Both companies have recently stated that if Georgia's anti-abortion law is implemented, they will probably have to take their business elsewhere.
Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, said in an interview that if Georgia's anti-abortion bill becomes law, Disney will probably refuse to film any of their projects there—depriving the state of an important source of entertainment income.
What's going on?
Many groups and organizations, including the entertainment industry, are pushing back against the recent wave of anti-abortion bills that's sweeping across the country.
Several states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Ohio, have passed some kind of bill threatening to punish doctors who perform an abortion and subject women to an undue and distressing investigation following a miscarriage—even if it's a natural one.
Georgia, specifically, pushed one of the so-called "heartbeat bills," which prohibits abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That can happen as early as six weeks into the pregnancy—long before most women even know they're pregnant.
Why Georgia specifically?
Though many other states are pushing similar bills, Georgia is unique among them for the sheer amount of filming productions that take place regularly. This makes Georgia a target for Hollywood and the entertainment industry as a whole, given its immense popularity as a film and TV shooting location.
Several factors contribute to this popularity, including attractive tax breaks. The state benefits greatly—both economically and socially—and it has become famous for hosting a wide range of high-profile projects. According to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), more than 92,000 local jobs in Georgia depend on the film industry there, which earns the state $2.7 billion. Over 450 productions were shot there over the course of 2018 alone, according to the state.
And until now, Disney had been one of the state's greatest contributors in this regard, especially with its Marvel franchise. Avengers: Endgame, Black Panther, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 are a few notable examples of movies that were filmed at Pinewood Studios in Atlanta.
But the future of Georgia's relationship with Disney (and many others) now hangs in the balance, as companies threaten to take their business elsewhere if HB481, Georgia's anti-abortion bill, is actually implemented as law.
What is Disney saying?
In the interview, after being asked if Disney would keep filming in Georgia, Iger stated that it would be "very difficult to do so" if HB481 takes effect.
"I rather doubt we will, I think many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard. Right now we are watching it very carefully."
He added that, if the law is indeed implemented, "I don’t see how it’s practical for us to continue to shoot there."
Disney is not the only company threatening to boycott the state. Ted Srandos, Netflix's chief content officer, has also declared that if the law goes into effect, they would “rethink [their] entire investment in Georgia,” considering that Netflix is committed to the rights of its female employees. As Sarandos stated recently,
"We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law. Given the legislation has not yet been implemented, we’ll continue to film there, while also supporting partners and artists who choose not to."
The Writers Guild of America East and West also spoke against HB481, arguing that Georgia would become "an inhospitable place for those in the film and television industry." Many others agree with this sentiment, as Disney and Netflix have proven. Many celebrities have condemned the law as well.
Under the #HB481IsBadForBusiness hashtag, actress Alyssa Milano urged the industry to get out of the state if it allows the law to be implemented. "There are over 20 productions shooting in GA & the state just voted to strip women of their bodily autonomy," she tweeted in March. "Hollywood! We should stop feeding GA economy."
Mark Duplass, J.J. Abrams, Jordan Peele, David Simon, and the CEO of Killer Films, Christine Vachon, are but a few others who've severely criticized HB481.
Is there a deadline?
The bill was signed by Georgia's Republican Governor Brian Kemp earlier this month, and it's scheduled to come into effect on January 1st. There's still a chance that the legislature won't be implemented, however, as it is expected to face many challenges in the courts.
(Cover photo by Josh Hallett)
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