Hollywood likely on midnight train out of Georgia


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.

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.

Nine prominent Hollywood studios have said they will reconsider filming their projects in Georgia if the “Heartbeat Law” is enacted.

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.

Here are some tell-tale signs that I believe 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 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.

ALSO READ: Netflix productions mull leaving Georgia

Actors, actresses pushing back

Word has circulated that some actors and actresses won’t shoot in Georgia because of the anti-abortion bill. 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 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. 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. 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.

  • Wayne Kubacki

    It would seem unnecessarily premature for any vendors or crew to abandon GA until the court challenge to the law is resolved, but likewise, it makes sense until then for studios to delay making new commitments. Time will tell, both as to whether the law is upheld and the resulting negative impact if it is, but big money still talks and GA’s incentive is at the top of the heap (a typical movie with big star salaries will earn twice as much in credits there as they would in IL), and with the exception of folks wanting to stay in the U.S. immediately following 911, all the industry worksite fluctuations so far have been economically driven. So while GA would undoubtedly loose some business, personally, I think it unlikely there would be a huge mass exodus when and if the studios must confront the issue as a reality, rather than a hypothetical. Plus, right to life folks buy movie tickets and watch TV too, so no studio is going to risk being boycotted by making it their company policy to boycott GA, and the movement would have to be driven by individuals. Time will tell, starting with the courts…

    • Meredith Jordan

      Hi Wayne, It’s a great point. It is premature in any logical sense. The law is unlikely to withstand the challenge, given existing precedent that has been tested. You could be right that studios are just delaying. Hopefully, that’s the extent of it. (I lived in Georgia for years and have seen the boon and benefit of Georgia becoming a dominant production center. Not just for Georgia — for Hollywood.) Minimally it would impact projects next year. The law is the trigger concern, and that it somehow withstands the challenge, but also that it could be the tip of the iceberg. The other concern is that present leadership doesn’t support the industry, I’ve continued talking to people about this, and I stand by the piece. (That article was crafted by the publishing company’s PR side but it is accurate as to what I think.) I’m just saying that some studios ARE making changes. Hopefully it will have minimal impact.