and others calling for a Georgia boycott hoped the entertainment industry would follow en masse. But there has been little immediate response from studios or other major players in the industry, and a great deal of pushback from Georgians. Lisa Ferrell, a producer and co-president of the Georgia Production Partnership, expressed the feelings of many locals when she said in a statement that she opposes “any calls for a boycott of Georgia by some members of the industry outside of Georgia. We feel this would primarily hurt those of us who live here and work in the entertainment industry.” Berg countered, “I feel terrible for those in the film community there as surely they’ll be affected by any lasting boycott, but unfortunately this issue is larger than any one of us. . . We’ve already seen the momentum of these attacks carry into other states. This is a national crisis.”

Why Are Hollywoods Biggest Studios and Stars Silent on Georgias New Abortion Law?

Another veteran television producer acknowledged that the current situation is an ethical and financial quagmire. “The most difficult and uncomfortable thing for a corporation at this moment is trying to decide how much of a stand they are allowed to take,” said the producer, whose own studio is currently “working with their show-runners and with their creatives and with corporate to make decisions about what their move is going to be.”

On the TV front, no series has offered more of a boost to Georgia's film economy than AMC's The Walking Dead, which is in the midst its tenth season in Atlanta. Two MRC projects that feature Bateman in both behind-the-scenes and onscreen roles, Netflix's Ozark and HBO's The Outsider, are currently filming in the state. "If the 'heartbeat bill' makes it through the court system, I will not work in Georgia, or any other state, that is so disgracefully at odds with women’s rights," Bateman tells THR. MRC declined to comment, though a source close to the company confirmed a donation was made to the Georgia chapter of the ACLU. (Valence Media, the parent company of THR, also owns MRC.) OWN is shooting two TV shows there, Ambitions and Greenleaf. Comedy Central has a new series Robbie, starring Beau Bridges and Rory Scovel. DC Universe is in production on Stargirl, while the YouTube series Cobra Kai is also films in Georgia. Other TV series about to start shooting in the state include ABC's The Baker and the Beauty, Fox's Deputy, CBS' MacGyver and TBS' Miracle Workers.

Studios will have to face this problem head on, if only because the rights and safety of their female employees may be at stake if they work in states with these new laws, this producer said. (Alabama also made headlines this week for passing an extremely restrictive abortion bill.) The Georgia bill has drawn particular ire; it allows the state to prosecute women who get abortions, and could possibly embroil a woman who miscarries in legal proceedings as well. “They’re going to need to put language in the union contract about a crew member who needs to return home to deal with reproductive issues or gets arrested for having a miscarriage within the state line of Georgia,” said the veteran producer.

Since Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed the so-called "heartbeat" bill last Tuesday, banning abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy, most major studios that regularly take advantage of Georgia's generous 30 percent tax incentives have stayed quiet on the matter, and none have altered production plans. In fact, some filmmakers have announced publicly that they intend to move forward with their shoots in the state but at the same time have pledged to donate money to organizations fighting the legislation, namely the ACLU of Georgia and Fair Fight Georgia. Earlier this week, J.J. Abrams and Jordan Peele vowed to donate 100 percent of their episodic fees on their upcoming HBO drama Lovecraft County to both groups, while producers Peter Chernin and Jenno Topping — who will soon film Fox's Fear Street trilogy and Starz' drama series P-Valley in the state — have committed to giving a "significant donation" to the latter organization.

Gabrielle Carteris, president of the actors guild SAG-AFTRA, weighed in on the law—which is set to take effect in January 2020, though there’s a good possibility it’ll get held up in court—and its potential implications for actors on Wednesday: “The safety of SAG-AFTRA members is paramount. If any of these or other laws put our members at risk in their work environment, we will aggressively combat that through legislative advocacy, legal advocacy, and litigation, including our active amicus program, as well as partnership with other organizations working to reverse the impact of such laws or policies in the workplace. And, as always, I will be standing front and center to ensure that.”

