Politician steps in to save “Wicked” filming in Georgia
A political magician worked his magic to keep the Emerald City within the Town of Dogwood.
After politicians in Georgia pass controversial legislation to change state voting rules, the team behind the highly anticipated film adaptation of the Broadway musical Mean had doubts about filming in Atlanta. Other Hollywood film producers had decided to pull their productions out of Peach State, and Major League Baseball had announced that its All Star Game would be played elsewhere. “A lot of people or organizations decided to boycott Georgia because of it,… and we were considering doing so,” admitted Stephen Schwartz, the show’s composer.
The new law limits the number of ballot boxes in each county, reduces the time voters have to request mail-in ballots, and now requires people to provide accepted identification to receive their mail-in ballots. With the new rules, “Georgia will take one more step towards the security, accessibility and fairness of our elections,” said its governor, Brian Kemp.
However, many believe that the purpose of the legislation was less to protect the integrity of the electoral process than to suppress African-American votes.
Tending to be more liberal, African-American voters helped shift the state from Republicans to Democrats for the second time in four decades in the recent presidential election and the second round of the Senate elections.
“These legislative moves came at a time when the black population in Georgia continues to grow steadily, and after a landmark election that saw record turnout statewide, especially for postal voting, that black voters are now more likely to use than white voters. Said Kristen Clark, head of the Department of Justice’s civil rights division, which filed a lawsuit against Georgia over the law last week. Several provisions of the law “were adopted with the intention of denying or restricting the equal access of black citizens to the political process,” she argued.
“Whether deliberate or inadvertent, (…) the new bill encroaches on people’s right to vote, makes it more difficult and particularly targets certain groups,” Schwartz commented. “For those of us at Mean, he said, this is not a partisan issue; [we have] fans who are Republicans, we have fans who are Democrats, and we have fans who are independent. “” But, I believe that all of our Mean fans believe in democracy, and… that people who are old enough to vote and who want to vote should have the right to do so without that right being infringed or taken away, ”Schwartz continued.
Despite the large tax credit granted to film studios that shoot in Georgia, Schwartz and the producers of Mean discussed moving the film elsewhere. The yellow brick road could be diverted to another place where they could build the Land of Oz.
But, then, Schwartz got a call from Stacey Abrams, the Georgian politician who had helped get more African-American citizens to vote.
“She strongly urged us not to boycott,” Schwartz said. “She pointed out that a boycott and the withdrawal of the film from Atlanta would hurt the very people we are trying to help in terms of workers and small businesses,” he said. A study found that Georgia’s growing film industry generated an economic impact of around $ 8.5 billion and employed around 90,000 Georgian residents in 2019.
“What she asked us to do instead is, as she puts it, ‘stay in the fight’,” recalls Schwartz.
The spirit of the producers of Mean were changed for good, and they decided to stay and tour in Georgia. The film is “currently scheduled to begin production … in Atlanta later this year, and then film throughout next year,” Schwartz confirmed. Jon M. Chu, who directed the film adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical In the heights, will direct the film, which has been in development at Universal Pictures for over a decade.
However, Schwartz confirmed that in addition to making “significant contributions to organizations that support, for example, voters who now need identification,” the team behind the film will support “federal bills. to protect the right to vote “.” A bill named the “For the People Act ”did not survive an obstruction in the US Senate last week, and Democratic leaders are now preparing to introduce yet another franchise bill.
“We can come to Atlanta, whatever we wanted to do, and still feel good about ourselves,” Schwartz said with a smile.