Reed Morano and Kristen Wiig have become the first producers to stop filming in the region after the state legalised draconian new abortion restrictions.
Hollywood actors, writers and producers have been threatening to take their $9.5 billion (£7.2 billion) business elsewhere ever since Georgia passed the draconian Heartbeat Bill, which renders abortion illegal after six weeks of pregnancy.
This week, two film and television projects have drawn their line in the sand and pulled out of the American state, becoming the first Hollywood productions to do so. One of them is The Power, the television adaptation of Naomi Alderman’s prize-winning dystopian novel of the same name directed by Reed Morano, the Emmy Award-winning female filmmaker behind The Handmaid’s Tale. The second is a Kristen Wiig comedy called Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar.
Morano was about to fly to Savannah, Georgia to begin location scouting for her television series over the next few months when she decided to boycott the state.
“We had no problem stopping the entire process instantly,” Morano told TIME. “There is no way we would ever bring our money to that state by shooting there… I think this is one of the ways where we know we can hit a state where it hurts.”
On Instagram, the director added “it feels wrong [to work in Georgia] for a reason. And it felt wrong to us to go ahead and make our show and take money/tax credit from a state that is taking this stance on the abortion issue. We just couldn’t do it.”
The Power’s executive producers added: “The collective decision… to cancel the planned scout to Georgia for The Power is a direct response to the signing of the ‘Heartbeat Bill’… We feel we have to stand up for a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body, and so while this is not a decision we have taken lightly we feel strongly that it is the right one at this point in time.”
Morano and Wiig are the first filmmakers to pull out of Georgia since Alyssa Milano first called for a boycott in March. Producers JJ Abrams, Jordan Peele, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, whose television productions Lovecraft Country and Hillbilly Elegy, said in statements that their shows would continue filming in the state but that they would make donations to the ACLU and Fair Fight Georgia to combat the legislation. Abrams and Peele, in particular, pledged to donate “100% of our respective episodic fees for this season” to the two groups.
“Make no mistake,” a statement from the filmmakers read, “this is an attack aimed squarely and purposely at women… We encourage those who are able to funnel any and all resources to these organisations.”
Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp remains unphased by the boycott. “We value and protect innocent life – even though that makes C-list celebrities squawk,” Kemp said at a Republican convention.
But it is true that the film industry comprises one of Georgia’s major income streams. Thanks to a string of tax credits totalling some $1 billion handed out to productions like Stranger Things, The Hunger Games and Black Panther, the state has become home to several production companies and seen its economy revitalised. Small Georgian towns, like Senoia where The Walking Dead is filmed, are thriving courtesy of film and television production. For many who work in the film industry – location scouts, production assistants, cameramen, caterers and more – a potential Hollywood blackout would severely threaten their livelihood.
Morano told TIME that she does not want to hurt the hardworking Georgian filmmakers, whom she calls an “excellent group of people on the ground that deserve to work.”
“I’m sorry if the work moves away from where you live,” she added. “But having this basic fundamental right for women is more important than anything in this moment in time.”