The biggest challenge is for productions that are already in progress or poised to begin shooting in Georgia. That was the situation for Misha Green’s HBO series Lovecraft Country; the show’s producers, Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams, announced last week that they would proceed with the Georgia shoot as planned, but that they would donate their own episodic fees for the season to two charities fighting the anti-abortion law, the A.C.L.U. of Georgia and Fair Fight Georgia. The two also encouraged others to follow their path, suggesting that anyone who is able should “funnel any and all resources to these organizations.” On Wednesday, Chernin Entertainment made a similar move, announcing that it would continue to produce its P-Valley TV series and Fear Street trilogy in Georgia while donating to the A.C.L.U.

Joining them now is Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, who are slated to film the Amy Adams-led Netflix movie Hillbilly Elegy in the state later this month. "After much thought and deliberation, we decided to continue with shooting Hillbilly Elegy in Georgia next month," the Imagine Entertainment partners tell The Hollywood Reporter in an exclusive statement. "We felt we could not abandon the hundreds of women, and men, whose means of support depend on this production – including those who directly contribute on the film, and the businesses in the community that sustain the production. We see Governor Kemp’s bill as a direct attack on women’s rights, and we will be making a donation to the ACLU to support their battle against this oppressive legislation. Should this law go into effect in January, we will boycott the state as a production center."

For many in Hollywood, the complicated decision on how to proceed requires balancing ethical concerns and personal relationships, as well as financial questions. “I have heard a lot from people locally, and specifically women of color, who are saying, ‘Don't leave us. We need you to keep our communities employed, so that we can continue to have the voices and the resources to fight this at the ground level.’ And that is something I take very seriously,” said Julie Plec, show-runner for The Vampire Diaries and The Originals—who has shot various series in Atlanta for 10 years. “What I have witnessed over the last decade is a city blossoming into a very thriving community full of great liberal energy, compassion, and progress. And I’d hate to leave that community to the wolves.”

Still, those studios have several projects filming in Georgia in the meantime. Netflix has the most projects of any single company. Its highest profile series to shoot in the state is Stranger Things, though the sci-fi drama wrapped production on its upcoming third season last summer and has yet to be officially renewed for a fourth season. The streamer does, however, have several projects currently shooting there: Debby Ryan dramedy Insatiable (castmember Alyssa Milano has been vocal and called for a sex strike), Dolly Parton's holiday musical Christmas on the Square, hybrid animation series The Liberator and rom-com Holidate, starring Kristin Chenoweth, Emma Roberts, Jessica Capshaw and Andrew Bachelor. The Jenji Kohan-produced comedy series Slutty Teenage Bounty Hunters is also scheduled to film in Georgia later this year.

Plec said that many people have moved to Georgia and built a life as part of the thriving entertainment industry there. “I personally employ several hundred people that I would feel terrible not employing,” she said. “That being said, if this had happened first in a state that I didn’t have a vested or personal interest in, I’m sure I would have been one of the loudest voices screaming ‘boycott.’ What is happening is so grotesque and horrible. And money talks, and the loss of money is punishing. I am taking everything into consideration while I solidify my position.”

Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the race for governorship to Kemp in a contested election, told the Los Angeles Times that she does not personally support an economic boycott, and believes it might have the counterproductive step of helping those who support the law demonize Hollywood. Instead, Abrams suggests using “the entertainment industry’s energy to support and fund the work that we need to do on the ground because Georgia is on the cusp of being able to transform our political system.”

The four companies are taking the advice of prominent Georgia figures like former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who are cautioning against boycotts, alleging that they only serve to hurt the local film community and not the lawmakers. And while at least five production companies have said they'd boycott filming in the state in the days following the passage of the bill, some critics question whether those ourfits — which include Christine Vachon's Killer Films, David Simon's Blown Deadline Productions, Mark Duplass' Duplass Brothers Productions, Nina Jacobson's Colorforce and Neal Dodson's CounterNarrative — would have ever shot in the state anyway, and if such proclamations actually have any impact on Georgia's robust film business at all.

Several industry people that I spoke to who did not having pending productions in Georgia also suggested that they would wait to decide on a course of action until the law actually goes into effect, since it seems designed—like the legislation percolating through other states, including Ohio and Alabama—to trigger a Supreme Court reconsideration of Roe v. Wade.

