Local industry leaders say Heartbeat Bill should not affect film production in Savannah

Local industry leaders say Heartbeat Bill should not affect film production in Savannah

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - With Georgia Governor Brian Kemp expected to sign House Bill 481 into law in the coming weeks, many with ties to the film industry are wondering what, if any, impact it could have on film productions coming to Savannah.

Some in Hollywood have already spoken out against the bill, threatening to boycott the state should the so-called “Heartbeat Bill” become law.

There’s no doubt about it - the entertainment production industry is huge for our area, generating about $120 million in direct spending last year. That, in turn, created a $253 million economic impact for the region.

That’s nearly doubled from the year before. Attractive tax incentives from the state and locally keep big productions coming back. Savannah Film Alliance Founder, Charles Bowen, thinks those incentives will continue to carry weight, House Bill 481 or not.

“As long as Georgia maintains it’s economic incentives, then the people that are actually spending their money to make those movies are going to give Georgia a serious look and serious consideration,” Bowen said.

Dozens of Hollywood’s elite have pushed back on the LIFE Act, saying if it becomes law, they won’t work in Georgia.

Bowen points out work in other states or countries won’t be as lucrative, and that’s something actors need to take into consideration.

“Unless they are willing to severely cut back on the money that they are commanding to appear in these films, then they always have to defer to the people that are actually paying for them. In this case, as long as Georgia offers them an opportunity, and Savannah in particular with the local incentives to film and save money, save hundreds of thousands of dollars, there’ll always be business here," he said. “Come to Georgia, come to Savannah. Be an example of the type of person that you think that the legislators should listen to. Convince people that your position is correct, and then when those elections roll around, campaign for the people that you believe will do a better job. That’s going to have a lot more impact and effect than calling for a boycott.”

Industry workers are weighing in on potential impacts from the legislation.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Union Local 479, which represents Film and Television production technicians based in most of Georgia and Alabama, released a statement for their members on Thursday.

They say in part, while it’s reasonable to be concerned at this point, that “there have been ZERO official statements from the industry decision-makers that show any indication that they will seek alternative locations outside of Georgia to make their projects. Yes, a group of actors spoke out, and yes, the Writer’s Guild of America made strong recommendations against this bill; however, the studios themselves have issued no comments to date, and we have no reason to think any of them will.

Of course, we’ll keep a close eye on the legislation and let you know as soon as an action is taken by the governor.

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