Despite accusations of voter suppression and calls for a boycott from Judd Apatow and other top Hollywood figures, the film and television industry is unlikely to pull out of Georgia. Films such as “Venom” and shows such as “The Walking Dead” have been flocking to the Peach State for years, drawn by its generous tax incentives and seasoned crews.
However, that relationship has been strained by the election of Brian Kemp as governor. The conservative Republican isn’t just raising the entertainment industry’s ire due to his views. Figures such as Apatow, Bradley Whitford, Alyssa Milano, and “Veep” producer Frank Rich are outraged over claims that Kemp used his position as secretary of state to purge the voter rolls and make it harder for minorities and supporters of his opponent Stacey Abrams to cast their ballot.
A successful boycott could rob Georgia of an estimated $2.7 billion in annual direct spending and imperil an estimated 25,000 jobs. Currently, several films and shows are shooting in the state, including a live-action remake of “Lady and the Tramp” and the Michael B. Jordan drama “Just Mercy,” and companies such as Tyler Perry Studios are based in Atlanta.
So far, no Hollywood companies have said they will stop shooting in Georgia and privately they are signaling that no such move is imminent. They may have also gotten some cover from Abrams. The Democratic candidate plans to file a federal lawsuit against the state for gross mismanagement of the election, but even as she asked Rich and others to support that cause, she urged them to reconsider any boycott.
“I appreciate the calls to action, but I ask all of our entertainment industry friends to support #FairFightGA – but please do not #boycottgeorgia,” Abrams tweeted on Saturday. “The hard-working Georgians who serve on crews & make a living here are not to blame. I promise: We will fight – and we will win.”
The Motion Picture Association of America, the movie business’ main lobbying arm, is not taking a public position on any electoral improprieties. However, individuals close to the situation say the group believes that despite his public stances, Kemp is a center-rightist who is very much committed to keeping the policies of the current Republican governor Nathan Deal in place. Deal has been very supportive of the production incentives, and Kemp has also said they are good for the state. Abrams also supported the incentives during her run.
On the campaign trail, Kemp said he would support a “religious freedom” bill that would allow businesses to decline to serve same-sex couples if the owners did not support gay marriage, for instance. If he makes good on that threat, Hollywood companies would likely pull business from the state. However, that threat, plus the fact that the Super Bowl is being hosted in Atlanta in roughly two months may mean that Kemp is inclined to curry favor with the business community and keep his more far-right supporters at bay.
If not, there’s a cautionary tale in the recent past that might serve as an incentive. In 2016, North Carolina passed a law mandating that transgender people use public bathrooms that corresponded to their sex at birth. In response, Bruce Springsteen cancelled concerts, sporting events went elsewhere, companies such as Viacom and Netflix slammed the legislation, and PayPal cancelled plans to expand its presence in the state. Ultimately, the state legislature modified the bill to make it less discriminatory and a new governor pushed to expand LGBTQ protections. Hollywood hopes that kind of backlash will prevent Kemp from making moves that might encourage it to steer clear of Georgia.
A spokesperson for Kemp and the George Film Music & Digital Entertainment Office did not respond to requests for comment.