The Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade places Hollywood between a rock and a hard place. While some entertainment industry executives may have tried in years past to stay out of the political fray, industry executives have been challenged to weigh in on issues that talent has begun to consider. as deal breakers when evaluating whether to work on projects with certain partners. Major studios now understand that they risk ostracizing talent – and viewers – by remaining silent.
Most major Hollywood companies, including Disney, Netflix and Warner Bros. Discovery, condemned the decision and informed employees that they would cover travel expenses to venture out of state for abortions. The Writers Guild of America has considered itself the only industry group to call for a boycott of filming in states that ban abortion, urging employers to “consider each state’s laws when choosing locations for production”.
The glaring lack of widespread calls for a shooting boycott in some states that have passed and will pass abortion restrictions stands in stark contrast to when many Hollywoods threatened to pull Georgia’s investments after the passage of legislation in 2019 banning abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat. The difference this time around, industry insiders say, is the lingering question of whether shutting down filming in nearly half the country is even possible, especially in states that are collectively doling out billions per year in tax breaks for productions.
Hollywood’s response to Georgia’s abortion ban, now that it’s about to go into effect, could serve as a litmus test for how the industry reacts to laws widely passed in multiple states. which angered the majority of talent. The studios did not say whether they would follow through on threats to boycott filming in the state. It seems unlikely.
“It’s been relatively quiet,” says Alexxiss Jackson, a decade-old Georgia transplant who works as a cinematographer. “Me and my first AD were talking about the concern of a boycott because there was so much talk about it, but I haven’t heard anything specific about it.”
After Georgia passed an abortion ban in 2019, Hollywood collectively rallied to protest the legislation. Netflix said it would pull projects from the state if the law goes into effect. Disney, WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal, AMC, Sony, CBS and Viacom followed with identical threats. Some have succeeded: Kristen Wiig has pulled production from the Lionsgate comedy Barb and Star go to Vista del Mar of Georgia, as are the executive producers of Amazon Studios The power. Bob Iger, former chief executive of Disney, said in response to the legislation that “many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to consider their wishes in this regard”. A massive boycott of filming in Georgia is looming.
But JJ Abrams and Jordan Peele took a different route. They went ahead with filming their respective projects in Georgia and chose to donate to organizations working to overturn the state’s so-called heartbeat bill. Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams also urged studios and producers not to boycott filming in the high-production state. While a boycott might send a message to lawmakers in a state that sees billions of dollars in Hollywood spending each year, the thrust of their reasoning was that it would hurt the people on the ground working in the industry the most. film industry – the majority of which opposed the legislation. . In Georgia, nearly 100,000 people work in the film industry.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision, the rationale seems to have resonated with decision makers in the entertainment industry.
“I feel like we were left out of the conversation when people called for a boycott; there was a disconnect,” says Melissa Simpson, executive director of Film Impact Georgia. “This time people know it would hurt human beings who are already suffering.”
But beyond the impact of a boycott on labor, studios’ reluctance to pull Georgia productions may come down to tax breaks in some cases.
Since the widespread adoption of state incentive programs to attract Hollywood dollars, productions have steadily fled California to regions offering more tax breaks. Credits attracted breaking Bad and You better call Saul in New Mexico, The Walking Dead and Avengers: Endgame in Georgia and jurassic world and Now you see me to Louisiana. These states have become film hubs with the production infrastructure that goes with it.
Thirty-six states offer some form of tax relief to the film industry. Two of them – Georgia and Louisiana – are major players in Hollywood and are likely to or have already passed laws restricting access to abortion. In the last two fiscal years ending in 2021, they gave Hollywood $2.11 billion in tax breaks, even taking into account the pandemic-forced shutdowns.
Of the 22 states that have banned, mostly banned, or will likely ban abortion, 15 offer Hollywood tax credits for juice production. To the film industry, they give away nearly half a billion dollars in free money every year. (With the exception of Georgia, which has no annual cap on its incentive program.)
A physical production manager at a major studio, who declined to be named for this story, recounts The Hollywood Reporter that studios are unlikely to forgo such massive tax breaks, which can make or break a production.
Jonathan Kuntz, a film historian at the UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television, notes that the entertainment industry has always been reluctant to take political action, especially when money is at stake. While the majority of Hollywood leans towards progressiveness, viewers are not confined to one side of the aisle. After all, curators also watch movies.
“If you talk about Supreme Court decisions and laws in state legislatures, there are thousands of them all the time,” Kuntz says. “Once you boycott one, some people may see it as a slippery slope. It’s delicate. It’s very difficult for a large company to negotiate that.
Instead of a mass boycott, decisions to withdraw investment from states with abortion restrictions can come from select studios and individuals.
“I have a feeling we’re going to start to see some companies say they won’t produce in some states,” says Ivy Kagan Bierman, president of Loeb & Loeb’s entertainment labor practice, which handles negotiations with guilds and unions for film, television and digital businesses. . “When you talk about mobilization, I anticipate that some key people in productions, such as directors, producers and talent, will take the positions that they don’t want to occupy in projects that are produced in certain states.”
Questions also persist about what a mass boycott of the shootings in more than half the country would look like and if it is even feasible. Jackson, who opposes calls to stop shooting in any state that enacts abortion bans, observes, “How do you do this when it’s such gargantuan scope?”