Watch TV lately and it’s hard to miss the little peach logo indicating the program was shot in Georgia. And shooting, of a different kind, is something with which Georgians appear particularly enamored, having just enacted the U.S.’ most permissive gun law — one that allows good ol’ boys and gals to pack concealed heat just about anywhere, from taverns to schools.
Now, given Hollywood’s complicated relationship with violence — pop culture is accused of contributing to the problem every time some mass shooting renews lobbying efforts for sensible gun control — this raises an interesting question: Would the town’s famously liberal element consider making a statement by saying, in essence, while you’re certainly welcome to turn your otherwise verdant state into one big gun range, we’d just as soon take our business elsewhere?
It’s no great mystery why productions have found their way to Georgia and other nearby locales, such as Louisiana. These states have aggressively pursued tax incentives to lure filmmakers, and feature right-to-work laws that facilitate nonunion shoots.
Notably, Georgia was the scene of the movie “Midnight Rider,” where an accident claimed the life of camera assistant Sarah Jones in February, setting off a vigorous debate about dangers associated with cutting corners on safety concerns.
Still, while many Hollywood honchos are quick to express passion on the subject of guns, nothing puts a spring in their step more than fattening the bottom line.
As a consequence, Georgia is teeming with production. The state is home to a number of series where the deceased perambulate (“The Walking Dead,” “Resurrection”) and witches and vampires cavort (“The Vampire Diaries,” “The Originals”). It also serves as a cut-rate stand-in for Beverly Hills (“Devious Maids”) and hosts multiple series produced by Tyler Perry, to name just a few.
Yet politically, few issues are as unifying among liberals as gun control, especially after galvanizing events like the mass slaying of schoolchildren at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012. In a special issue of Variety following that tragedy, a wide assortment of industry voices weighed in, with many saying it was past time to restore sanity to U.S. gun policy.
Congress, however, failed to act, and the urgency surrounding the issue faded. Meanwhile, the National Rifle Assn., having effectively strategized to thwart legislation, has been aggressive in pushing to relax gun laws further, targeting uncooperative politicians with recalls.
With gun-control proponents floundering for a legislative remedy, perhaps an economic blow, such as relocating Georgia-based productions to a less-armed camp, would at least send a message. Moreover, beyond mere political considerations, here are two pragmatic ones: Do producers really relish the thought of their stars and crews hanging out in a place where guns are so prevalent — where that loudmouth at the next table might very well be one beer away from letting a few shots fly? And doesn’t what opponents have dubbed the “guns everywhere” bill make talent think twice about committing to a project that requires bunking down in Georgia for months, even years?
Of course, film commissions are nothing if not creative in seeking to exploit every possible advantage, so one suspects this argument will receive a pretty good workout either way. While studios are traditionally penny-pinching in choosing locations — going where they can secure the most expedient deal — if they choose to situate their productions in a state that has proudly decided to dial back its gun policy to frontier days, then they have exposed their priorities, despite any claims to the contrary.
Because when it comes to backing up one’s position in favor of gun control, those still opting to lens in Georgia are, as they say down South, all hat, and no cattle.
Oh, and those peach pits? Turns out they might actually be shell casings.