Hollywood, an important ally against the “heartbeat” bills in Georgia
Eight big players in the film industry have threatened to boycott all film production in the state if the law is approved.
It seems like another episode of “The Handmaid's Tale.” But it's real life.
In the United States, abortion has been legal at the federal level since 1973. But in recent months, the conservative states of Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Ohio have introduced the most restrictive anti-abortion bills, with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
Known as the "heartbeat bills,” the legislative proposals will ban abortions as soon as the heartbeat of the fetus is detected, something that happens at week six of the pregnancy (when many women sometimes don’t even know they are pregnant).
The only hope for women not to lose the right to choose over their bodies is for this law to be rejected before January 2020.
An unexpected but crucial ally has come to the rescue: Hollywood.
Netflix was the first big Hollywood company/producer — among eight others — that raised its voice against this law: they explicitly threatened Georgia, saying they won’t film or produce anything in the state if the bill is passed. Soon Disney and WarnerMedia joined, followed by artists and big executives in the industry.
The threat against Georgia has been extended to include the other states which have passed restrictive anti-abortion bills, but Georgia, known as "Hollywood of the South," would lose a lot. A lot!
Ranking behind only New York and California, Georgia is one of the most important audiovisual production centers in the United States.
Since 2008, the Peach State has legally offered a 20-percent tax credit for audiovisual productions that invest there that can total more than 500,000 dollars, with the potential to bump it up to a 30-percent credit if the state logo is included in the final credits.
In 2018 alone, 455 productions were filmed in Georgia, employing nearly 100,000 people and earning 2.7 million dollars, according to a report by the Motion Picture Association of America.
What would producers do if this anti-abortion law is passed?
Ted Sarandos, Netflix executive, told Variety that "many women work in our productions in Georgia. Their rights and the right of other millions of people will be severely restricted by this law (...) Since the legislation has not yet been implemented, we will continue filming there, at the same time, we will support partners and artists who choose not to do so. If it ever comes into force [the law], we will reconsider our entire investment in Georgia".
Viral Netflix productions, like "Stranger Things," "Ozark," "Insatiable," and "Raising Dion,” were all filmed in Georgia.
Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, told Reuters that, considering that "many people who work for us will not want to work there, we will have to take care of their wishes about it, and we are studying it very carefully right now." He later assured that "he doubts" that they will keep filming in the state where recent blockbusters like "Black Panther" and "Avengers: Endgame" were filmed.
WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal, AMC, CBS, Sony, and Viacom published their own statements protesting the “heartbeat bills," and also threatening to boycott the state of Georgia. But not everyone is in favor of a boycott of working in the state, even if they reject the conservative law.
Two big Hollywood names, J.J. Abrams ("Star Wars", "Westworld", "Lost") and Jordan Peele ("We", "Run!"), published a joint press release refusing to boycott Georgia and stating that they will continue producing and filming the series "Lovecraft Country" (HBO) in the state.
But they will make a stand anyway.
“We will be standing shoulder to shoulder with the women of Georgia” (...) “Governor Kemp’s ‘Fetal Heartbeat’ Abortion Law is an unconstitutional effort to further restrict women and their health providers from making private medical decisions on their terms. Make no mistake, this is an attack aimed squarely and purposely at women. We stand with Stacey Abrams and the hardworking people of Georgia and will donate 100% of our respective episodic fees for this season to two organizations leading the charge against this draconian law: the ACLU of Georgia and Fair Fight Georgia. We encourage those who are able to funnel any and all resources to these organizations," they explained in the joint statement.
It remains to be seen whether the heartbeat bill in Georgia is passed, and whether that in turn means the Peach State will forever fall from favor in Hollywood.