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New voting law impacts on Savannah’s film industry

Filming for "Lady and the Tramp" in Savannah.
Filming for "Lady and the Tramp" in Savannah.(WTOC (custom credit))
Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 5:45 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - We’re continuing to follow the impact of Georgia’s new voting laws. Governor Brain Kemp signed the bill about a month ago and since then, there has been some concern about events and dollars leaving the Peach State.

The entertainment industry has been a top concern after the governor signed the bill, which changes the procedures for voting in the state.

A similar fear took place a few years ago after the heartbeat bill, banning abortions after six weeks, was passed in Georgia. After that, the Savannah film industry took a big hit, according to Charles Bowen from the Savannah Film Alliance.

But Bowen says this time, there is nowhere near the scope of movies pulling out and leaving town. Instead, the productions are taking a different approach to make their voices heard.

“What they are doing a little different this time is they are exerting pressure in other ways. They are really putting a lot of pressure on the federal government to step in and try to do something about it. They are talking with their pocketbooks, they are donating money to candidates that they believe may lead to change,” said Charles Bowen, Founder of the Savannah Film Alliance.

If production is already underway, Bowen says it is almost impossible to pull out and start over somewhere else after all the time and money went into filming safely during the pandemic.

It has now been one month since the bill was signed, and there has only been one major production to pull the plug on Savannah. Will Smith decided to move his slave drama, “Emancipation,” out of the state as a result. The film would have not only brought in big bucks for the economy but would have employed some local talent, including some crew members from Alienworx in Savannah.

“It would have been a great opportunity but unfortunately they decided to move on. If one big production leaves Savannah, that potentially has a big domino effect - should we do the same, should we continue as planned, or should we move on to somewhere else?,” said Mark Nguyen, Creative Director of Alienworx Productions.

Nguyen says “Emancipation” is the only large film to change locations so far, but there is no way of knowing the long-term impacts it might have on the film industry in Savannah. However, with big tax incentives to shoot in Georgia, Alienworx is still staying busy with other film productions.

For now, Bowen says he feels we are past the initial danger zone of productions leaving coastal Georgia.

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