Filmmakers Boycott Georgia After New Voting Law, But Why Won’t Hollywood?

A frightful new voting law has filmmakers questioning whether they should continue to film in the peach state.
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Georgia State University

Back in 2019, the state of Georgia passed a controversial abortion law that spurred panic across the country, so much so that it even attracted the attention of Hollywood. Back then, filmmakers toyed with the idea of boycotting the state. This time, Georgia has passed a law that restricts people’s voting rights and filmmakers are threatening to boycott again.

The restrictive new voting law has filmmakers questioning whether or not they should support the economy of a state that inhibits people’s right to vote.

What Exactly is This New Voting Law?

The new law inflicts severe damage to people’s ability to vote and seems to focus on people of color.

Georgia State Capitol Building
Georgia State Capitol Building - Copyright: WhereTraveler

On Thursday, March 25, 2021, a new voting bill, known as Senate Bill 202, was passed in Georgia with support from governor Brian Kemp and fellow state republicans.

The law adds Saturday and Sunday as early voting days (compared to only Monday through Friday) which seemingly improves people’s chances to submit their ballot, right? Wrong.

Sure, some people may be getting an extra chance to vote on weekends, but many residents have reason to believe that the new early voting days are a scheme to get more white voters to the polls while many black residents attend church on Sundays, effectively outweighing the voices of a major demographic.

The law also forbids the handout of food and drink to voters waiting in line from someone other than a poll worker or police officer. It’s not uncommon for polling spots to dislike certain loitering, but this law won’t even let you bring your mom a snack, or your “grandma some water” said Georgia Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler.

Additionally, the time period available to obtain an absentee ballot will be decreased and will require more detailed identification when being submitted.

Dropbox availability and inventory will also diminish, only being available during early voting periods, and leaving many neighborhoods with fewer designated locations to submit their votes.

The mobile voting program, which is the shuttling of voters with disabilities or inhibitions to polling places, will also be eliminated.

James Mangold and Mark Hamill Are Among the First to Boycott

What does a voting law have to do with the film industry?

Hollywood, Georgia, Voting Bill, Boycott, James Mangold, Mark Hamill
James Mangold and Mark Hamill Support Georgia Boycott - Copyright: Hollywood Reporter

On paper, the bill has nothing to do with the film industry. It doesn’t affect the way the industry operates, or change Hollywood’s technical relationships with the state government. But it does affect the people working in the industry, and the people aren’t happy.

Award-winning director James Mangold, the man behind Logan, The Wolverine, and Ford V. Ferrari was the first to say that he “will not design a film in Georgia.” He insinuated that he’d rather give his money to a state that supports voter’s rights, not smushes them.

Mark Hamill, everyone’s favorite Jedi knight, was the second to comment, expressing his agreement with Mangold, and coining the hashtag #NoMoreFilmingInGeorgia. When asked if he was in favor of a boycott, Hamill said “absolutely.”

It all comes down to morals, and whether or not production companies feel comfortable supporting a state that blatantly strips away people’s voting rights, and, frankly, their basic human rights.

Tyler Perry, One of Georgia’s Biggest Film Contributors, Will Not Boycott

Tyler Perry, one of Hollywood’s most lucrative creatives, and one of Georgia’s largest film contributors caution against a boycott.

Tyler Perry, Tyler Perry Studios, Georgia, Boycott, Voting Bill
Tyler Perry Stands Within Self-named "Tyler Perry Studios" Near Atlanta - Copyright: LA Times

Perry explained that he’s been a Georgia-based business owner for many years and that he’s seen political situations like this many times. He hopes that the “[Department of Justice is] taking a hard look at this unconstitutional voter suppression law,” appearing optimistic that the law will fail just as the “anti-abortion bill and LGBTQ discrimination bill” did just a few years ago.

Perry condemns the bill, calling it a “shockwave through Georgia and the nation” that “harkens to the Jim Crowe era.” He’s against the bill, but can’t bring himself to boycott the state he holds most dear.

Boycotting Will Harm Georgia’s Economy and its People

Despite being against the bill, industry leaders like Tyler Perry have good reasons not to boycott.

Atlanta Georgia
Atlanta, Georgia Skyline - Copyright: Dispatchhealth

Georgia has become one of the world’s largest film meccas in recent memory with companies like Disney and Netlfix actively shooting films like Avengers: Endgame and shows like Stranger Things near Atlanta. And with Tyler Perry’s massive creative endeavors and the immense amount of indie and commercial filmmaking, the state is becoming a film empire that can give Los Angeles a run for its money.

According to the Georgia Film Office, it was revealed that the film industry had generated $2.9 billion dollars for Georgia’s state economy in 2020, and had recorded nearly 400 production companies operating within the state in 2019. Not to mention that the industry itself has become a $10 billion machine.

Nearly $3 billion generated for Georgia? That’s a lot of money that can be used for state, neighborhood, and city repair or amenities, and a lot of production companies that can generate a lot of jobs for in-state residents.

Boycotting Georgia might feel good to those in strong opposition to the voting bill, but removing an entire industry from the state would result in thousands of employee layoffs and a harsh decline in Georgia’s income that could potentially harm the state’s economy wellbeing.

Where Will Filmmakers Go If Not Georgia? Back to LA?

Hollywood has been slowly moving from California to Georgia for decades, so what happens if everyone boycotts?

Netflix, Albuquerque Studios, New Mexico, Georgia Boycott
Netflix's Albuquerque Studios - Copyright: CoStar

Production companies realized Georgia was a profitable state for many reasons such as tax breaks, leniency from a government authority, and ideal shooting locations, just to name a few. But this doesn’t mean it’s the only game in town.

Los Angeles is still booming and continues to offer numerous filming benefits which is why Hollywood began there in the first place. It already has an abundance of studios that could take some of the Georgia load, it has good weather and environment for shooting, and has high distribution and population traffic due to being in a major coastal city.

There have also been talks of Hollywood moving to New Mexico, which has been making changes to try and attract production companies with fancy tax deals.

Netflix has already purchased studio space in Albuquerque and plans to invest an additional $1 billion in their endeavors, bringing in a couple of thousand jobs. If that wasn’t enough, Netflix has also made plans to shoot Stranger Things season four at these new studios, a show that used to be filmed in Atlanta. Is this the start of a major Hollywood shift?

Unfortunately, New Mexico lacks certain characteristics that make places like Georgia and California so appealing for filmmaking, such as its bland environment. Despite its beauty, the state looks so blatantly like a dessert which restricts its ability to act as a wide variety of locations that Atlanta and Los Angeles can (cityscapes, outskirts, grassy rural terrain, harbors, etc.). You can’t film a Batman movie in Albuquerque and call it Gotham City, nor can you shoot on location for a film in need of a densely forested setting.

Summary

If Tyler Perry is right, then hopefully this voting bill won’t become law, and we can keep making movies in Georgia and hiring local workers. But even if it doesn’t pass, should we be expecting a shift to New Mexico anyway?

It’s safe to say that Georgia's film influence isn’t going away anytime soon, regardless of the voting bill. There is such a high volume of production companies, and creators like Tyler Perry, who love the state that it’s unrealistic to see filmmaking vanish from Georgia in the blink of an eye. But Netflix’s New Mexico investment does hint at a possible power-shift if the entertainment heavyweight were to boycott.

The concern over Georgia’s employment rate and economic health still remains, however. Should Hollywood be so quick to boycott, dismissing years of investment and people’s livelihoods, or should they push through the turmoil in hope of better days ahead? We’ll have to wait and see.

Chris is a recent Brooklyn College grad who's eager to share his thoughts on entertainment, lifestyle routines, and the state of the world.

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