Money is the bottom line.
Hollywood has been drawn into the abortion debate as production-heavy states like Georgia and Louisiana have passed new “heartbeat” laws banning abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy, with companies and top talent taking one of the several paths: boycott those states, threaten to boycott if the laws survive legal challenges and actually take effect — or stay completely silent on the matter.
In addition, several top Hollywood firms and personalities with projects already slated to shoot in Georgia and other states that have passed similar legislation say they will proceed with production there but donate fees to support nonprofit groups challenging the laws in the courts.
The varying approaches reflect a complicated reality for many studios and networks, whose executives and key talent tend to support abortion rights but who are often reluctant to take sides publicly on a divisive political issue. In addition, many companies don’t want to forgo lucrative tax incentives — or to hurt the thousands of trained crew members employed on productions in Georgia, Louisiana and elsewhere.
“Many of these companies are raising up their hands and say, we need to be true to our own corporate culture and we can’t abide by this law, so we’re pulling out,” Tom Nunan, a lecturer at UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and former president of UPN, now known as The CW, told TheWrap. “I don’t think Georgia is going to suffer from this if big entertainment companies pull out — I think you are still going to see smaller companies going in and taking advantage of the tax breaks, just not the big ones because they want to be politically correct… I don’t think the boycotts will result in any change in the law.”
Here are the responses that Hollywood companies and executives have had:
Several prominent producers, like Reed Morano and Judd Apatow, have said they would boycott filming in Georgia in response to the law. Producers David Simon, Christine Vachon, Mark Duplass, Nina Jacobson and Neal Dodson have already boycotted shooting in the state altogether — though none of these was known to have any projects slated for production in the state.
Also last month, the feature “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar,” starring the “Bridesmaids” team of Kirsten Wiig and Annie Mumolo, pulled out of filming in the state in response to the law.
A widespread boycott would have a big impact Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama and Ohio — which have all passed restrictive anti-abortion laws in the last three months — are among the 12 states that provide the best tax incentives to film and TV productions that shoot in the state, according to Film Production Capital, a Louisiana-based brokerage and consulting film that specializes in state tax incentives for film, TV and animation projects.
For its 2018 fiscal year, which began July 1, 2017 and ended June 30, 2018, the state of Georgia reported it received $2.7 billion in direct spending in the state from a record 455 film and TV productions that shot in the state. And Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican who signed his state’s “heartbeat” law, said the productions generated a total economic impact of $9.5 billion, led by productions ranging from “Avengers: Endgame” to AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
Louisiana reported $63.2 million in state taxes from film and TV productions in 2017, though taxpayers saw a less than 25 cents return on the dollar for the tax program, according to the Baton Rouge publication The Advocate. The state, however, expects the 17 productions currently shooting in the state to spend $300 million.
2. Threaten a Boycott While ‘Monitoring’ the Situation
Several studio executives told TheWrap that because the Georgia law won’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2020, pending any legal challenges, that they are “monitoring” the situation closely before actually pulling productions.
The wait-and-see approach allows companies to take the high ground on the issue while postponing a decision that might impact them economically or the production crews working on these projects.