North Carolina's state legislature recently passed a bill, known as "the bathroom bill," which has been widely denounced as discriminatory. It places restrictions on who is allowed to use public bathrooms “based on their biological sex.” In other words, the law prevents people who are trans from using the bathroom of their stated gender.
Some musicians and touring companies — Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Cirque du Soleil among them — have canceled North Carolina shows in protest. Television production companies such as HBO, TNT and Fox say they are either reconsidering or abandoning plans to shoot in the Tar Heel State if the bill is not overturned.
While North Carolina does not rival nearby Georgia in terms of the volume of film and television production happening there, the state is a popular destination for Hollywood. There’s even a studio called EUE/Screen Gems in Wilmington with 10 sound stages where two TV shows are currently in production: the scripted Navy Seals drama, “Six,” which is produced by The Weinstein Company for The History Channel; and the TNT drama, “Good Behavior.”
When reached for comment about plans for future production in North Carolina, a TNT spokesperson told The Frame: "Turner is currently in mid production of one show which it will complete. Turner will however reevaluate doing further business in North Carolina."
And the statement from A&E Networks, which owns The History Channel says: “Production on SIX is already underway, however at this time we have no plans for any new productions in North Carolina.”
A spokesperson for The Weinstein Company says it supports A&E's position. If those shows and others abandon North Carolina, many of the state’s crew members who live and work there might be forced to move out of state to find work. We called up three such people in Wilmington to hear how HB-2 could change their lives.
Mark Gilmer is a digital imaging technician in the camera department. His credits include: "Flight," "42" and "The Conjuring 2."
Tracy Breyfogle is currently an art department coordinator. She's worked in the accounting department on "Iron Man" and "Heart of Dixie."
James Shaughnessy is what's called a Lead Person. He's currently working on the History Channel show, "Six." Previous credits include "The Notebook," Children of the Corn 2" and "A Meyers Christmas."
Below are excerpts from their interviews. Click the play button at the top of the page to hear the full story.
NORTH CAROLINA IS A "FILM FRIENDLY STATE"
Gilmer: North Carolina is a very film-friendly state. And the film production's been going on here for several decades now, so we have built up a very sizable infrastructure and crew . We have some very talented technicians here that are world-class.
Breyfogle: People have been doing it for generations here every since "Firestarter" [and] "Dawson's Creek." "Blue Velvet" was shot here.
Shaughnessy: The state offers a lot of backgrounds: It has the mountains; it has city life; it has the beaches. It has rural life and it has a lot of historic preservation if you need to shoot a period film.
HB2 MAKES NORTH CAROLINA "UNFRIENDLY" TO BUSINESS
Gilmer: House Bill 2 obviously raised a lot of eyebrows in the entertainment industry. Basically, Hollywood [and] most production companies have come out to say that if the bill is not repealed, they will not continue to shoot or have any productions in North Carolina, which drastically affects all of us who work here.
Breyfogle: Given the press that HB2 has generated, I feel like North Carolina has made itself a very unfriendly place for businesses, including productions, to come to. And it doesn't bode well for our being able to get continued jobs here.
Shaughnessy: Basically, policies of networks do not discriminate. And to come to a place that does discriminate violates their policy and does not look good on behalf of their network to do business with our state.
IMPACT ON PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN NORTH CAROLINA
Gilmer: When a film production pulls out, or somebody cancels a show here, or an industry decides not to relocate here, it definitely impacts the people who live here. It really kind of penalizes them. And most of the people who don't support this bill are the ones being penalized by it, unfortunately. But it's their way, I guess, of making a statement to get attention to hopefully put pressure on the lawmakers to repeal this bill.
Breyfogle: I think companies have to work in their best interest. I don't think they're trying to punish the people that live here. But if you are going to be hiring a large part of the population, or trying to recruit people, coming to a place that has already generated this atmosphere of being unfriendly or unwelcoming or discriminatory isn't really good business for them.
WHETHER TO LEAVE OR STAY
Gilmer: It's very disconcerting to have to think about packing up. I have a house that I've had here for 15 years. To think about packing that up ... My family lives here. I have a great number of friends here. To have to leave that all behind in order to pursue work because the bill [may not] allow us to work here anymore, it's very disheartening.
Shaughnessy: Friends that I have who have moved to Atlanta [for work] have spent between $8,000 -$12,000. That's just to rent an apartment, change your license and get all your stuff down and get set up.
Gilmer: If the bill were repealed I would definitely stick it out here. It's a good quality of life here. North Carolina has always been a home for me as far as film production goes.