In the weeks of debate leading up to the Georgia legislature voting to tighten the restrictions on obtaining an abortion, there was a significant level of outrage. Most of that came from people who do not live in Georgia.
A number of celebrities from Hollywood were in full activist mode. Dozens put their names to a petition pledging to no longer work in the state if the bill became law. An amusing part of their argument has been that their pull-out will only cause productions to select other actors.
Several of the elitist performers have said some issues are more important than the loss of money. They made this argument, oblivious that they were attempting to extort Georgia voters into doing what they wanted or lose significant entertainment dollars.
The influence of these luminaries was so profound that the legislature passed the bill, and Gov. Brian Kemp (not Stacey Abrams) signed it shortly after. So these brazen mouthpieces are now faced with having to follow up on their threats. What has become of those ardently militant celebrities today? The results have been far less than dramatic.
This became a Hollywood issue because Georgia has exploded in the past decade as a destination for film and television production. The effort to offer tax breaks and a union-free labor pool meant studios voted with their wallets and flocked to the region. Now a large number of performers who resent Southern values and despise conservative politics find themselves working in a societal nightmare. The state has been derisively dubbed “Y’all-ywood.”
The first to respond have been smaller players, with not much influence on the industry. Independent filmmakers, such as Mark Duplass and Christine Vachon, have pledged to do no work in the state, but these producers are usually involved in small-budget projects and unlikely to be felt much by Georgia residents.
In an effort to underscore the entertainers’ efforts, Variety dutifully reported on a Kristen Wiig comedy film supposedly leaving. The film “Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar” was said to be fleeing, but it is not entirely accurate statement from the industry paper. The film had only been announced as a Lionsgate property one month earlier. It has not begun production yet, so to say it has “pulled out” of the state is an overstatement.
The movie’s plot concerns two women who take a trip from the Midwest to Florida, and is not set in Georgia. This means it had been initially slated to film there for one purpose: budget. These types of comedies generally have modest budgets, so they likely will be hurting themselves as much, or more, than the workers in Georgia in order to live their values.
Some of the bigger names who have made bold-sounding statements find their stance crumbling under analysis. Players such as writer/director Jordan Peele, and director/producer J.J. Abrams have declared that they will donate their salaries earned on the shooting of “Lovecraft Country” to the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
While this appears to take a strong stand, they continue to work in the state. They will be supporting their cause (likely with tax-deductible donations, blunting the personal suffering) but they are still working within Peach State borders. The local industry is not going to feel a change due to their decision.
Netflix turned heads when it announced that it is contemplating future productions in Georgia as a result of the law. This is a significant difference, in that a defacto studio is making the threat, concerning a wide range of work. It does seem surprising to see a company of this size making a political declaration, but recall this is the outlet that paid millions to the Obamas to create original content for the platform. But even this is a qualified declaration.
Just like actor Jason Bateman’s position on the matter, whose show “Ozark” is a Netflix property that films in Georgia, the bold words seem more like a vague threat of things that may happen in the distant future. Although Deadline Hollywood reports that Netflix is the first studio “to take a stand” against the strict abortion law, it actually has not done so. Netflix and Bateman have said they will continue their work in the area, and wait to see if the law is upheld by the courts.
“Given the legislation has not yet been implemented, we’ll continue to film there — while also supporting partners and artists who choose not to. Should it ever come into effect, we’d rethink our entire investment in Georgia,” he said.
The law will not take effect until January 2020. Any court challenges, including the likelihood of it going to the Supreme Court, will be taking place much further in the future. This is a way to sound like you are taking a stern stand, while allowing the status quo to continue. Note how many of these firm voices are not pulling up stakes and leaving today.
It is important to these celebrities to posture about how they are making the “correct” stance against this new law. In the meantime, these brave-sounding celebrities continue enjoy Georgia’s financial benefits that help get them onto our screens.