“I don’t know any female show-runners who would set up shop in Georgia right now,” said Berg. “Ohio and Alabama don’t have established film communities; otherwise they’d be on the no-fly list as well.”

Of course, the attention turned briefly to Alabama on Tuesday night when lawmakers in the state passed an abortion bill even stricter than the Georgia legislation. (Georgia's includes exceptions for rape and incest, while Alabama's does not.) Even though sources can only point to one noteworthy film currently shooting in Alabama — the Spike Lee produced civil rights drama Son of the South, starring Lucy Hale and Lucas Till — Georgia film industry insiders can't help but welcome the distraction. "Thank goodness for Alabama," quips one source. "At least we have one state that's worse than we are."

In the meantime, Kemp has cancelled an upcoming trip to Los Angeles, according to Deadline. He was scheduled to meet with film and TV executives—but, as his press secretary told the trade, Kemp instead will tour local production studios to “reaffirm his commitment to the film industry in our state.”

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Georgia's controversial abortion bill has sent Hollywood into a panic as filmmakers and studio executives grapple with how to protest the conservative legislation yet still keep their $3 billion business in the state.

Over the last several decades, Georgia has become known as the Hollywood of the South. It’s become one of America’s top movie and TV locations, thanks to generous tax incentives; in 2017, it surpassed California as a shooting site for the highest-grossing domestic films, and it’s also the backdrop for many TV shows, including Netflix’s Stranger Things and Ozark, AMC’s The Walking Dead, and the forthcoming HBO series Watchmen. But on May 7, when Georgia governor Brian Kemp signed into law an extreme “fetal heartbeat” bill that bans women in the state from having abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, the film community’s many liberal denizens began questioning the industry’s future in the state.

A handful of Hollywood producers and production outfits such as David Simon, Killer Films (First Reformed), Color Force (Crazy Rich Asians), and Mark Duplass vowed to boycott the state in the wake of the law. “Don’t give your business to Georgia,” Duplass tweeted last week. “Will you pledge with me not to film anything in Georgia until they reverse this backwards legislation?” Actress Zoe Kazan joined in, tweeting, "Actors, producers, directors: refuse to film in georgia & alabama. call the governors, tell them why."

Amy Berg, a show-runner known for her work on Counterpart, Eureka, and Leverage, also supports a boycott. “It’s disturbing as hell that these men think they can legislate our bodies and we need to band together with our male allies to make them feel the consequences of their decisions,” she told me by e-mail. “They clearly don’t care about our rights, at least we can make them care about their money.”

Berg and others calling for a Georgia boycott hoped the entertainment industry would follow en masse. But there has been little immediate response from studios or other major players in the industry, and a great deal of pushback from Georgians. Lisa Ferrell, a producer and co-president of the Georgia Production Partnership, expressed the feelings of many locals when she said in a statement that she opposes “any calls for a boycott of Georgia by some members of the industry outside of Georgia. We feel this would primarily hurt those of us who live here and work in the entertainment industry.” Berg countered, “I feel terrible for those in the film community there as surely they’ll be affected by any lasting boycott, but unfortunately this issue is larger than any one of us. . . We’ve already seen the momentum of these attacks carry into other states. This is a national crisis.”

Another veteran television producer acknowledged that the current situation is an ethical and financial quagmire. “The most difficult and uncomfortable thing for a corporation at this moment is trying to decide how much of a stand they are allowed to take,” said the producer, whose own studio is currently “working with their show-runners and with their creatives and with corporate to make decisions about what their move is going to be.”

Studios will have to face this problem head on, if only because the rights and safety of their female employees may be at stake if they work in states with these new laws, this producer said. (Alabama also made headlines this week for passing an extremely restrictive abortion bill.) The Georgia bill has drawn particular ire; it allows the state to prosecute women who get abortions, and could possibly embroil a woman who miscarries in legal proceedings as well. “They’re going to need to put language in the union contract about a crew member who needs to return home to deal with reproductive issues or gets arrested for having a miscarriage within the state line of Georgia,” said the veteran producer.

