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Georgia’s annual Film Day — which on Feb. 27 celebrated the state’s $7 billion film industry — fell at an awkward time this year, as controversial legislation threatens business as usual.
On Feb. 23, the state Senate passed a bill that would make it legal for adoption agencies to not work with same-sex couples. Lawmakers also approved a bill March 1 stripping a major tax break for Delta, an unsubtle punishment for the airline’s decision to ax its discount for National Rifle Association members after the Parkland, Florida, shooting.
That one-two punch of GOP-led bills has drawn ire from Hollywood toward a state that boasted 17 features (Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War) and multiple TV series (AMC’s The Walking Dead, Netflix’s Stranger Things) shooting locally in 2016, thanks to a tax credit of up to 30 percent offered by the state.
“With the institutionalized homophobia that’s coming out of Georgia right now, we have a responsibility to not feed our money into their system,” says Grey’s Anatomy showrunner Krista Vernoff, who calls on producers and talent to insist on riders in their contracts that prohibit their projects from shooting in Georgia. “Showrunners and actors have more power in this than they may be aware,” she adds.
The Black List founder Franklin Leonard tweeted, “Hollywood may need to revisit its willingness to shoot in my home state,” and writer-producer Ben Wexler put it more bluntly, posting, “To my fellow showrunners: If this dumb bill becomes law, let’s be done filming television shows in Georgia.”
Major studios who do business in the state declined comment on the legislation, for now. Execs may be waiting to see if the adoption bill gets passed by the Georgia House, where sources say it’s unlikely to even come to a vote. Vans Stevenson, the MPAA’s senior vp state government affairs, is striking an optimistic tone, saying, “We are confident that Georgia will not enact any kind of legislation that would permit discrimination against any individual.”
To be sure, it’ll take more than threats of a boycott to disrupt the state’s thriving film industry. Though no updated statistics have yet to be released this year, Adrian McDonald, a research analyst for organization FilmL.A., says that the Peach State has showed no signs of slowing down. “They’re still booming,” he says, noting that the state is still “definitely in the top five” filming locations.
Where Georgia might actually feel the repercussions of the legislation is in its chances of becoming home to Amazon’s second headquarters. In January, Atlanta was named one of the tech giant’s 20 finalists with a shot at the influx of 50,000 high-paying jobs and $5 billion in investment, but sources say the likelihood of landing HQ2 (as it’s been dubbed) plummeted in the wake of the bills. “I heard we were in the top five until this mess hit,” gripes one local lobbyist, “but they saw a chance to cater to the pickup truck gunslingers and they did.”
This story first appeared in the March 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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