So, obviously, Joe Biden becoming President of the United States did not fix every problem in the world. In fact, based on the events of the last few weeks, it is very much a case of “same song, different verse”. Following a historic election in Georgia that saw the red state turn blue for the first time in decades, voting for Biden and Democratic senators Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock, the Governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, signed a terrible new law that drastically restricts voting rights which will, AS IT INTENDS, disproportionately affect Black voters in the state. You know, the people who showed up despite already repressive voting laws and flipped the state blue. Make no mistake, we’re living through the dying gasp of the GOP and we’re going to see a lot of this bullsh-t as they try to cling to power and force minority rule. But over the last 20 years Georgia has turned into the third-largest film and television production hub in the US (behind California and New York), which puts Hollywood smack in the middle of every sh-tty political situation in the state.
Will Smith and Antoine Fuqua, however, want no part of the new voting law. They have pulled production of their upcoming thriller, Emancipation, from the state, joining MLB in abandoning Georgia. Smith and Fuqua released a statement that says, “We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access. The new Georgia voting laws are reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting. Regrettably, we feel compelled to move our film production work from Georgia to another state.”
As far as I know, they are the first to actually cancel a Georgia production in the wake of the new voting law. Several people have spoken out about the issue, including home stater Tyler Perry, but no one has actually pulled up stakes except for Smith and Fuqua. There’s no word on where they will shoot instead, though New Jersey is actively trying to lure production from Georgia (New Jersey won’t pass for the South, sorry, Jersey). Of course, people say that this only punishes the people of Georgia, and all Smith and Fuqua are doing is taking jobs from those who work in Atlanta’s film business. That is not untrue, and it SUCKS, but what else can you do?
This is where the rubber meets the road, where convictions clash with intentions. Smith and Fuqua feel compelled to this course of action, if enough people follow suit it WILL hurt the Atlanta film business, which DOES impact the people who work in it and are just trying to make a living. But that’s the nature of boycotts. And the only alternative is to do nothing and thus tacitly approve of what Georgia lawmakers are doing, which feels like abandoning the voters in the state who are fighting for fair, non-discriminatory election processes. I don’t know what the right answer is. I certainly sympathize with the workers who could be hurt should a widespread boycott break out, though I do not think that will happen. The business is, at this point, too entrenched. A production here or there may skip out on Georgia, but I don’t see, like, Marvel abandoning their very cushy setup outside Atlanta.
I think we will see more condemnations from more studios, and perhaps more productions leave the state as individual filmmakers make the decision whether or not to continue in business with Georgia. But I don’t think it will ever hit the level of business-crushing boycott. The industry is simply too entrenched in Atlanta at this point. The infrastructure is in place—Pinewood opened a huge production hub outside the city, plus there is Tyler Perry’s own production hub, and the local crews are top notch, as good as you’ll find anywhere. On top of all of that, there are those lucrative tax credits that cut millions, even tens of millions, off production costs. I expect this to play out as it did with the anti-choice law, there will be some “strongly worded statements” but little real action, and in the end, the whole thing will play out in the courts.