Georgia has benefited in a big way economically from Hollywood movie production in the state, but that could be changing due to a pending anti-abortion bill that may drive the movie industry away.
Nine prominent Hollywood studios have said they will reconsider filming their projects in Georgia if the “Heartbeat Law” is enacted. On May 7, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill, which would outlaw abortions after six weeks and is scheduled to go into effect in January. The bill is being challenged by the ACLU. Many of those against the bill feel it violates Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court case that protects a woman’s right to an abortion up until when the fetus is viable.
“The state of Georgia is already seeing indications that this will have significant economic impact, regardless of whether the bill is enacted,” says author Meredith Jordan, whose book, Below The Line: Anatomy of a Successful Movie, provides a rare behind-the-scenes look at the making of an A-list Hollywood film that was shot in Georgia. “It’s anecdotal at this point, but there are many, many anecdotes.”
Hollywood was drawn to Georgia largely by tax credits the state provided. The Georgia Department of Economic Development reported that the 455 film and television productions that were filmed in Georgia yielded a total economic impact of $9.5 billion in fiscal year 2018. But that could fall off drastically; nine major studios have issued statements suggesting that if the “Heartbeat Law” is upheld, it would impact whether they did business in the state.
Jordan looks at some signs indicating that Hollywood will back away from shooting in Georgia if the “Heartbeat Law” is enacted:
- A large estate auction. Furniture, costumes, props and other movie production from five major network television shows were auctioned off at a five-day Atlanta event in June. “What’s noteworthy,” Jordan said, “is that while those shows are leaving, the studio has no plans to bring other shows in to replace them, despite the fact they have live leases on those facilities.”
- Actors, actresses pushing back. “Word has circulated that some actors and actresses won’t shoot in Georgia because of the anti-abortion bill,” Jordan says. “One prominent actress on the verge of signing a deal won’t go along with her director preferring to shoot in Georgia. That entire $100 million picture hangs on that one actress, and she won’t do it in Georgia now.”
- Less movie and TV work in Georgia. “Movie crews are reporting less work than was available a year ago,” Jordan says, “and producers candidly admit that it will be much worse this time next year. Some crew who came from LA have already taken shows back there.”
- Less movie-related business. “There’s concern from some of the owners of the dozens of ancillary businesses that have sprouted up to service the movie business,” Jordan says. “It’s the prop and costume houses, Panavision and people who work with grip equipment, those on food trucks and with the catering companies. They can all sense a mass exodus back to Hollywood.”
“Hollywood has moved into a lot of markets in ways that were nearly as extensive as what happened in Georgia — and then left,” Jordan says. “Places like Wilmington, N.C., New Orleans, Toronto, Santa Fe. It certainly can be a fickle business, and a lot of people in Georgia who benefited from the movie production business are going to be adversely affected.”
About Meredith Jordan
Meredith Jordan (http://www.belowthelinebook.com) is the author of Below The Line: Anatomy of a Successful Movie. Jordan, who had the rare experience of being an embedded journalist for an entire Hollywood feature, chronicled the behind-the-scenes happenings in the making of Last Vegas. An award-winning reporter, Jordan worked for East Coast news organizations for 25 years, including Dow Jones & Co., Cox Communications and National Geographic.