The CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger, said Wednesday that if restrictions in Georgia banning abortion at six weeks take effect, it would be “very difficult” to continue filming there. Iger’s comments come one day after Netflix said it would rethink its “entire investment in Georgia.”
Iger told Reuters that if the law is implemented, he is doubtful Disney will continue to film in the state. “I think many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard. Right now we are watching it very carefully,” Iger said.
Disney has filmed Avengers: Endgame and Black Panther in Georgia. When Disney filmed in Savannah, Georgia, last year for the live action remake of Lady and the Tramp, the city expected it to bring a $20 million stimulus to the local economy.
Netflix also responded to questions about the abortion restrictions from Variety this week. “We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law,” Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, said. “Should it ever come into effect, we’d rethink our entire investment in Georgia.”
At the same time, however, Netflix has donated to Republican lawmakers in Missouri who pushed the state’s recent eight-week ban on abortion, as reported by the newsletter Popular Information. (Judd Legum, who founded Popular Information, is also the founder of ThinkProgress.)
Reed Morano, the creator of Amazon Studio’s new show, The Power, has already said she will no longer film in Georgia due to the abortion ban. The law is set to take effect in 2020, but it is expected to face legal challenges and be blocked in court before then.
Other big names in the entertainment industry have spoken out in favor of halting production in Georgia should the law take effect, including David Simon, the creator, executive producer, and head writer for The Wire and the head of Blown Deadline Productions, Neal Dodson of CounterNarrative Films, Duplass Brothers Productions co-owner Mark Duplass, Colorforce producer Nina Jacobson, and Christine Vachon, CEO of Killer Films. Director Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, co-founders of Imagine Entertainment, and actor Jason Bateman, whose shows Ozark and The Outsider film in Georgia, have also said they would consider a boycott if the law survives a legal challenge.
“If the ‘heartbeat bill’ makes it through the court system, I will not work in Georgia, or any other state, that is so disgracefully at odds with women’s rights,” Bateman told the Hollywood Reporter.
Some actors have been watching the legislation for months. In March, several celebrities signed a letter vowing to influence production companies not to film in the state if the legislation was signed into law. Signatories included Mia Farrow, Ben Stiller, Christina Applegate, Sarah Silverman, Alex Baldwin, Don Cheadle, Amber Tamblyn, and Uzo Aduba.
Earlier this month, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) responded to threats from celebrities to stop filming in the state.
“We are the party of freedom and opportunity,” Kemp said at the Georgia Republican convention. We value and protect innocent life — even though that makes C-list celebrities squawk.”
The majority of filmmakers and production companies working in Georgia have not commented on the abortion ban.
Some celebrities, producers, and political figures have spoken in favor of a different approach or against a halt on production in Georgia at all, arguing that it would only harm communities that need more financial assistance during difficult times. Peter Chernin, CEO of the Chernin Group, which operates and invests in the media and entertainment sectors, has pledged to give money to groups in the state that are fighting the legislation.
“We shouldn’t be taking those tax breaks and then abandoning the people who live there. I believe Hollywood has an obligation to get involved, and [the industry] has clearly benefited from places like Georgia. Let’s take some of those benefits and give it back to the fight,” Chernin said to Variety.
Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams have said they would keep filming in the state and would donate production fees to Fair Fight Georgia and the Georgia branch of the ACLU.
One prominent producer who would not reveal their name told Variety that the film industry is responsible for many people having access to health care.
Stacey Abrams, who ran against Kemp for governor last year, told the Los Angeles Times that although she understands how boycotts have secured civil rights, she doesn’t believe it’s necessarily the best method to stop these kinds of laws.
“While an industry boycott could have an effect, it will not have the effect of actually stopping the laws,” Abrams said. “We have to recognize that the men who are pushing this law — and it’s mostly men — they truly do not care about the lives of those they are affecting, and they are not to be persuaded by an economic boycott. In fact, if you listen to some of the pundits who’ve been on the air, they say, ‘Let’s let Hollywood boycott us.’ Because they think it actually makes them look stronger at home.”