California Gov. Gavin Newsom tells Hollywood: Stop filming in Georgia

California Gov. Gavin Newsom answers questions at a news conference in Los Angeles, on June 9, 2022. Newsom is calling on Hollywood execs to "choose California." (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom answers questions at a news conference in Los Angeles, on June 9, 2022. Newsom is calling on Hollywood execs to "choose California." (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, in a letter in Variety Magazine directed at Hollywood studio executives, said states like Georgia have legislatures waging “a cruel assault on essential rights” in contrast to California, “a freedom state.”

California, where most creative Hollywood executives still reside, has seen a huge amount of TV and film business in the past two decades move elsewhere courtesy of generous tax credits in places like Canada, the U.K., New Mexico and Georgia. A recent study by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation estimates the state lost $8 billion in economic activity between 2015 and 2020.

Georgia jumped in the tax credit game in 2004 and made them so enticing in 2008, films and TV shows from “The Walking Dead” to a raft of Marvel movies began flocking to the state. Now it’s the third largest state in America for film and TV production behind only California and New York, two significantly more liberal states. Three successive Republican governors have supported the credits in Georgia, touting the job creation.

While California has a tax credit lottery system intended to encourage TV series to stay, most big-budget movies have opted for places like Georgia and Canada which do not have caps on the credits.

Georgia, which has severely restricted access to abortion following the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in June, was cited in the letter as “carrying out these attacks brazenly and with the intent to cause pain in the communities they target ― many of whom are essential to the success of your industry. Today more than ever, you have a responsibility to take stock of your values ― and those of your employees ― when doing business in those states.”

He dubbed California “a freedom state. Freedom to tell your stories. Freedom to access the health services you need, including abortion care. Freedom to love who you love and to ensure that your LGBTQ friends, family and colleagues can proudly be who they are. Freedom from repressive state governments that want to tell you what to believe and threaten you with felonies if you don’t toe the line.”

Newsom in the letter then asked decision-makers to “walk the walk’ and “choose California.”

Companies like Netflix, Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery have not made any public statements regarding Georgia’s abortion laws and have continued to announce new TV and film projects in the state.

About 1,000 TV showrunners have sent letters to big production companies seeking insight into how they plan to protect the rights of employees in states like Georgia when it comes to abortion access. If they don’t get satisfactory answers, it’s unclear if they may start actively avoiding projects in Georgia.