The upcoming movie, Emancipation, which follows an enslaved man named Peter as he escapes a plantation and joins the Union Army, was set to begin production in Georgia in June. However, as a result of new election rules implemented in the state, Antoine Fuqua, who will produce the film, along with its star, Will Smith, have decided to pull production and move it to a new location.
The pair released a statement to NPR on the decision, stating: “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.”
Georgia’s newly approved voting law includes additional restrictions on absentee voting, modifies the use of drop boxes, and adds more requirements for mail-in voting. Given the history of voter suppression in the state, civil rights activists argue the changes will impact Black voters the most.
When it comes to the film and television industry, a massive amount of production takes place in the southern state. Georgia’s Entertainment Industry Investment Act provides a 20 percent tax credit for companies that spend $500,000 or more on production in the state. As a result, according to AJC, some of the highest-grossing films ever have been produced and filmed in Georgia, include Avengers: Endgame and Spider Man: Homecoming. The former went on to rake in over $2.798 billion worldwide.
Tyler Perry, who became the first African-American to own a large-scale studio, opened Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta in 2019. In addition to his own movie and show franchises, the studio has served as the set for Black Panther and The Walking Dead, bringing in an estimated revenue of $907 million.
Smith and Fuqua’s decision may very well set a precedent for productions in the state as a result of their new voting conditions, tax credit or not.