It has been one of the biggest stories in production news for the past few weeks, the narrative of whether to outright boycott Georgia after Governor Brian Kemp signed a restrictive voting law that potentially limits the access the state’s African-Americans have to their right to voice their political opinion in their country’s right-to-vote laws. There have been a number of calls to outright boycott the state that offers one of the best tax incentives in the country, employs thousands of crew and artisan and was the first to resume production after the 2020 pandemic shutdown.
Now, Deadline has received a letter written by the leaders of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) directly to appeal to Kemp to withdraw his support for the new voting law. The 18,000-member guild has more than 400 members who live in the state, and the head of the guild says that the law “threatens to undermine the pillar of our democracy – the right to vote.”
In a letter written to Kemp and sent Monday, DGA President Thomas Schlamme and National Executive Director Russell Hollander wrote, “As a leading voice representing creative workers in the industry, we are compelled to denounce SB 202, which will disenfranchise our members, and disproportionately impact our members of color, and millions of other hardworking Georgians. We urge you to reconsider your support for this misguided law and to make every effort to unwind its restrictions before it takes full effect on July 1st.”
All the other major guilds, SAG-AFTRA, the Producers Guild (PGA), and both WGA East and West have issued statements opposing the law, but none quite as insistent as the DGA’s letter.
“Our members, like other working people in the labor movement, have a voice on the job through the DGA. But we must also have a voice in our government through the right to vote. We stand in solidarity with the other unions, corporations and individuals that have spoken out in protest to SB 202. We support the fight for free and fair elections in Georgia and elsewhere.”
The SB 202 laws includes strict new voter-ID requirements for absentee voters; prohibits election officials from mailing absentee ballot applications to all voters; sharply limits the number of ballot drop boxes; and makes it illegal to offer food or water to citizens waiting in line to vote. Supporters of the law say it’s designed to prevent voter fraud. Opponents call it voter suppression.
The DGA’s response is a classic case of “Money talks…” and you probably know the rest, and they’re hoping to appeal to Kemp’s desire to keep the state’s economy fluid, especially when it comes to the film and television production economy that’s been a huge boom for the last few decades. Other states, like New Jersey, have already been campaigning for any business that might come from a Georgia boycott, and Major League Baseball already pulled its All-Star Game and draft, both lucrative events, from Georgia and moved them to Denver, Colorado.
You can read the full text of the letter, that was obtained by Deadline:
April 5, 2021
The Honorable Brian Kemp
206 Washington Street
Suite 203, State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
Dear Governor Kemp:
On behalf of the more than 18,000 members of the Directors Guild of America (DGA), including more than 400 who make their home in Georgia, and hundreds more who choose Georgia as the location for their film and television projects, we write to condemn the voter suppression law Senate Bill 202, which threatens to undermine the pillar of our democracy – the right to vote. President Biden has referred to the law both as an “atrocity” and as a modern-day version of Jim Crow.
The DGA is a labor organization that represents the creative and economic rights of directors and members of the directorial team working in film, television, commercials, documentaries, news, sports, and new media. The DGA has long been a supporter of the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act that has driven increased motion picture and television production in the state in recent years, spurring economic activity that supports 44,070 jobs and more than $3.64 billion in wages. However, as a leading voice representing creative workers in the industry, we are compelled to denounce SB 202, which will disenfranchise our members, and disproportionately impact our members of color, and millions of other hardworking Georgians.
Our jobs involve long hours (often 12 hours or more a day) and frequent weekend work. They take us to sound stages and shooting locations across county lines as well as international borders, on assignments that may last up to a year or more. Because of our arduous work schedules, our members have a particular need to avail themselves of early and absentee voting. And they will be particularly at risk of the new law’s limitations on ballot drop boxes, early voting in run-offs, and absentee voting.
We vehemently reject the notion that making it harder to vote is consistent with America’s democratic values. SB 202 revives discredited practices intended to suppress the voice of Black people and other people of color that were so common in the days before the landmark Voting Rights Act, such as allowing for unlimited challenges to a voter’s registration – a notorious tactic used to racially profile and intimidate voters of color.
SB 202 will clearly suppress the vote in Georgia. For example, in the racially diverse Atlanta metro area where many of our members of color live, the number of registered voters far exceeds the availability of polling places. Voting lines have been particularly long in nine Atlanta area counties with large Black populations (Fulton, Gwinnett, Forsyth, DeKalb, Cobb, Hall, Cherokee, Henry and Clayton), which include nearly half of Georgia’s active voters but only 38% of the polling places. To provide too few polling places, and then to impose new restrictions on early and absentee voting, is a choice to burden the right to vote – a burden which falls disproportionately on Georgia’s Black voters and other voters of color.
Our members, like other working people in the labor movement, have a voice on the job through the DGA. But we must also have a voice in our government through the right to vote. We stand in solidarity with the other unions, corporations and individuals that have spoken out in protest to SB 202. We support the fight for free and fair elections in Georgia and elsewhere.
We urge you to reconsider your support for this misguided law and to make every effort to unwind its restrictions before it takes full effect on July 1st.
Thomas Schlamme Russell Hollander
President National Executive Director
Directors Guild of America Directors Guild of America