Gabrielle Carteris, president of the actors guild SAG-AFTRA, weighed in on the law—which is set to take effect in January 2020, though there’s a good possibility it’ll get held up in court—and its potential implications for actors on Wednesday: “The safety of SAG-AFTRA members is paramount. If any of these or other laws put our members at risk in their work environment, we will aggressively combat that through legislative advocacy, legal advocacy, and litigation, including our active amicus program, as well as partnership with other organizations working to reverse the impact of such laws or policies in the workplace. And, as always, I will be standing front and center to ensure that.”

The biggest challenge is for productions that are already in progress or poised to begin shooting in Georgia. That was the situation for Misha Green’s HBO series Lovecraft Country; the show’s producers, Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams, announced last week that they would proceed with the Georgia shoot as planned, but that they would donate their own episodic fees for the season to two charities fighting the anti-abortion law, the A.C.L.U. of Georgia and Fair Fight Georgia. The two also encouraged others to follow their path, suggesting that anyone who is able should “funnel any and all resources to these organizations.” On Wednesday, Chernin Entertainment made a similar move, announcing that it would continue to produce its P-Valley TV series and Fear Street trilogy in Georgia while donating to the A.C.L.U.

For many in Hollywood, the complicated decision on how to proceed requires balancing ethical concerns and personal relationships, as well as financial questions. “I have heard a lot from people locally, and specifically women of color, who are saying, ‘Don't leave us. We need you to keep our communities employed, so that we can continue to have the voices and the resources to fight this at the ground level.’ And that is something I take very seriously,” said Julie Plec, show-runner for The Vampire Diaries and The Originals—who has shot various series in Atlanta for 10 years. “What I have witnessed over the last decade is a city blossoming into a very thriving community full of great liberal energy, compassion, and progress. And I’d hate to leave that community to the wolves.”

Plec said that many people have moved to Georgia and built a life as part of the thriving entertainment industry there. “I personally employ several hundred people that I would feel terrible not employing,” she said. “That being said, if this had happened first in a state that I didn’t have a vested or personal interest in, I’m sure I would have been one of the loudest voices screaming ‘boycott.’ What is happening is so grotesque and horrible. And money talks, and the loss of money is punishing. I am taking everything into consideration while I solidify my position.”

Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the race for governorship to Kemp in a contested election, told the Los Angeles Times that she does not personally support an economic boycott, and believes it might have the counterproductive step of helping those who support the law demonize Hollywood. Instead, Abrams suggests using “the entertainment industry’s energy to support and fund the work that we need to do on the ground because Georgia is on the cusp of being able to transform our political system.”

Several industry people that I spoke to who did not having pending productions in Georgia also suggested that they would wait to decide on a course of action until the law actually goes into effect, since it seems designed—like the legislation percolating through other states, including Ohio and Alabama—to trigger a Supreme Court reconsideration of Roe v. Wade.

“I don’t know any female show-runners who would set up shop in Georgia right now,” said Berg. “Ohio and Alabama don’t have established film communities; otherwise they’d be on the no-fly list as well.”

In the meantime, Kemp has cancelled an upcoming trip to Los Angeles, according to Deadline. He was scheduled to meet with film and TV executives—but, as his press secretary told the trade, Kemp instead will tour local production studios to “reaffirm his commitment to the film industry in our state.”

TV and movie industries largely ignore call for a boycott on filming in Georgia over the states heartbeat abortion law; reaction and analysis on The Five.

Georgia and Hollywood are worlds away from one another, physically and culturally, but irresistible tax incentives have turned the state into a filming powerhouse dubbed "Hollywood of the South." Productions as big as Marvel Studios' superhero blockbusters and shows like "Stranger Things" and "The Walking Dead" call the state home base, and some have not shied away from throwing their weight around when values clash with proposed laws.

