Georgia’s film industry is once again in the spotlight, against the backdrop of an increasingly politicized climate in the state.
Abortion rights and LGBTQ issues have taken the forefront of political discussions across Georgia — and with it is a new focus on the state’s film industry, which some entertainment icons and politicians have encouraged to vacate the state for more progressive parts of the country.
Indiana Jones director James Mangold and Star Wars actor Mark Hamill were among those who vocalized support of a boycott of the state last year in response to Georgia’s controversial voting laws.
Now, California Gov. Gavin Newsom is joining calls for film productions to leave states like Georgia altogether, saying their legislatures are waging “a cruel assault on essential rights” — and calling California “a freedom state.”
Glen Peison, a Georgian who has worked as a prop designer on Netflix productions in the state, is familiar with the modus operandi. He’s spoken to GPB News before about calls to leave Georgia.
“Why does any same ole narrative pop up about anything? It’s easy. It’s convenient,” he said. “And for the most part, politicians tend to be lazy and unimaginative.”
He argued that progressives concerned about the direction of Georgia’s politics should instead focus on working to change the narrative alongside those in the industry.
“I think (Newsom) has forgotten about the 2020 election already,” he said. “We got two Dem senators elected because we stayed and fought. Now we are working on the governor’s mansion. Change doesn’t come via boycotts and people leaving. Stay and fight.”
Kyle Kay, a post-production worker in the state, agrees.
“Women in Georgia need support, not abandonment,” they said. “Politicians using women’s rights as a bargaining chip to try to win business or votes one way or the other, while taking away jobs and resources in the process, doesn’t help the situation for the women who live here.”
Peison said there’s also things about Georgia’s film industry that will always make it valuable to productions.
“Honestly, the biggest thing is the tax incentive and we all know that,” he said. “No tax incentive, no industry. But, additionally, we have a large and talented local crew base. We have the world’s biggest airport. We have every type of location/scenery. We have massive infrastructure in the way of equipment, prop and set dressing houses. We have fabricators who can design and build most anything.”
Kay said they understand the difficult situation for women, though.
“I can also understand why women who don’t currently live in Georgia might not want to relocate here for months while on a production,” they said. “It’s a difficult situation.”
The film and television industries in Georgia generated $9.5 billion in 2018, according to state statistics.
Marie Gordon, director of communications for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, deferred GPB News to a recent press release when pressed about Newsom’s comments.
“Film and television industry as productions spent $4.4 billion in Georgia during fiscal year 2022 — a new industry record,” the statement reads.
“It’s very gratifying to see the continued commitment to Georgia’s film industry through local investment in soundstages, support services companies, and educational programs throughout the state,” said Georgia Film Office Director Lee Thomas. “We send a big thanks to the companies who have invested here and the communities that work so hard to make films dreams a reality for their local residents and economy.”
This story comes to Reporter/Intown through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.