'The Walking Dead' Showrunners Threaten To Leave Georgia Over Abortion Bill
AMC has joined a number of other film companies who said they would pull its productions from the state if the abortion ban were to pass.
Despite filming in the state for ten years, AMC's highest-earning series 'The Walking Dead' has joined companies such as Netflix and Disney in threatening to pull production in Georgia if a newly signed, highly restrictive abortion law goes into effect.
It comes after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill that would make abortion illegal after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which has since prompted a major backlash from residents as well as key entertainment figures.
In a statement, AMC said, “If this highly restrictive legislation goes into effect, we will reevaluate our activity in Georgia. Similar bills -- some even more restrictive -- have passed in multiple states and have been challenged. This is likely to be a long and complicated fight and we are watching it all very closely.”
The series has already kicked off production at its usual film spots for season 10, however, AMC has prepared to pull the plug and relocate if advisories fail to block the "heartbeat" bill.
They join a slew of major Hollywood studios who have criticised the ban, with the total number of those boycotting the state, should the law come in to force, growing each week.
As it stands, the following brands and companies have taken a stand against the controversial law -- and given that in 2018 the film industry supported a total of more than 92,000 local jobs in Georgia and $2.7 billion in direct spending, the boycott of producing films or television shows in the state would have a significant effect.
Netflix, whose Georgia productions include the hugely popular 'Stranger Things', was one of the first to take a stance.
“We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos told Variety.
He continued, “It’s why we will work with the ACLU and others to fight it in court. Given the legislation has not yet been implemented, we’ll continue to film there, while also supporting partners and artists who choose not to. Should it ever come into effect, we’d rethink our entire investment in Georgia.”
With blockbusters like 'Avengers: Endgame' and 'Black Panther' having filmed in the state, the loss of Disney would be a major blow to the area, with Bob Iger, the chairman and CEO of Disney, telling Reuters that he “doubt [Disney] will” continue production in Georgia if the bill goes into effect.
“I think many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard. Right now we are watching it very carefully.”
WarnerMedia -- owner of HBO, CNN and the Warner Bros. studio -- also joined the criticism of the bill, with WarnerMedia's Turner Broadcasting located in Atlanta, Georgia’s largest city.
"We operate and produce work in many states and within several countries at any given time, and while that doesn't mean we agree with every position taken by a state or country and their leaders, we do respect due process," WarnerMedia said Thursday in a statement.
"We will watch the situation closely, and if the new law holds we will reconsider Georgia as the home to any new productions. As is always the case, we will work closely with our production partners and talent to determine how and where to shoot any given project."
The media powerhouse is currently filming HBO’s 'The Outsider' and 'Lovecraft Country' in the state, along with the Warner Bros. film 'The Conjuring 3' with the 'Suicide Squad' sequel set to shoot there shortly.
CBS, which films 'MacGyver' in Georgia, have also released a statement on the matter.
"Creative voices across our industry have expressed strong concern about the recently signed bill in Georgia. The ability to attract the best talent is the first step in producing great entertainment content and is always an important consideration in where we film any series," said a rep for the company.
"We are monitoring the legislative and legal developments in Georgia with the full expectation that the process in the courts will play out for some time. For now, we will continue producing our series based there that have production orders for next season. If the law takes effect in Georgia or elsewhere, these may not be viable locations for our future production."
“We are closely monitoring the situation in Georgia and expect the legislation will be subject to significant legal challenges. Should the new law ever take effect, we will assess whether we will continue to produce projects in Georgia,” Viacom said in a statement to TheWrap.
The first season of the BET show 'Bigger' as well as season 8 of VH1's 'Love and Hip Hop Atlanta' are currently filming in the area.
"As the MPAA has noted, the outcome of Georgia ‘Heartbeat Law,’ and similar proposed legislation in other states, will be determined through the legal process," said a Sony Pictures Entertainment spokesperson.
"We will continue to monitor that process in close consultation with our filmmakers and television showrunners, talent and other stakeholders as we consider our future production options."
NBCUniversal said that the abortion law in Georgia will “strongly impact” on whether the company will choose to film in the state in future.
“We fully expect that the heartbeat bills and similar laws in various states will face serious legal challenges and will not go into effect while the process proceeds in court. If any of these laws are upheld, it would strongly impact our decision-making on where we produce our content in the future,” the company said in a statement.
Speaking on their series 'Greenland' currently being filmed in the state, CEO Robert Simonds wrote to STX employees, "As many of you know, when Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed the HB 481 'fetal heartbeat' bill into law on May 7th, STX was in pre-production on the film 'Greenland' in Atlanta, GA.."
He continued, "While the bill has not yet come into effect, we do not believe it represents the will of the people in Georgia. After thoughtful consideration about how best to move forward, we feel that relocating production would penalise the hundreds of talented crew members who would abruptly be out of jobs. In an effort to aid those on the ground fighting to reverse this legislation, STX will be making a donation to the ACLU of Georgia. Should HB 481 ever officially come into effect, we will reassess filming any future projects in the state."