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Kemp appoints five to state board that oversees film industry; board appears in transition

By David Pendered

Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday appointed five members to what appears to be a board in a state of transition at a time the department it oversees has been thrust into the spotlight to manage the fallout the state’s anti-abortion law will have on the film, television and commercial production industries.

Gov. Brian Kemp

Gov. Brian Kemp

Scant information about the board of directors is available from the website of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

The links of the current page, which identifies board members, go to a site that observes, “The requested page could not be found.”

The board does not appear to have the requisite number of members. The website page for the board has photos, or blank spaces, for 21 members. The five members announced Tuesday are to join this board; no information appears available about members who may be leaving the board.

Twenty-three is the number of members called for in the state law that establishes the board. Specifically, the law calls for one member from each of the state’s congressional districts, of which there are 14, plus nine additional members, “from the state at large.”

In addition, the website includes an entity named “Advisors to the board.” It has photos, or blank spaces, for 11 members. State law does not appear to establish an advisory board. The board does have broad powers.

A statement released Tuesday by Kemp’s office includes this quote about the governor’s appointments to the board of economic development and a total of four other boards or commissions:

  • “I look forward to working with these highly-qualified individuals from across our state as we continue to reform state government and put people ahead of politics/ Together, we will ensure Georgia’s best days are always ahead.”

The new board members include:

  • Mark Bassford, president of Bassford Companies, which oversees more than 9 million square feet of warehouse space, industrial development in the Southeast, and a corrugated packaging manufacturing plant;
  • Jake Carter, who converted his family’s farm in McDonough from a dairy farm to an agritourism destination;
  • Jaclyn Dixon Ford, vice president and COO Dixon Gin Co., Inc. Dixon now serves on the Board of Trustees for Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and South Georgia Medical Center’s Berrien Campus Authority;
  • T. Dallas Smith founder and CEO of T. Dallas Smith & Company, the largest African-American owned commercial real estate brokerage in the country;
  • June Wood, chair of the Henry County Board of Commissioners. Wood retired from Georgia Power in 2013 after 26 years. She serves on several boards of the Atlanta Regional Commission.

As the new board members take office, they inherit a situation in which a fair amount of attention is showering on the movie stars and studios that have expressed reservations about filming in Georgia after Kemp signed the “heartbeat bill” on May 7. The law restricts abortions after a fetus’ heartbeat can be detected.

Meanwhile, the state’s film industry has developed a global reach.

To put that reach in perspective, the state is cited prominently in the trailer of a summer block buster that’s already hit $2.6 billion in worldwide ticket sales – Avengers: Endgame. Sales are inching closer to the top sales of $2.78 billion by Avatar, according to a report by msn.com. Avengers: Endgame was developed after its principal photography was filmed at Pinewood Atlanta Studios, located in Fayette County.

Kemp’s appointments to the board of economic development come amid ongoing coverage of the “heartbeat bill,” both abroad and in U.S. publications that often appear a world apart but have found a similar language in this situation.

The words “mocked” and “C-list celebrities are popping up with regularity since Kemp’s comments about the blow-back were reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

London’s Daily Mail ran a story Monday under the headline:

  • “Georgia governor mocks ‘C-list celebrities’ – including Ben Stiller, Amy Schumer and Alyssa Milano – who have threatened to stop making movies and TV in his state if the controversial anti-abortion law isn’t repealed”

Breitbart.com ran a similar headline in its conservative publication, which once was led by Steve Bannon, who left to become a short-lived chief strategist to President Trump:

  • “Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) mocked ‘C-list celebrities’ threatening to boycott the state over its recently passed “heartbeat” abortion law, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.”

Huffpost.com, the antithesis of breitbart.com, used the word “bashes” in lieu of “mocks” in a headline that sounds a tone similar to those above:

  • “Georgia Governor Bashes ‘C-List Celebrities’ Boycotting Over Abortion Law. Those opposing the “heartbeat” law include Natalie Portman, Sean Penn, Ben Stiller and Judd Apatow.”


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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