Stacey Abrams indicated the best way to help Georgia was to stay and fight. For some companies that are not already in Georgia, however, the question is not about staying and fighting, it’s about whether or not to bring new business to the Peach State.
On April 12, 2021, Will Smith, Antoine Fuqua, and Apple Studios decided that starting production on their new Apple TV series, “Emancipation,” in Georgia simply wasn’t worth it, especially in consideration of current events. While staying to fight may be fine, they didn’t feel compelled to inject more funds into a state that had enacted terrible anti-voting rights policies.
Apple’s runaway slave thriller Emancipation today will change its plan to shoot in Georgia, because of the state’s controversial restrictive election law signed by Republican state governor Brian Kemp. I’ve heard that the film — Antoine Fuqua is directing Will Smith from a William N. Collage script — will likely instead shoot in Louisiana, where the actual events of the thriller took place. The move will cost the production somewhere in the $15 million range, because of the loss of the lucrative tax rebates that have made Georgia such a busy U.S. production hub.
What is important to note here is that Apple recognizes that having the Peach State branding on a film could be a real problem for a film about oppression and slavery in light of recently passed legislation.
This pending move comes after weeks of discussions between the filmmakers and film officials in Georgia and Louisiana, and with Georgia political leaders like Stacey Abrams. Along with Tyler Perry and some others, Abrams has urged Hollywood not to uproot its productions in response to the passage of restrictive election law that followed President Joe Biden’s election victory. Emancipation won’t likely presage a Georgia exodus. This is a special case, one where the optics of shooting in Georgia would be difficult given the subject matter. Carrying the familiar Peach symbol on this particular Apple film could undermine the power of the movie’s subject matter.
Apple originally paid $130 million dollars for the project. The expected overall cost will be north of that number, not counting local tax stimulus from pay earned and dollars spent in the state from the production.