Feature film production won't shoot in Georgia if 'religious freedom' bill passes

Feature film production won't shoot in Georgia if 'religious freedom' bill passes

State officials estimate the entertainment industry's overall economic impact in Georgia last year totaled $6 billion.  

ATLANTA — An entertainment industry executive is giving Channel 2 Action News exclusive new insight into the potential negative impact of Georgia’s proposed "religious freedom" bill.

That executive told Channel 2’s Matt Belanger Wednesday at least one major feature film is prepared to set up shop somewhere other than in Georgia if the bill becomes law.

Brian Tolleson, whose office is right across from the historic Fox Theater, says he's getting a lot of calls from key players across the country worried about the bill and that feature film could be just the beginning.

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"Why would you want to support an economy that doesn't want you?" Tolleson asked.

Tolleson runs the digital entertainment company Bark Bark in midtown Atlanta.

The firm works with TV, film and advertising clients, and also has offices in New York and Los Angeles.

"For our industry, the entertainment industry, this will ruin Georgia's reputation," Tolleson said.

Supporters of the First Amendment Defense Act say the bill would protect faith-based organizations like adoption agencies from losing state funds if they refuse services to same-sex couples.

But Tolleson told Belanger and many others in the entertainment industry feel it amounts to legalized discrimination.

Tolleson shared inside information only with Channel 2 Action News, saying he recently learned the openly gay director of a feature film planned to shoot in Georgia later this year, is now considering pulling out of the state if the bill becomes law.

"There would be a real loss if that doesn't shoot here. It would be millions of dollars," Tolleson told Belanger.

State officials estimate the entertainment industry's overall economic impact in Georgia last year totaled $6 billion.

Tolleson believes Georgia could stand to lose a big part of that.

"Will it be everyone and every production? No. Will it be a large majority and a growing majority once people are aware this is how Georgia is treating people? Absolutely," Tolleson said.

Tolleson, a Georgia native, told Belanger he's proud to do business in his home state.

But he says he might even be forced to close his midtown location if there's a big drop in clients willing to do business here.