Film production moves to North Carolina from Arkansas, citing abortion ban

Citing a near-total ban on all abortions in Arkansas following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, a movie originally slated to shoot in Arkansas, is instead moving production to North Carolina, where abortion is still legal with some restrictions.

The news of the film “Eric Larue”, emotional because of the ban on abortion, was reported on Tuesday by the entertainment news site Deadline.

The movie was supposed to start filming in Little Rock, Arkansas, this week, but producer Sarah Green emailed the state’s film commissioner on Tuesday that the movie would be moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, the Arkansas Democrat reported. – Gazette.

The news follows last year’s record performance for the motion picture industry in North Carolina and marks a stark contrast to the role that North Carolina laws and policies on social issues have played in the ability to the state to attract productions – or not – in recent years.

On Friday, the News & Observer contacted the NC Film Office for comment and to confirm that “Eric Larue” will move production to North Carolina, but did not hear back.

Arkansas abortion law vs. North Carolina abortion law

Last month’s Supreme Court ruling triggered Arkansas’ 2019 Law 180, which “prohibits abortion in all cases except to save the life of the mother in a medical emergency,” reported Axios.

Arkansas law targets doctors who perform abortions — not the patients who receive them — making the act a felony punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 or 10 years in prison, or both. The law does not provide exceptions for rape or incest.

In North Carolina, abortion remains legal following the Supreme Court ruling, though a state law that has been blocked in court could ban the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and other restrictions are in place, such as a mandatory three-day waiting period. before anyone can receive the procedure.

More restrictions could be possible in the future, depending on whether more Republicans are elected to the General Assembly and are able to successfully override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto on all anti-abortion legislation.

But for now, North Carolina’s abortion laws are less restrictive than most states around it, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy group that tracks abortion laws. Across the country.

At least for the producers of “Eric Larue,” North Carolina’s less restrictive abortion laws seemed to make the state more attractive for filming compared to its more restrictive counterparts.

The move isn’t the first time productions have cited state policies on abortion when deciding where to film or produce their projects. In 2019, several major production companies, including Netflix and Disney, threatened to pull productions from Georgia after the state passed a controversial “heartbeat law” banning abortion after a heartbeat was detected. of fetal heart.

A production crew films a scene for ‘George and Tammy,’ a television series about country music stars George Jones and Tammy Wynette, played by Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain, far left, in downtown Wilmington , North Carolina, Friday, March 18, 2022. Shannon will direct ‘Eric Larue’ in Wilmington after production on that film moved from Arkansas due to the state’s abortion ban. Julia’s wall [email protected]

NC has previously lost productions to HB2

Other social issues and laws have also influenced productions’ decisions about where to film in recent years – and North Carolina has notably been on the losing side of some of those decisions.

After several successful years for the state’s television and film industry in the 2000s and early 2010s, state legislators’ 2015 reduction in the state movie incentive program has resulted in a dramatic drop in interest from production companies to film here.

Then, in 2016, the state passed House Bill 2, also known as “the Restroom Bill,” which required people to use public restrooms that matched their assigned sex at birth, rather than their sex.

Several production companies, including Lionsgate, A&E and 21st Century Fox, have announced that they will withdraw projects from the state or not consider the state for future projects due to the controversial legislation.

The law was repealed by a compromise bill in 2017, and major production companies, including Lionsgate, have since returned to film in the state. Netflix, which in 2019 opted to film the now-hit show “Outer Banks,” which is set in neighboring South Carolina’s North Carolina, due to “leftovers” from HB2, also returned to the State.

Funding for the state’s movie incentive program, which provides a 25% rebate on in-state spending on productions, is now pegged at $31 million, and is generally more stable and reliable than the initial reduced program launched in 2015, thanks to the funds being recurring and renewed from year to year.

Changes to the incentive program included in the state budget last year lowered the minimum spend requirement for most productions, while increasing the maximum payout for series, which could broaden the pool of productions considering North Carolina for filming, The N&O previously reported.

Now the decision to film “Eric Larue” in North Carolina — which largely puts the state in the opposite position it was in with HB2, attracting films instead of losing them — comes after a record-breaking performance for the state’s film industry in 2021.

The industry recorded its most successful year to date last year, with productions spending an estimated $416 million in the state. This eclipsed the previous industry record, set in 2012, when “Iron Man 3” and other productions invested $373 million in the state – although with inflation, both totals are at roughly equal.

‘Eric Larue’ will mark Michael Shannon’s directorial debut

Deadline reported that “Eric Larue” will be a screen adaptation of the stage play of the same name, which premiered in 2002 and follows the mother of a 17-year-old who shot and killed three of his classmates. of high school.

Oscar-nominated actor Michael Shannon is set to make his directorial debut with the film.

“As Janice faces a reunion of the other boys’ mothers and a long-delayed visit to her son in prison, the story is not about violence but about what we choose to think and do to survive a trauma,” Deadline said. project description reads.

Playwright Brett Neveu created the play in response to the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, and he adapted it into the upcoming feature film after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, reports Deadline. .

This won’t be the first time Shannon has filmed in North Carolina. He recently wrapped production on “George and Tammy,” a television series about George Jones and Tammy Wynette which filmed in Wilmington late last year. Shannon plays Jones in the series, which will premiere on Spectrum and move to Paramount+ and Paramount Network streaming. The release date for the series has yet to be announced.

This story was originally published July 8, 2022 2:57 p.m.

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Korie Dean is a reporter with The News & Observer’s service journalism team. She is a graduate of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at UNC-Chapel Hill and a lifelong North Carolina.

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