But in the week since Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law one of the nation's most restrictive abortion laws, none of the major film or television studios have commented on the issue or altered production plans. The backlash has been limited to smaller production companies, like Color Force ("Crazy Rich Asians"), Killer Films ("First Reformed"), "The Wire" creator David Simon of Blown Deadline Productions (HBO's "The Deuce") and the Duplass Brothers Productions (HBO's "Room 104"). Some actors and actresses, like Alyssa Milano, Mark Hamill and Mandy Moore, have suggested they will boycott filming in the state.

Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams, meanwhile, are proceeding with plans to shoot their HBO show "Lovecraft County" in Georgia in the next few weeks, but have said that they will donate 100 percent their "episodic fees" to organizations fighting the law including the ACLU of Georgia and Fair Fight Georgia.

The muted reaction is in striking contrast to what happened just three years ago when Netflix and Disney threatened to pull productions if a law allowing faith-based refusal of services to LGBTQ persons was passed. Other companies also publicly denounced that proposed law, including AMC, Time Warner, Lionsgate, Sony, NBC Universal and CBS.

Georgia's "heartbeat bill" would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant. Unless it's blocked in court, it is set to go into effect in 2020. The ACLU has already said the group will mount a legal challenge.

"Film and television production in Georgia supports more than 92,000 jobs and brings significant economic benefits to communities and families," said Chris Ortman, a spokesman for the industry lobbying group The Motion Picture Association of America in a statement last week. "It is important to remember that similar legislation has been attempted in other states, and has either been enjoined by the courts or is currently being challenged."

Some believe knowing they still have time until 2020 is part of the reason big entertainment industry players haven't spoken out yet. Another is that for some the issue intersects with religious beliefs and few companies want to wade into that territory. Others point to resistance to boycotts among critics of the law in Georgia.

Matt Donnelly, a senior film writer for the Hollywood trade Variety, noted that the same day some called for boycotts, there were also a "wave of stories that it had fizzled out" in part because of pledges like the one Abrams and Peele made to donate money but keep production in the state.

"That to me is a sort of murky pivot that allows people to keep their jobs and tax rebates and also seemingly support the cause," Donnelly said. "(It's) more of a solution for Hollywood than it is addressing the values and the morality the boycott raises for women across this industry."

The issue is bound to get only more complex, as the governor in neighboring Alabama on Wednesday signed the nation's most stringent anti-abortion measure into law . Louisiana, another favored filming venue that offers generous tax incentives, moved closer to approving its version of a fetal "heartbeat bill."

Kemp recently postponed an annual trip to promote his state's film industry in Los Angeles after Georgia film executives worried that protests and no-shows could taint the industry mixer, The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.

Many Georgians, from politicians to the people who work on film sets, worry about the adverse effects of the law.

Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost a contentious gubernatorial race against Kemp, tweeted Wednesday that she respects the calls for a boycott, "but I do not believe it is the most effective, strategic choice for change."

Georgia's Democratic lawmakers have urged Hollywood to keep production in the state. Boycotts, some say, are not the response they're looking for.

The impact would not only be felt by actors, directors and writers but also by low-income Georgians and small businesses contracted to provide catering, maintenance and construction, said Crystal Redman, executive director of SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, a grassroots Georgia group that has advocated against the abortion law.

Molly Coffee, a film production designer in Georgia, helped start a petition with other women in the film industry urging Hollywood not to leave the state and emphasizing her commitment to fight the new abortion law.

"It's very easy, from California, to make a statement that you're not going to spend your dollars in Georgia," Coffee said. "It's important for people to ask the women of Georgia how they feel."

"I understand the power of a boycott but I'm not in favor of any Georgian losing their job because when women lose their jobs the first thing that goes is women's health care," Fox said. "They stop accessing birth control or stop getting pap smears and then we get in this loop where now we're facing unintended pregnancy."

Fox instead urged those with big platforms to remind Georgians that abortion is still legal, adding that the organization is getting hundreds of confused phone calls from concerned women.

Heather Hutton, a filmmaker in Georgia who started out working on set design for "The Walking Dead," said she would like to see Hollywood stay and fight.

"Women would like to see Hollywood stand next to us and fight with us because we don't have deep pockets like they do," she said.


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