Brent Lang Executive Editor of Film and Media @BrentALang FOLLOW Brent's Most Recent Stories After Hollywood Speaks Up on Abortion Ban, Georgia Weighs Potential Production Boycott Governors Awards: Geena Davis, David Lynch, Wes Studi, Lina Wertmüller Get Top Prizes Movies, TV Shows Fall Short in Depicting Mental Health Issues (Study) View All Facebook Twitter Reddit Email Show more sharing options LinkedIn WhatsApp Print Pin It Tumblr CREDIT: Courtesy of Jessica Miglio/Netflix Hollywood studios broke their silence last week, threatening to leave Georgia if a controversial new law banning abortions after six weeks goes into effect next year. At risk for the state is some $2.7 billion in direct spending, as well as 92,100 jobs and nearly $4.6 billion in total wages. Opponents of the so-called “heartbeat” bill hope this new outspokenness will sway lawmakers to reconsider their support of the legislation, while others on the ground said they resented outside influence on state politics.
One local politician reminded the studios and streaming giants that his state does not need advice from “the land of Harvey Weinstein,” going directly for the jugular.
“If studios were to all say we’re not returning to Georgia, we’re pulling out, it would be catastrophic economically for the state,” said Amy Steigerwalt, professor of political science at Georgia State University. “A lot of people have moved here for work. A lot of production facilities have been built here. They’re contributing a lot of tax revenue. But at the moment those threats are dependent on this law being implemented.”
Gov. Brian Kemp postponed a trip to Hollywood to court studio executives upset about his support of the anti-abortion “heartbeat” law. Stacey Abrams, his arch-rival, is planning to go instead to try to stem a revolt.
The Democrat is scheduled to meet with Hollywood figures on June 11 in Los Angeles along with Ilyse Hogue, the president of the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America, according to an invitation obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The invite, distributed by former CBS chairwoman Nina Tassler, sets up a session to address the “reality that employees in the state may not have full access to healthcare or the freedom to make decisions about their futures and their families.”
“Many of us have projects in the state. I know it’s complicated,” wrote Tassler. “There’s lots of money and jobs at stake – for us and for the people of Georgia. That’s why Ilyse Hoge and Stacey Abrams want to meet with us.”
Georgia’s booming movie and TV industry, fueled by the nation’s most lucrative film tax incentives, has been on edge since Kemp signed new restrictions into law that would ban abortions as early as six weeks. The law is set to go into effect in January but faces a certain legal challenge that could last years.
Several leading Hollywood actors and producers have promised not to work in Georgia over the law, and most major studios have said they could leave the state if the legislation takes effect. Their boycott threats give them wiggle room, however, since the law is likely to be swiftly blocked in the courts.
The blowback over the abortion law has energized liberals who see it as a threat to women’s health and conservatives who view it as a top legislative priority. And it has sharpened the feud between Kemp and Abrams, bitter opponents in last year’s election who could be poised for a 2022 rematch.
Abrams and her allies have pushed a “#StayAndFight” movement that encourages Hollywood leaders to donate to candidates and groups challenging the law instead of boycotting the state. The industry employs more than 90,000 people in businesses that range from set design to catering.
Abrams told The Los Angeles Times that the fallout “puts us in a unique position to fight back — not only against the legislation here but the legislation around the country — and to fund the defeat of these politicians and their horrible behavior.”
Kemp, meanwhile, has said the law preserves the sanctity of life and upholds a campaign vow to sign the nation’s “toughest” abortion restrictions. And he told Republican activists in Savannah last month he would defend the law “even though that makes C-list celebrities squawk.”
But he postponed an annual state visit to Los Angeles in May to court studio executives amid threats of protests and no-shows and instead conducted a closed-door tour of the state-financed Georgia Film Academy.
He’s been largely silent on the abortion law as a parade of powerful studios, led by Netflix and Disney, have warned they could leave the state if the law takes effect. One reason is because many of the conservatives who helped him win office are squeamish about the tax breaks.
“If there are some in the entertainment industry who don’t want to invest here, there are others who will,” he told The Savannah Morning News after a recent speech. “There are a fair amount of Georgia citizens who disagree with us giving them money — through the tax incentives — to begin with.”
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