Gov. Brian Kemp has said he will sign a controversial abortion bill known as the “heartbeat bill,” despite threats from actors and directors saying they won’t film in Georgia if it becomes law.
The push-back is testing the economic power of Georgia’s film industry, which has grown in recent years due to a generous tax credit program.
Actress Alyssa Milano was the public face of the industry when she stood in the state Capitol recently and warned Georgia lawmakers that restricting abortions in Georgia would have consequences.
“We will do everything in our power to move our industry to a safer state for women if HB 481 becomes law,” she said.
The bill prohibits abortions when a pulse is detected, which is at about 6 weeks. The actress is currently filming the Netflix series “Insatiable” in Georgia.
It didn’t take long for other states like Michigan, Illinois and New Jersey to send out signals that they’d welcome Georgia’s movie business.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel even sent letters directly to movie studios touting his cities film infrastructure.
“It’s a very mobile industry,” said Joseph Chianese who heads the incentives department for Entertainment Partners, which does financial services for the film industry.
So far no production has publicly signaled it would leave Georgia. But Chianese said movie makers do have choices.
“If you haven’t already invested a lot of money in pre-production and building of stages you could make a quick decision and go to another location as long as there are stages available and crew available,” he said.
Georgia’s movie and film industry has seen a lot of investment in recent years in studio space and cred development. Georgia’s lucrative tax incentives are among the best in the industry and unlike some other states, there is no cap and no expiration date.
Chianese said that offer movie makers what they want most.
“Producers want certainty,” he said. “They want certainty in the law certainty in the process and certainty in funding. Georgia has provided that with a very secure program with certainty in the funding and process.”
The state said the film industry here supports an estimated 92,000 jobs. Georgians who work on movies are nervous, local film critic Felicia Feaster said.
“Our governor has said that we won’t have Hollywood dictating to us about what laws we enact, but these are Georgians who are benefiting from filmmaking happening in Georgia,” she said.
So they are watching if Hollywood will make good on its threat or if the money is just too good to walk away from.