FILE - In this April 3, 2019, file photo, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams speaks during the National Action Network Convention in New York. A lawsuit challenging Georgia's election system can move forward, a judge ruled Thursday, May 30, in the legal case filed by a group founded by former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abrams. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

FILE - In this April 2, 2019, file photo, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, right, speaks to members of the Georgia House during the final 2019 legislative session at the state Capitol in Atlanta. A lawsuit challenging Georgia's election system can move forward, a judge ruled Thursday, May 30, in the legal case filed by a group founded by former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Photo: Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Photo: Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Georgia studio leaders seek meeting with Kemp over ‘sea change’ in film biz

Originally posted Tuesday, June 4, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com and GREG BLUESTEIN/greg.bluestein@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Some of Georgia’s leading entertainment businesses sought to meet with Gov. Brian Kemp after he signed the anti-abortion “heartbeat” bill into law, but the Republican has not responded to the May 22 request.

About 15 companies sent Kemp the letter requesting a meeting at EUE/Screen Gems. They wanted to discuss the fallout from his support of the abortion restrictions, which has led some Hollywood figures to threaten to leave if the law takes effect. 

Among the companies that co-signed the letter included Third Rail Studios in Doraville, Moonshine Post-Production in Atlanta and Lightnin Production Rentals in Lawrenceville. 

In the letter, Kris Bagwell of EUE/Screen Gems wrote that the 400 crew on his lot this week “are quickly closing their wallets as they sense a sea change in this Georgia success story called film and television production.”

“That’s why I believe they would greatly benefit by hearing from you directly about your support for the future of their jobs in their state,” added Bagwell, who also leads the Georgia Studio & Infrastructure Alliance.

Although Kemp visited the state-operated Georgia Film Academy on Pinewood Studio’s property met some film officials, he didn’t talk to other major local leaders and many rank-and-file film and TV crew members.  

Kemp has not responded to the request, and in a statement Tuesday his office did not directly address the letter. His spokeswoman, Candice Broce, said the governor will continue to support “the hardworking Georgians employed in the film and television industry.” 

The letter was first obtained by Channel 2 Action News through an open records request. In it, Bagwell argued that “hearing directly from you will make a dramatic impact and help to shift the conversation” and reassure the antsy industry. 

The letter was a written before Netflix, Disney, Viacom and others sent out notes threatening to leave Georgia if the restrictive anti-abortion bill survives court challenges and goes into effect in early 2020. 

Bagwell confirmed today that he has not received any response from Kemp but otherwise declined to comment. Previously, he has said the bill has hurt the state’s reputation with Hollywood brass and he is losing business as a result.

None of the companies in question receive the valuable tax credits bestowed upon qualified production companies such as Disney and Sony.

Rather, the businesses all invested millions into the state of Georgia banking on the fact the credits would attract Hollywood films and TV productions over the long haul. That has been the case - so far. 

If enough Hollywood companies leave Georgia over laws like this, Bagwell and others worry, many of these small businesses would suffer financially and perhaps close down. 

Here’s the letter in full:

Dear Governor Kemp:

I’ve enjoyed having a good, open relationship with you over the years, and I’ve always appreciated you being willing to listen to our industry’s aspirations, feedback and concerns. When you took the time to visit EUE/Screen Gems several years ago, it was clear that you understand not only what it means to be a business owner, but that you also value opportunity and jobs for hard-working Georgians around the state. 

 

I write today with a serious, immediate concern. Recent public comments have raised anxiety about whether our state is committed to this multi-billion-dollar industry going forward. Now, and very suddenly, tens of thousands of Georgians employed in our state’s film and television industry are worried about their job opportunities moving out of state fast. Now, when I talk to many of the approximately 400 Georgia crew on my lot this week, I hear firsthand that they are quickly closing their wallets as they sense a sea change in this Georgia success story called film and television production. That’s why I believe they would greatly benefit by hearing from you directly about your support for the future of their jobs in their state. 

 

With that purpose alone, and in response to your desire stated last week to visit film and television production centers in the state, I respectfully issue an invitation on behalf of 15 local film and television studios and production support companies to start a series of conversations with these Georgians by first visiting EUE/Screen Gems Studios this week or next week. We think that hearing directly from you will make a dramatic impact and help to shift the conversation about Georgia’s film and television industry back to a positive note while also reassuring all Georgia voters that their state won’t have to replace the 92,000 high-paying jobs that you and we, together, have spent over a decade creating. 

 

Out of respect to you and your office, and if you so choose, we will not allow any news media on our premises during your visits.

The companies issuing this invitation are: 

 

EUE/Screen Gems Studios 

Enterprise Entertainment  

Atlanta FilmWorks 

SIM Atlanta Camera and Post Mailing Avenue 

Stageworks 

Crafty Apes Visual Effects and Production Services 

Triple Horse Studios 

Moonshine Post-Production

Third Rail Studios 

Lightnin Production Rentals 

PC&E 

United Rentals 

HERC Entertainment Services 

Innovation Workshop 

Cofer Brothers 

On behalf of all of us, I look forward to your quick response and to your visits with us.

Sincerely,

Kris Bagwell Executive Vice President and General Manager

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X