Will Smith & Antoine Fuqua pull their film out of Georgia after voter-suppression law

"Bad Boys For Life" Madrid Photocall

In late March, Georgia governor Brian Kemp signed a huge voter suppression bill into law. The aim of the new law is to plainly suppress the Black vote in that state, and to make it harder for people in urban areas to vote. This came just five months after Georgia voters helped elect Joe Biden to the presidency, and just a few months after Georgians elected two Democrats for the senators in special run-off elections. The Republicans are beyond pissed.

What’s strange is that Georgia has spent years opening up the state to corporations and Hollywood studios with all kinds of tax incentives. Disney, Marvel, Netflix and Tyler Perry Studios always have productions filming in Georgia. A wide variety of films and TV shows base themselves in Georgia. The voter suppression law was widely condemned by Hollywood, and all of the major unions issued statements. And… that’s about it. Just a lot of words, no promises to move productions out of Georgia. The lack of action from H’wood was getting pretty noticeable. Well, finally, an actor and a director have actually done it – they’re moving their sh-t out of Georgia.

Will Smith and the director Antoine Fuqua said on Monday that they were pulling their upcoming film production “Emancipation” out of Georgia because of the state’s new voting law, which has been denounced by activists as an effort to make voting harder for the state’s Black population. The slavery-era drama, which is being produced and financed by Apple Studios, is the first major production to cite the law as a reason to leave the state, which offers generous tax incentives to Hollywood productions and has become a major hub for Marvel Studios, Netflix and other industry heavyweights.

“At this moment in time, the nation is coming to terms with its history and is attempting to eliminate vestiges of institutional racism to achieve true racial justice,” Mr. Smith and Mr. Fuqua said in a joint statement. “We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that enacts regressive voting laws that are designed to restrict voter access. The new Georgia voting laws are reminiscent of voting impediments that were passed at the end of Reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting. Regrettably, we feel compelled to move our film production work from Georgia to another state.”

In the film, set to begin production this summer, Mr. Smith was set to play the real-life enslaved man named Peter, who emancipated himself from a Southern plantation and joined the Union Army. His story became famous after photographs of his back, scarred by whippings, appeared in the pages of Harper’s Weekly.

Whether or not this move will prompt other studios to reconsider productions in Georgia is not clear. Stacey Abrams, along with Tyler Perry, who owns his own studio in Atlanta, and others have urged Hollywood not to uproot productions despite outrage over the new law.

[From The NY Times]

Personally, I think Antoine Fuqua and Will Smith are merely acting on their consciences rather than making a larger call for studios to move out of Georgia or boycott the state. Some say boycotts work, some say no, boycotts don’t do sh-t. I think a boycott on its own won’t do much, especially if there are only a handful of artists and productions walking out of the state. Plus, it is notable that Stacey Abrams has asked Hollywood not to leave, and I’m sure there are a lot of powerful white Hollywood figures who will use that as cover. I think Will and Antoine are brave for what they’re doing and hopefully they’ll force a larger conversation within Hollywood and there can be a better plan beyond “issue a statement condemning the new voter suppression law and continue to pour money into Georgia.”

Photocall 'The Equalizer 2' in Berlin

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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18 Responses to “Will Smith & Antoine Fuqua pull their film out of Georgia after voter-suppression law”

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  1. Sierra says:

    Marvel aka Disney should leave and that will cause a ripple effect.

  2. Sue Denim says:

    I think boycotting South Africa helped lead to the end of apartheid, and that’s what we’re looking like, out in the open, here… So, it seems worth trying… I was glad to see this news and hope others follow…

  3. Lauren says:

    I’m sorry for the people of Georgia, but since republicans understand and care only about money this might be a solution. If enough people keep moving their business out of Georgia, they will have to reconsider.

  4. Becks1 says:

    One movie isn’t going to make much of a difference, but if enough follow suit – then it will. Money talks and always has.

  5. Lucy2 says:

    I do understand the worry of pulling all of those jobs, but unfortunately sometimes that’s what it takes.

  6. Lucy2 says:

    I do understand the worry of pulling all of those jobs, but unfortunately sometimes that’s what it takes.

  7. whateveryousay says:

    Marvel needs to leave. That would hit them hard.

  8. Louise177 says:

    I can’t be mad at the entertainment industry since I can’t imagine that it’s easy to pull productions and businesses out on short notice. Maybe more will pull out or change locations over time.

  9. MellyMel says:

    One movie leaving the state won’t change anything, but imagine if Disney/Marvel left! That would be a huge blow.

  10. WithTheAmerican says:

    The truth is those tax incentives are a joke, yes they bring industry but industry brings its own above the line workers. It only employs low level people in Georgia and brings money to locations and restaurants and equipment houses.

    Georgia pays so much money to get these businesses there, but as far as film and tv go, the studios (other than TP, whose entire business is housed there) bring a lot of their own people, even though in California the issue of “runaway production” is a concern.

    So they don’t create enough jobs to pay for the credits. It’s always seemed like an appearance thing which is odd for Republicans who love to criticize “Hollywood” but are obsessed with the glamour.

    • JHo says:

      I don’t know that this is entirely true. While they may bring their own production (I don’t know) I can say I’ve seen first hand how much money these shows bring into the community. TWD and others totally revitalized small towns all around ATL and the impact from fan favorites certainly brings in a lot of money to small communities. I hate these new laws and I hate Kemp and our republican legislators but I do worry about who the boycotts will actually hurt. And who they’ll drive away. Georgia turning blue had so much to do with the work of Stacey Abrams and others but it also has to do with new people moving to the south for the economics and diversity that ATL has to offer.

  11. FancyPants says:

    Good for them, I can’t help but think the that the time to do this would have been BEFORE the law was passed. The Georgia GOP isn’t going say “oops now we see the error of our ways, just kidding y’all.”

    • Rapunzel says:

      The law is being challenged in court, no?
      These boycotts could give a nudge to a judge.

  12. Jessica says:

    I’m of the opinion the only real power we have is the power of our wallets, so I support this move! Money talks. It’s why I’ve never given a dime to Chick-Fil-A or Hobby Lobby, why I’m working on cutting back my Amazon/Walmart purchases. I feel really bad for the people in Georgia caught in this mess, it’s so unfair to them, but what else can anyone do? Clearly the GOP doesn’t want to listen to the voters, they will only hear $$$$.

  13. BearcatLawyer says:

    I think both Will and Antoine recognized the irony of filming a movie called “Emancipation” in a state where the new statutes are just Jim Crow laws all over again. There is really NO WAY they could spin keeping the production there into good PR.

    • Rose says:

      Exactly! I fully support the move and hope other productions follow. I’d even pay to see this film rather than wait for it for free on a streaming platform. That’s how much I support it. I havent paid to see a movie in years

  14. JRenee says:

    It’s a start. I’m sorry that hard working folks will be financially impacted but the transparent voter suppression and ability to basically alter voter results is beyond worth fighting!