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Georgia’s Potential LGBT Discrimination Law: Film Industry’s Boycott Could Cost Hollywood Millions

Georgia's Potential LGBT Discrimination Law: Film Industry's Boycott Could Cost Hollywood Millions

Numerous studios showed their support for gay rights today, as the Weinstein Company joined Disney, 21st Century Fox, Time Warner, Netflix, Open Road, Sony and Lionsgate in announcing they would boycott shooting in Georgia if a controversial bill was passed. The proposed actions were based around whether Governor Nathan Deal would sign the Free Exercise Protection Act (HB 757), a bill that would allow faith-based organizations to deny services to LGBT individuals. On the surface, this may seem like a token gesture from Hollywood. In reality, Georgia has become an integral part of Hollywood’s film and television production output, saving the industry tens of millions of dollars a year in production costs. 

Georgia is not the only state that offers a 30% rebate to film and television productions, but they are one of the only states left that extends that kickback to include above-the-line talent, like actors and directors. So for example, one of the reasons a film like “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” choose to shoot in Atlanta, rather than New York, which also offers a 30% rebate, is because Paramount not only saved 30% on production costs, but also got 30% back on the millions of dollars they spent paying director Adam McKay, Will Ferrell and the other big name cast members. 

Over the last two to three years, states like Massachusetts, Louisiana and Michigan — the only three states that rivaled Georgia in kickbacks — have all significantly scaled back, capped or eliminated their states’ tax incentive programs. The result is that a record number of film and television shows, 158 productions, shot in Georgia in 2015, with 75-80% of those in Atlanta.  
Georgia is also financially attractive to Hollywood studios because it is a Right to Work state, which means that they do not need to hire union crews. This is a savings that goes beyond the difference in salaries, but saves Hollywood from negotiating with powerful unions about how many people they hire and what they will have to pay into locals’ pension and welfare funds. One other attractive element is Georgia does not have tough restrictions on hiring local crew. The is incredibly important and attractive to top stars, directors and department heads who rely heavily upon, and are incredibly loyal to, their close-knit crews. 

Not surprisingly, a whole industry and infrastructure has grown up around this level of production in Atlanta. Pinewood Studios, which has been home to big-budget films like “Captain America: Civil War,” “Ant-Man,” and now “Guardians of Galaxy 2,” has grown to include 11 enormous, fully equipped sound stages, 400,000 square feet of workshop, office and production support facilities, and they have even built backlots that include forests and rivers.

Possibly no individual is more invested in Georgia production than Tyler Perry, who owns the 200,000 square foot Tyler Perry Studios, which includes sets and offices. Last year, the playwright-turned-media mogul paid $26 million for 488-acre Fort McPherson Army Base, where he is building an even bigger production facility. Meanwhile, major New York vendors, like Haddad’s (the major supplier of trailers and trucking) and Gotham Sound have set up shop in Atlanta to meet their clients’ growing needs in Atlanta.

According to the state’s own analysis, the film and television industry created $6 billion dollars in economic impact for the state in 2015, up from $5.1 billion in 2014.  

When Indiewire called Governor Nathan Deal’s office for comment about the potential economic impact of him signing the bill that is headed for his desk, his press office stated that “the Governor doesn’t comment on pending legislation.”

While not directly addressing economic impact of the Hollywood pulling out of Georgia, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is far less reserved in addressing the potential dire costs of signing the Free Exercise Protection Act (HB 757). “This legislation will irreparably damage our economy and diminish the City of Atlanta’s standing as the business and cultural center of the Southeast,” the mayor said in a statement. “Nearly every corporate, non-profit, academic leader and entrepreneur I’ve spoken with is concerned that its passage will harm their client relationships and their ability to hire world-class talent in Atlanta. As one of the five most visited cities in the United States, I am also gravely concerned about the negative impact this legislation has on the City of Atlanta’s ability to compete for conventions and major events such as the Super Bowl, which will be worth billions to our economy in the future.”

Watch the trailer for “Ant-Man” below:

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