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Getting out of Georgia: Why Hollywood may be leaving the state


Illustration of actor Will Smith.

Georgia has been featured prominently in the news as of late. At first, there were the new voting laws that the state passed: restrictions on absentee voting, requirements of voter ID, and more. Many on the left side of the political spectrum viewed these new laws as an effort to make voting more difficult, particularly for minorities. In response, many corporations like Coca Cola and JPMorgan publicly condemned these new laws. Now, the movie “Emancipation,” starring Will Smith, will move its production out of Georgia.

This is the first major film production to make such an announcement. Smith and the director of the film, Antoine Fuqua, released a statement on the subject: “At this moment in time, the Nation is coming to terms with its history and is attempting to eliminate vestiges of institutional racism to achieve true racial justice. We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access.” With a major name like Will Smith making this move, could other similar announcements be coming soon?

Georgia is no stranger to film sets. In fact, in 2008, the state passed a 30 percent tax credit for productions done in Florida. It is clear that the economic boost that Hollywood can provide is extremely welcome to its economy. Companies like Marvel, Netflix, and The CW all film in the state. This makes the decision to decline those savings all the more notable. With major corporations speaking out against these laws, the MLB moving its “All-Star Game” out of the state, and President Joe Biden calling these voting restrictions “Jim Crow in the 21st Century,” it is not all that unlikely for Georgia to be avoided by more productions in the future.

To be clear, this is not me guaranteeing that Hollywood will stay out of Georgia. Antione Fuqua is directing this production through his company Fuqua Films. Add the fact that this statement was released through Will Smith’s media production company Westbrook Inc., and it is clear that these two individuals had a great deal of control over this production. This is not going to be true for many of the other movies and shows set to be filming in Georgia. So, whether studios follow the tax cuts and go about doing business as usual or they follow “Emancipation’s” example and exit the state remains to be seen.

Appropriately, “Emancipation” is a film about this country’s racist history. It tells the story of Peter, a slave who attempts to escape by going on a journey north of the state. With a plot that is so focused on the United States’ racist past, it makes sense for this production to do what it believes is right in eliminating racism in the future. 

Notably, this is not the first time production companies have called for a boycott in Georgia. Just two years ago, when Georgia signed a controversial abortion law called the “heartbeat bill,” which restricted abortions in cases when a fetal heartbeat was present, some production companies announced that they would no longer be filming there. That ban was later blocked by a federal judge. Due to that previous boycott’s conclusion, there is no precedent to tell us how this boycott will turn out. Will productions move out of Georgia? If they do, how will Georgia respond to this economic pressure? All of this is going to be up to the studio heads, politicians, and anyone else that can find a way to get involved. If you feel strongly one way or the other about this story, that could be you. When politics and entertainment intersect, everyone’s attention is caught. Let’s see whether anything comes of that.

About the Contributor
Kyle Makkas, Humor Writer