All the hubbub over abortion in Georgia has one entertainment executive pining for the days when the church worked hand-in-hand with Hollywood.
A handful of film companies are promising to pull out of Georgia after Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed into law the state’s pro-life “heartbeat bill,” but there’s one company — Pure Flix — planning to stay put.
“It’s a great place to film,” PureFlix.com CEO Greg Gudorf told Faithwire.
On the heels of the successful premiere of “Unplanned,” the movie chronicling the journey of former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson, Pure Flix is poised to begin production on season two of its web-based series “The Encounter,” which will be filmed in the Peach State.
In early May, five film companies announced they would be boycotting the state in the wake of Kemp’s approval of the “heartbeat bill,” which outlaws abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detectable, usually around six weeks into pregnancy.
The entire ordeal started two months earlier, in March, when actor and activist Alyssa Milano launched a petition urging her fellow celebrities to ditch Georgia in the event the governor signed the pro-life bill into law, which he did. In a letter to Kemp, Milano described the legislation as “dangerous and deeply flawed.”
But for Pure Flix, a faith-based entertainment organization, H.B. 481 is not a problem.
“Our Pure Flix vision is, quite frankly, to influence culture for Christ through media,” Gudorf explained. “We state that, we share that with our investors, our employees. It’s in our marketing material. For us to not be there — or to withdraw from being there — certainly is not in line with our company vision.”
It’s that vision that reminds Gudorf of an era between the mid-1930s and late 1950s, when the Roman Catholic Church largely controlled the kind of content that would make it to the silver screen. At the time, films lived or died by the Motion Picture Production Code, chock full of proposed moral guidelines for movies.
Eventually, in the late 1960s, the code was done away with and the U.S. turned to the rating system we have in place today from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), vastly diversifying the kind of content brought to market. There are some, though, who aren’t convinced that was a good thing.
“You don’t have to be ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’ in order to entertain,” Gudorf said, a nod to Netflix’s new film about the notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. Americans, he argued, are hungry for content that doesn’t “push to the extreme.”
Such “extreme” content wouldn’t be around — or at least not as easily accessible — if Hollywood and the church still worked together, according to Gudorf. Anything that premiered between the ’30s and the late ’50s, he said, was suitable “whether you were 5 years old or 95 years old.”
“You didn’t have to worry about gratuitous language, sex, and violence, whereas today that tends to be the trump card,” Gudorf said. “There’s a desire for something that’s family, faith, and fun oriented.”
In lieu of that erstwhile partnership, there’s Pure Flix.
Gudorf said the Christian production house plans to continue to create content that represents people who don’t often see themselves in Hollywood movies and TV shows. Pure Flix, he said, is “standing in the gap.”
Asked about his strategy to continue making the case for faith-based content in mainstream entertainment, Gudorf said, “I think of it as a standing in the gap. Standing in the gap for the values that we believe, standing in the gap for biblical principles.”
The Pure Flix executive suggested he’d like to see the two industries — faith-based media and mainstream Hollywood — coexist. But that’s apparently not a partnership some in Tinseltown are interested in cultivating.
“They both can coexist, but we both have our jobs to do, so to speak,” Gudorf said.
By vowing to leave Georgia, though, Hollywood elites are signaling an end to an important, albeit difficult conversation about abortion. And that’s worth noting, considering in fiscal year 2018 alone, Georgia, nicknamed the “Hollywood of the South,” was home to nearly 500 film and TV productions, buttressed by $2.7 billion of direct spending in the state.
Gudorf said he’s concerned the boycott could mean the creation of two Americas, ideologically speaking.
“When you announce that you’re withdrawing, and you’re gonna boycott, you basically are saying the conversation’s not worth having,” he said. “And we think it’s a conversation worth having.”