In response to the introduction of multiple “heartbeat bills” across the country, actress and advocate Alyssa Milano has created a shoot location tool for filmmakers that lists the status of abortion legislation in all 50 states. The bills have caused uproar in Hollywood and inspired boycotts in production-heavy states like Georgia.
“Following the passage of a number of draconian attacks on a pregnant person’s right to choose in 2019, including those in states in which the motion picture and television industries conduct significant business, it has become apparent that those in our industry need to be able to make informed choices,” Milano and activist co-author Ben Jackson said in a mission statement accompanying the report.
The survey, published exclusively with Variety, is meant to help actors, producers, directors and studios decide “where it is safe for women to work.”
In April, Milano was entrenched in a star-fronted effort to move Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to reject his state’s heartbeat bill (HB 481), which Kemp ultimately signed in May. Milano currently resides in Georgia, where the Netflix original “Insatiable” shoots. After Kemp signed the legislation, the actress vowed she would leave her show if the bill was not struck down by a higher court, and if Netflix continued to shoot in the state. The streaming giant, which also films additional shows like the cultural sensation “Stranger Things” in Georgia, said that it would reconsider all of its investment in the state if the bill is signed into law.
“Since then, I’ve been fielding these inquiries about where productions could shoot,” Milano said of calls and messages she’s received from friends across show business. Her state-by-state document is the result of a month of research, enlisting the National Assn. for the Repeal of Abortion Laws and the political encyclopedia Ballotpedia as primary sources.
Chief among the offerings is a map of the country that color-codes states as “most threatened,” “under threat,” or “least threatened” by restrictive abortion laws.
In Colorado, for instance, productions get a 20% tax credit on qualified expenditures as long as 50% of crew members are state residents. Colorado also has no major pending abortion laws or existing bans, so that state gets a “least threatened” grade. Florida, on the other hand, has introduced the notion of a six-week abortion ban and currently has no tax incentive for film and TV. The survey looks exclusively at abortion law, though other human rights issues like LGBTQ equality have previously threatened production in places like North Carolina.
Milano is also in early discussions with Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to develop a mobile app for location managers and scouts in Georgia, one that would “guarantee we can spend money in places that will not fund voter suppression, inequality and the stripping away of anyone’s rights.”
The app in consideration is similar in spirit to political app MiniVAN, a tool used in voter canvassing that helps campaigns track citizens’ political affiliation down to the city block and specific residence.
“I asked if there was a version we could create with maps to the block of people that support a progressive policy, versus homes that are supporting a hurtful policy. Can we use these to pinpoint in red states where it is safe for productions to spend their money? She thought it was a brilliant idea,” Milano said.
Bottoms is said to be vetting voter data from her own election to map the city of Atlanta, and is encouraging local tech companies to engage.
“A woman’s health care decisions should remain between her, her doctor and her maker. Atlanta has a robust tech community that could potentially assist with leveraging the kind of data and information Alyssa is discussing,” Bottoms told Variety.
The idea for the app came to Milano when she was shooting an episode of “Insatiable” this month, about 90 minutes outside of the “blue pocket” of Atlanta.
“I walk into this house that someone owns and rents out for production, and in front of the sink is a ‘Brian Kemp for Governor’ kitchen mat,’ she said, “So I think to myself, every time we shoot on location outside of Atlanta, we are funding a hurtful policy.”
Milano estimates that “Insatiable” producers spent $30,000 for two days on that shoot — money she’d like to see go to Georgia residents aligned with pro-choice thinking — which is also in line with the fact that “70 percent of the country who believe in safe, legal abortions,” she said.
Milano is supportive of the local film industry and hopes to find a productive way to help save jobs in the state and at the same time protect women’s reproductive rights.
“The original idea was to prevent Gov. Kemp from signing this bill,” said the actress. “We in the entertainment industry pride ourselves on inclusivity, equality and choice. All of these really symbolic, important things that we understand become a beacon for the country to follow suit,” she concluded, noting that her research helps serve “this very tricky balance of not wanting to ever cause families harm in the state of Georgia, but being aware enough to know that the only thing that changes the state of policy is usually money.”
Read the report: