With the passing of highly restrictive abortion bans in Georgia, Alabama, Ohio and multiple other states, various members of the entertainment industry have taken stances on the issue, and Netflix is the latest and largest to enter the rhetorical fray, as Variety reports.
The film and television industry has produced rampant opportunities in Georgia’s job market. The state tax rebate incentive (a hefty 30%, if you were wondering) is quite inviting for production companies, and the industry allows for thousands of jobs in the state. It was reported in 2018 that the state’s film industry provided 92,000 jobs for individuals and brought in a whopping $9 billion from production.
In terms of denouncing the bans, some individuals, such as Kristen Wiig and The Handmaid’s Tale director Reed Morano, have decided to move their Georgia-based projects elsewhere. Others have decided to take indirect measures, like actress Busy Phillips and her anti-abortion ban ad campaign with the American Civil Liberties Union, or Titanic actress Frances Fisher and her efforts to picket at Atlanta City Hall with other local women in the film industry.
In terms of big production studios and companies, the decision to boycott production on projects in the state is a big one and it seems that many studios don’t want to address the issue just yet. Major studios and companies have turned to the Motion Picture Association of America to make a stance, and the MPAA has vowed to keep an eye on the ban and its path to legislation.
Being an outlier from the rest of production companies, Netflix has stated its stance on the restrictive law. “We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law,” Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, told Variety. “It’s why we will work with the ACLU and others to fight it in court. Given the legislation has not yet been implemented, we’ll continue to film there, while also supporting partners and artists who choose not to. Should it ever come into effect, we’d rethink our entire investment in Georgia.”
Netflix’s decision isn’t necessarily a radical one, but ultimately goes along the lines of many others, in that they seem to be worried about the restrictive bans but haven’t really taken much action yet, though they support those that have. It seems Netflix is taking a page out of Phillips’ book in teaming up with the ACLU, though. It will be interesting to see how exactly the streaming platform plans to work with the non-profit, other than an ambiguous “fight it [the ban] in court.” Is Netflix simply supporting the legal actions the ACLU has already taken? Or is Netflix working on something completely new with the ACLU?
Georgia’s abortion ban was signed by Gov. Brian Kemp on May 7, and it will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, assuming its enactment isn’t derailed by legal challenges. While the preemptive boycotting of the state is sending a message, it isn’t necessarily doing anything to reverse the ban, argues Center for Reproductive Rights board member Heidi Lindelof.
“Saying, ‘We’re going to yank production out of your state if you don’t reverse,’ I’m not sure Kemp cares about that,” Lindelof told Variety. “It feels as though he’s willing to risk jobs and millions of dollars to be the hero that gets his law to go to the Supreme Court.”
And it seems Lindelof has a point. Pulling the rug out from under Georgia filming projects isn’t necessarily going to reverse any abortion ban but moreover take away thousands of jobs for Georgians, as Atlanta resident Olivia Cathcart recently argued in an essay for Paste. “The majority of jobs available are below-the-line positions stationed in Atlanta, a city comprised of a majority of African Americans,” Cathcart wrote. “Much like HB 481, a boycott will disproportionately affect Black women on set and off.”
Georgia has garnered many massive productions, including Marvel’s Black Panther and AMC’s long-running The Walking Dead, since the introduction of its tax rebate, and has ultimately become a go-to city for creatives. While some creatives in the state seem to agree that boycotting is the right way of condemning the laws, others think the repercussions of leaving are too great.
Druscilla Smith, who runs multiple production offices, doesn’t think boycotting is the best option. “I hate that Hollywood has to come to this point of saying that if this rule doesn’t get changed, then we’re going to boycott your state, she told Variety. “All of us — everybody in Atlanta that’s in the film industry—can’t go back to California [and] work. We all can’t go to New York and work.”
While a flat-out boycott seems to be the way to go for production studios, filmmakers such as J.J. Abrams, Jordan Peele and Ron Howard have decided to keep their companies’ projects in Georgia, but are donating their salaries and fees to the ACLU and local activist groups.
If the boycotting efforts, anti-abortion ad campaigns and simple acts of picketing are showing anything, it’s that Hollywood isn’t standing for these restrictive bans. Whether some of these avenues will have the best outcome for Georgia’s citizens is not as clear, but it seems the highly potential damage done to the economy and job market in the state isn’t stopping individuals and their efforts to fight the abortion laws that are heading to legislation.