Fox, History Shows Will Continue Filming in North Carolina Despite Anti-LGBT Law
TV shows and films have yet to relocate production after numerous Southern states passed a wave of new laws. Says openly gay Mississippi native Tate Taylor, who directed two movies in the state: "It's going to be my job — and I anticipate it being a struggle — to convince [financiers] about the real hearts and souls of Mississippians."
This story first appeared in the May 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr and Pearl Jam may have canceled performances in North Carolina to protest new anti-LGBT legislation, but it appears to be business as usual for most Hollywood studios that film in the state and others in the South that have pushed through (or are considering) similar legislation.
Among the projects that quietly are proceeding in North Carolina: TNT's Michelle Dockery drama Good Behavior, History's military drama Six, Lionsgate's TV remake of Dirty Dancing and Fox's police-shooting drama Shots Fired. And in Mississippi, which passed a "religious freedom" law April 5 allowing businesses to deny services to members of the LGBT community, filming will go on for programs like HGTV's renovation show Home Town and Lifetime's dance-competition docuseries Bring It!
Though Hollywood executives privately have expressed shock about the wave of new laws, studios have not come forward with the same public gravitas as when Disney, Lionsgate and others helped convince Georgia to back off an anti-LGBT bill in early April (Gov. Nathan Deal likely was nervous its film industry, which has a $6 billion impact in the state, would be in jeopardy). The lack of industry response to Mississippi and North Carolina — whose film businesses don't match Georgia's but together produced $965 million in economic impact in 2015 thanks in part to state incentives — was troubling enough to CAA partner Bryan Lourd that he summoned some of Hollywood's most influential figures to an April 20 meeting at his home to determine, in his words, how to "help push those states that are openly discriminating against LGBT people."
To be sure, the laws (and the potential for one in Tennessee) have caused outrage among talent. "I'm choosing not to work in any state that is intolerant of its fellow man," Sharon Stone tells THR, noting that she and director James Cromwell are relocating their anti-bullying short The Principle out of Mississippi. "We have leaders … who are running campaigns based on fear, and that's a contagion." Tracy Morgan canceled an April 29 comedy show in Robinsonville, Miss., and Ellen DeGeneres blasted the state for being "the definition of discrimination."
Some filmmakers might denounce the legislation, but they aren't exactly ready to back a boycott. Openly gay Mississippi native Tate Taylor, who shot The Help and Get On Up in the state, calls the law "ludicrous Saturday Night Live fodder" but still intends to make his next four films there. "Whether financiers will agree to it based on what's happening, I don't know. It's going to be my job — and I anticipate it being a struggle — to convince them about the real hearts and souls of Mississippians," says the director, who insists the local film community, not the state legislature, would suffer most from a boycott. But should Taylor's stars feel uncomfortable shooting in the state, he'll likely make accommodations. "Funny enough," he adds, "my home is 6 miles from the Louisiana border. Don't think I haven't thought about that."
Another Mississippi native, Mississippi Grind producer Tom Rice, shot John Krasinski's The Hollars in his home state. He says the bill is "heartbreaking" and doesn't reflect the Mississippi people. "Every crewmember I know is adamantly posting [online] against this bill," he says. As far as future films go, Rice acknowledges the challenge of staying in business there: "I'm not going to come out and say I'm going to boycott it, but I'm not anxiously looking to go back there."