Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a new voting bill on March 25 that has been seen as highly controversial. The new law ushers in more rigid voters restrictions – ID requirements for absentee voting, limiting the number of ballot drop boxes, and making it illegal to give food and water to voters in line. It is claimed that the new laws have made voting inaccessible to many, especially people of colour. Facing lots of criticism from voting rights groups and Democrats, President Joe Biden tagged it “Jim Crow in the 21st Century,” while Stacey Abrams called it “a reminder of Georgia’s dark past.”
However, major Hollywood studios have been awfully quiet with regard to this, despite having been vocal during past controversial state legislations. When the Peach State passed restrictive abortion legislation in 2019, multiple filmmakers decided to boycott the state by refusing to film there.
In response to the new election law, director of Logan and The Wolverine, James Mangold has decided to boycott the state of Georgia. His movie, Ford v Ferrari, which was also nominated for Oscars, was partly filmed in Georgia.
Star Wars actor Mark Hamill, too, tweeted in support of Mangold’s boycott. Production designer François Audouy, who has worked with Mangold on multiple films, also said that he would not design a film in Georgia in the wake of the new voter restrictions.
According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, Disney, Netflix, ViacomCBS, Amazon Studios and NBCUniversal, all either declined to give a comment or ignored the questions of The Times on Georgia’s voting bill.
The impact of the boycott could be significant since Hollywood shoots multiple films and tv shows in the state, upsurging the film business in Georgia into the nearly $10 billion industry it is. However, Hollywood too has a lot to lose in case of this boycott. The state offers ideal weather and tax credits of up to 30% for films, television shows and digital features that are shot there, making it attractive to the studios.
Many of those who oppose the new law claim that filmmakers boycotting the state would not do much good. Georgia’s voting rights activist, Stacey Abrams, in an interview with the LA Times in 2019 regarding the boycotts in response to the abortion laws stated, “While I understand the calls for a boycott in Georgia, I’m going to follow a different path.” She said, “I think the superior opportunity for Georgia, in the specific, is to actually use the entertainment industry’s energy to support and fund the work that we need to do on the ground because Georgia is on the cusp of being able to transform our political system.”
Filmmaker Tyler Perry, who has a studio based in Georgia, said he has “been here” before, referring to the abortion law and a previous religiously liberties bill that critics called anti-gay.
“I’m resting my hope in the DOJ taking a hard look at this unconstitutional voter suppression law that harkens to the Jim Crow era,” Perry said. “As some consider boycotting, please remember that we did turn Georgia blue and there is a gubernatorial race on the horizon — that’s the beauty of a democracy.”
Georgia-based actor, Steve Coulter, responded to Mangold’s tweet asking him to think before boycotting the state.
Bernice King, chief executive of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, tweeted about how the boycott could be counterproductive by harming workers. She also clarified later that she was not opposed to boycotts in general: “I encourage us to consider how a hashtag about boycotting a state may distract from strategic boycotts with maximum results for justice,” she wrote.
Atlanta based film critic Matt Goldberg suggested a better alternative to boycotts would be donating to organizations that advocate voting rights. He also expresses his disapproval towards punishing an entire state because of a single party.