Ever since Georgia passed a “heartbeat bill” this month, pressure has been growing in Hollywood to speak out against it, given that the state has become a major production hub for film and television because of generous tax incentives. Some celebrities have vowed to boycott Georgia if the law is officially implemented in January, while others said they instead will donate earnings to organizations fighting it.
But it wasn’t until Tuesday that a major Hollywood studio contributed to the conversation. Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos declared that while the streaming giant wouldn’t yet refrain from working in Georgia, it would partner with organizations in the legal fight against the law, which is among the most restrictive in the nation. (It bans abortion procedures as soon as doctors can detect a fetal heartbeat, which generally occurs at six weeks — before many women know they’re pregnant.)
“We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law,” Sarandos said in a statement shared with The Washington Post. “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 will 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.”
Sarandos’s comments were first reported by Variety. A little more than a decade ago, Georgia began to offer incentives that allow productions to claim up to 30 percent in tax credits — a grand sum that has attracted blockbusters such as the “Hunger Games” series and Marvel’s “Black Panther” and “Captain America: Civil War.” Netflix has invested quite a bit in the state, filming high-profile television shows such as “Stranger Things,” “Insatiable” and “Ozark” there, as well as films such as the upcoming “Hillbilly Elegy.”
“Insatiable” actress Alyssa Milano has been vocal in campaigning against the legislation in Georgia and several other states, writing a petition — before Gov. Brian Kemp (R-Ga.) signed the bill into law — that was backed by dozens of actors, and even calling for a controversial sex strike by women. “Ozark” star Jason Bateman joined “Hillbilly Elegy” producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, who will direct the project, in vowing to cease production in Georgia if the heartbeat law goes into effect.
“We felt we could not abandon the hundreds of women, and men, whose means of support depend on this production — including those who directly contribute on the film, and the businesses in the community that sustain the production,” Grazer and Howard said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter. “We see Governor Kemp’s bill as a direct attack on women’s rights, and we will be making a donation to the ACLU to support their battle against this oppressive legislation.”
Before signing the bill into law three weeks ago, Kemp acknowledged the widespread backlash it had received from Hollywood: “We are the party of freedom and opportunity,” he said of the Republican Party, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We value and protect innocent life — even though that makes C-list celebrities squawk.” Milano’s letter had been signed by Amy Schumer, Amber Tamblyn, Alec Baldwin, Don Cheadle, Uzo Aduba, Gabrielle Union, Ben Stiller, Sean Penn, Bradley Whitford, Christina Applegate and more. Location scouting for “The Power,” an upcoming Amazon series, and a Kristen Wiig movie has been rerouted.
In a more immediate move, three independent production companies — run by actor-directors Mark and Jay Duplass, maverick producer Christine Vachon, and “The Wire” creator David Simon — announced that they won’t do business in Georgia until the legislation is reversed.
A spokesman for the Motion Picture Association of America noted that film and television production supports more than 92,000 jobs in Georgia and warned of the economic impact that major studios’ boycotts of the state would have on those families. Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who rose to prominence in the gubernatorial race against Kemp, has spoken out against the boycotts, saying that she respects the sentiment but does not believe they are “the most effective, strategic choice for change.”
Following her lead, J.J. Abrams and Jordan Peele said in a statement that they wouldn’t alter their plans to shoot their upcoming HBO series “Lovecraft Country” in Georgia. The horror series takes place in the 1950s and is set in the segregated South.
“In a few weeks we start shooting our new show ‘Lovecraft Country’ and will do so standing shoulder to shoulder with the women of Georgia,” they wrote, calling the law an “unconstitutional effort to further restrict women and their health providers from making private medical decisions on their terms” and promising to donate all of their respective episodic fees for the season to the ACLU chapter in Georgia and Fair Fight Action, a voting rights group founded by Stacey Abrams.
If the “heartbeat bill” makes it through the courts, it will go into effect Jan. 1.