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Hollywood flexes political muscle in Georgia

Disney and cable network AMC are among the Hollywood giants who have helped convince the governor of Georgia to veto discriminatory legislation.

Under the proposed ‘religious liberty’ law, faith-based organisations in Georgia would have been allowed the option to deny services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals.

The bill was passed by Georgia’s Republican-controlled legislature, but needed the governor’s signature to become law.

Governor Nathan Deal faced pressure from Disney and AMC (which screens zombie drama The Walking Dead, pictured above). The companies threatened to stop using Georgia as a filming location if the state passed what’s been described as a discriminatory, anti-LGBT bill.

Losing these giants – and the support of firms like The Weinstein Company – would be an economic nightmare for Georgia. Disney owns Marvel, which has spent tens of millions in Atlanta over the past couple of years filming Ant-Man (pictured below), Captain America: Civil War and now Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.

AMC's The Walking Dead has filmed six seasons in Georgia and is a huge success. The state has become a US production hub in the last few years, partly because of its generous filming incentives.

The developments in Georgia once again spotlight polarised politics in America. Hollywood is largely liberal and while most US states offer filming incentive support of some kind, more conservative parts of the country vehemently oppose tax credits or rebates for movies and TV shows. 

Conservatives have long-running concerns about issues such as sex and violence in popular film and TV shows, which they often feel undermine traditional American values. At one stage Florida flirted with the idea of offering specific incentives for films that promoted what state authorities considered strong family values.

Other parts of the US are under pressure to fall in line with Georgia. Both North Carolina and Louisiana have this year passed ‘religious liberty’ legislation that allows faith-based organisations to discriminate against LGBT communities. 

Just last week North Carolina passed a bill banning regional cities from introducing local anti-discrimination laws. Filmmaker Rob Reiner has called for a boycott on all production in North Carolina until the bill is repealed.

Louisiana recently passed a law similar to the one vetoed in Georgia and the governor’s office told Deadline the legislation will soon be repealed. 

Louisiana arguably has more to lose than North Carolina. The southern state has already caused controversy in Hollywood by capping its filming incentive payments for the first time. Authorities are clearly anxious to avoid alienating producers by sanctioning discrimination in law.    

States are under considerable pressure to sustain their production appeal. Movies can deliver tens of millions of dollars in spending in just a couple of months, while TV productions can do the same and potentially over a much longer timeframe. The result is that studios and TV networks can have very public political influence when they choose to wield it. 


The Walking Dead image: AMC

Ant-Man/Captain America images: Disney/Marvel