Hollywood continues to invest money in film and television productions in states that want to restrict or even criminalize abortion, despite the fact that media companies and movie stars have denounced the overturn of Roe v. Wade.
According to officials from Georgia, Texas, Oklahoma, and other states that receive billions of dollars annually from the film and television industry, the industry hasn’t slowed down since the decision was reversed. The main studio owners announced they would pay for travel linked to abortions as part of employee health benefits, but they didn’t say whether they would change investment strategies.
That reflects the harsh economic reality that celebrities and filmmakers must deal with. Many of them have organized roundtable conversations, participated in demonstrations, and written articles calling for action to defend abortion rights. Their economic futures depend on states that are successful at luring major film and television projects with hefty financial incentives and limiting access to abortion.
We have to wait and see, at some level, if this is a tipping point, said Paul Swanson, an attorney who chairs the entertainment finance practice at Loeb & Loeb. Once you start production somewhere, and you have your crew, and you have your locations, it’s a complete nightmare and it’s going to cost you a lot of money to pick up and leave.
Hollywood’s reaction to the Roe decision is comparable to what happened in 2019 when Georgia passed a law making abortions illegal after fetal heart cells were able to produce a detectable electric signal. A number of well-known performers, including those from Walt Disney Co. and Netflix Inc., threatened to quit their jobs there. Most of them didn’t.
When qualifying film companies spend $500,000 or more in Georgia, Georgia offers a 20% tax credit, which can save a movie’s budget millions of dollars. Additionally, it has spent decades promoting the development of studio space and collecting the necessary manpower for filmmakers. As a result, according to research from FilmLA, it has the most feature film projects outside of California and New York.
According to information from the Motion Picture Association, the entertainment business pays out around $3.8 billion in compensation each year in Georgia.
Among the businesses shooting movies and TV series in the region are Disney, Netflix, Amazon.com Inc., and Universal Pictures, a division of Comcast Corp. According to the Georgia film office, there are now being shot productions for the Netflix reality series “Hack My Home” and the Disney movie “Dashing Through the Snow.” All four businesses cover staff for travel related to abortion. No company stated that it will change their filming schedule.
There are different opinions on whether to quit doing business in jurisdictions that ban abortion.
Pulling investment from the state, according to Stacey Abrams, a strong proponent of abortion access running for governor of Georgia, mostly affects entertainment industry workers who have no influence over regulations. In order to send a message, some celebrities have declared publicly that they won’t work in areas where the laws don’t reflect their views.
Before the cameras start rolling, productions can more readily make changes, which means that projects that are still in the early stages of planning are most likely to be impacted. Beginning in Arkansas in early July, “Eric Larue,” a movie based on a play about a school massacre, was scheduled to shoot. On July 5, the publicist for filmmaker Michael Shannon sent an email to the state film office with a press release attached.
It stated that “the filmmakers have withdrawn production from the state and will now be shooting in and around Wilmington, North Carolina,” which is less repressive, citing a state statute prohibiting almost all abortions in Arkansas, even situations of rape and incest.
The Arkansas film office’s representatives claimed they were unaware of any other movies being pulled in protest of the abortion laws. The North Carolina Film Office’s Guy Gaster claimed that his office hasn’t noticed a spike in the number of filmmakers seeking for jobs there and that he only learned of the “Eric Larue” relocation through press accounts.
It’s been business as usual for us, Gaster said by email.
Getting involved in political problems has had unanticipated repercussions for businesses. Disney’s special municipal district, which had been in operation since the 1960s, was dissolved earlier this year after Republican Governor Ron DeSantis took issue with a Florida statute that banned discussions of sexual orientation in elementary schools. Disney hasn’t made any further public remarks about the matter.
At least four roundtable conversations featuring prominent Hollywood producers and actors have been held to determine how to respond to the new abortion laws. Most of those discussions have centered on promoting voting and making donations to organizations like Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union. Additionally, they have urged famous people to highlight the problem and take part in attention-grabbing activities like virtual walkouts.
According to Swanson, the Hollywood lawyer, anti-abortion states may still have a long-term effect on the entertainment industry. Strong tax incentive programs in other states and nations, like the UK, Australia, and Canada, may attract new projects. But it’s unlikely to happen unless celebrities and employees put pressure on it.
These companies, they’ll say what they want to say and a month later we move on to some other thing in the news, the war in Ukraine, or something else, and people move on and that’s it, he said. They save the money and they don’t have to change anything.