SAVANNAH, GA. (WSAV) – A major movie production starring Will Smith will no longer be filmed in Georgia over what producers call “regressive voting laws.”
Producers of the project say they couldn’t, in good conscience, provide the state with any economic support.
SB 202 makes voter identification requirements stiffer, limits drop boxes and gives state election boards the power to override county election decisions.
“This stain is going to persist,” said Charles Bowen, entertainment lawyer and founder of the Savannah Film Alliance.
Bowen says Georgia’s film industry was starting to recover after months of hardship during the pandemic.
The recovery is, of course, dependent upon movie productions coming to the state. He says the new voting laws could be a huge roadblock.
“I think it’s going to be exceedingly difficult to maintain the type of growth we were seeing prior to 2020,” said Bowen.”There’s going to be a large percentage of productions and people that are just going to make their voices heard.”
Smith’s movie is the first domino to fall. Producers announced the slave drama titled “Emancipation” is now going to be filmed in Louisiana, not Georgia.
In a joint statement, Smith and Antoine Fuqua — who are both producers on the project — said they felt compelled to move the production out of Georgia.
“The new Georgia voting laws are reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting,” Smith and Fuqua stated.
Over the years, the Hostess City has become a prime destination for high-profile movies, including Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” and most recently “Devotion.”
Bowen says “Emancipation” was actually considering filming some scenes here in Savannah.
“The people that are going to be punished are the ones that work in the industry, not the people who passed that law,” he said.
Bowen says he understands why production companies would take their films elsewhere, but also thinks they shouldn’t protest the law by leaving the state.
“I just don’t know how effective a boycott would be,” said Bowen. “But I would personally encourage people that do feel strongly about it to not just stay away but come here and help.
Republican Congressman Buddy Carter says the law has merit and is condemning companies like Delta and Coca-Cola for caving into what he calls “the lies of the left.”
Those corporations have come forward to denounce the law. Major League Baseball also withdrew its All-Star game from Atlanta because of the statute.
“If they were to simply read the bill, they would see that it is perfectly clear that it expands voting rights,” said Carter, “that it makes voting easier and makes cheating harder.”
Apple Studios acquired “Emancipation” last year in a deal reportedly worth $130 million. Producers say the move could cost upwards of $15 million.