The bottom line was threatened over the past year by COVID protocols and the uproar over the state’s voting laws
Despite the pandemic and murmurs in Hollywood of a boycott over its restrictive voting laws, Georgia saw its film industry grow to $4 billion in direct spending from film and TV productions in the past fiscal year, according to the state’s film office.
The film office reports that 366 productions filmed in the state in the past year, including 21 feature films, 45 independent films, 222 television and episodic productions, 57 commercials, and 21 music videos. Marvel Studios has made Georgia its main shooting site, with recent and active productions including “WandaVision,” “Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” and the upcoming “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Other productions that have recently shot in the state include HBO’s “Lovecraft Country” and Amazon’s “The Underground Railroad.”
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp cited the state’s moves to reopen shooting in June 2020 as a key factor in the boom year for the local industry. The state released a “best practices” safety guide in May that complemented the protocols released by the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee. Shooting in Georgia resumed three months before Hollywood’s studios signed the Return-to-Work Agreement that allowed shooting to resume in Hollywood.
“Because Georgia was the first state in the country to re-open our economy and worked with film productions across the state to ensure they could safely continue operations, the Peach State’s film industry is leading the nation,” Kemp said in a statement. “As the top state for business for an unprecedented eighth year in a row, the jobs, economic development, and investment in film and other supporting industries are a key part of Georgia’s success story. This record-breaking announcement also highlights Georgia’s incredible momentum in economic recovery as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Georgia Film Office also says that “pent-up demand from the COVID-19 hiatus, and the associated expenses to mitigate risk” were also major factors in the increased spending. Costs for COVID-19 tests, personal protective equipment and insurance for paused and delayed film shoots have caused budgets for all levels of film and TV production to increase over the past year. But the film office also says that productions that were set to film in other locations that are still locked down moved to Georgia because of the decision to resume filming earlier than other major production hubs.
Earlier this year, some actors and writers in Hollywood called for studios to boycott film shoots in Georgia due to the state’s new voting laws, which allow state election officials to overrule their county counterparts, limits the use of ballot drop boxes, and makes it illegal to offer food or water to those waiting in line to vote. Stacey Abrams, who ran for Georgia governor in 2018 and has become one of the leading activists for voting rights, asks those who opposed the laws to not boycott this past spring.
“Boycotts have been an important tool throughout our history to achieve social change. But here’s the thing: Black, Latino, AAPI and Native American voters, whose votes are the most suppressed under HB 202, are also the most likely to be hurt by potential boycotts of Georgia.” Abrams said. “To our friends across the country, please do not boycott us. And to my fellow Georgians, stay and fight, stay and vote.”
Meanwhile, some local organizers in Atlanta have been speaking out about the cost of the Georgia film industry’s rapid expansion on working class residents and the environment. As TheWrap reported this month, a coalition of environmental groups have been speaking out against efforts by Blackhall Studios to cut down nearly 200 acres of pristine forest to expand its soundstage complex. The organizers say that the expansion will greatly reduce the tree cover that mitigates the heating effects of climate change and will force out local residents due to gentrification.
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