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The film industry has enjoyed some great tax breaks in Georgia since the increase in 2008, which spurred a lot of Hollywood related economic development in the state, including the construction of Pinewood Studios in Fayette County. There are numerous television shows (The Walking Dead), movies (Guardians of the Galaxy 2), and other film projects being produced in Georgia because of those tax credits. Those productions generate economic revenues and growth that many other states would love to have. All that progress, which really means JOBS for the state, are now being put into jeopardy by the recent Religious Liberties Bill passed by the Georgia House of Representatives.

The bill now sits on Governor Deal‘s desk, awaiting his decision to sign it into law or not. A heavy hitting Hollywood studio combo, Disney and Marvel Studios have publicly announced their opposition to the bill.

The gist of the bill is about:

It protects religious officials from having to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, and would allow faith-based organizations to deny services or employment to those who violate their “sincerely held religious belief.”

A Disney spokesperson had this to say:

Disney and Marvel are inclusive companies, and although we have had great experiences filming in Georgia, we will plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law.

Disney and Marvel have scheduled movies including Guardians of the Galaxy 2 which is currently shooting in Ga. along with some future Star Wars movies, and Marvel movies. In simple terms, billions of dollars of economic revenue for the state of Ga.

The MPAA (The Motion Picture Association of America) which represents six major film studios has already issued a statement against the bill and Vans Stevenson, MPAA Senior Vice President of State Government Affairs recently said:

We are confident that Governor Deal will not allow a discriminatory bill to become law in Georgia.

While Deal has not publicly commented on whether or not he will sign the bill, he has in the past defended against and responded to proposed changes to the tax credits saying:

So let me state here and now that I am committed to protecting the film tax credits that make this type of blockbuster economic impact possible.  Why would anyone want to make changes to our current system which would only infringe on an industry that employs thousands of Georgians, brings new business to our state regularly and generates billions of dollars in our statewide economy?  We have found an incentives structure that works. I see no need to alter or fix something that is not broken.

Deal will not want this cash cow to stop flowing. We are talking about billions in revenue brought into the state by these studio films. It’s not just the money these productions pay in taxes, it’s the thousands of jobs created, the money earned by businesses outside the studios and locations, the shops and restaurants, the fans and tourists brought in to see where their favorite show is made. There are tourist businesses that would not exist without these studio productions.

Recently the mayor of Atlanta announced a program, the City of Atlanta Entertainment Training Program, that will train Georgians in the behind the scenes skills needed by television and movie productions. Mayor Kasim Reed said this about the program:

I am proud to support the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency and the Office of Entertainment as they help to facilitate the employment of our residents in the film and television production industry,” said Mayor Reed. “Providing a trained below-the-line workforce is critical to the film industry’s growth in Atlanta and Georgia.  This program will ensure that our residents and young people have access to a unique opportunity to learn from world-class professionals and acquire vital skills.
Georgia has been building and positioning the state as a Southern Hollywood for years and derailing that effort would require a huge shift in thinking and a ton of political power expended.
If that lost revenue from the film industry wasn’t enough, the NFL has stated:
NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard. Whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with these policies would be one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites.
Georgia is currently building a brand new stadium for the Falcons and looking to host the 2019 Superbowl. There’s just too much money to be thrown away if this bill becomes law.
*Writers Note: I have lived in Georgia the majority of my life, over 30 plus years, and it is a great place with great people. I hate that this issue is painting all Georgians as narrow-minded people out of touch with the rest of the country. Like many other states, sometimes the politics get kinda crazy and out of whack. This is one of those times which calls for those of us reasonable enough to see both sides to stand up and do what’s right while respecting all the people involved. This is a bad bill that should not be law. I seriously doubt that Deal, who is currently serving his second and last term as Governor, will sign this bill.

Category: Film

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