6:00 am PDT 4/12/2021
The project is the first large production to leave the state due to the new law.
In a move aimed at Georgia’s restrictive electoral laws, director Antoine Fuqua and Will Smith are withdrawing production of their slave drama Emancipation from the state.
Fuqua, who directs and produces through his Fuqua Films, and Smith, who starred and produces in the production through his media company Westbrook Inc, announced this Monday. The project is being carried out by Apple Studios, which started it in July 2020.
“At this moment the nation is grappling with its history and trying to remove traces of institutional racism in order to achieve real racial justice,” said Smith and Fuqua in a joint statement. “We cannot in good conscience provide economic support to a government that passes regressive electoral laws designed to restrict voter access. The new electoral laws in Georgia are reminiscent of electoral barriers that were passed at the end of the reconstruction to prevent many Americans from voting. Unfortunately, we feel compelled to move our film production work from Georgia to another state. “
The drama was scheduled to start production on June 21st. It is now the first large production to leave the state due to the new law.
The new electoral law, passed by a Republican legislature and signed into law by a Republican governor, has been heavily criticized by observers for being overly restrictive. It limits the use of dropboxes, imposes tough new ID requirements on postal ballots, gives water and groceries to those waiting in line for a crime – and targeting the state’s black populations. Politicians and civil rights activists have called the bill a reminder of Jim Crow’s time when many southern states passed laws that kept institutional racism intact even after the Civil War.
Georgia has one of the more generous production tax incentives in North America and is a key production base for The CW, Marvel, Netflix, and HBO Max. Hollywood debates how to deal with the Georgia situation that has divided producers and executives. Some are calling for a production boycott, while others say boycott would do more harm to voters hurt by the new law.
While a show like Cobra Kai or Doom Patrol could operate relatively under the radar in Georgia, that probably wasn’t a result for Emancipation as it was a real-time slave drama and centered around Smith, an international star.
In the story, Smith portrays Whipped Peter, an enslaved person who emancipated himself from a plantation in the south and joined the Union Army. However, he was known to be the subject of a series of photographs that showed badly scars when he was flogged as a slave. The photos appeared in an issue of Harper’s Weekly, the most popular magazine in America at the time. The most famous was “The Scourged Back”. His back was mutilated by a whip given to the plantation of the slaves John and Bridget Lyons. William N. Collage wrote the script.
The Fuqua and Smith move could cascade in the coming days or weeks, putting pressure on more productions to leave the state.