Insiders say new law could impact MS film industry

Insiders say new law could impact MS film industry

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - More reactions are being expressed about the signing of the religious accommodations law in Mississippi. But now, the reactions are from the state's film industry.

Coast residents say the impact can already be felt.

"I brought my first movie to Mississippi; never again," said Fayr Barkley, who has been in the film world since the 70s'.

Barkley's statement reflects what many producers, directors and other insiders are feeling now that House Bill 1523 is becoming a law.

"This is going to be absolutely devastating for state," added Barkley.

Many believe the law allows for discrimination. A similar bill was vetoed in Georgia after the film industry there threatened to take its business elsewhere. According to director and producer Monica Mingo, shooting films in Mississippi already has its challenges.

"This just makes it that much harder," said Mingo. "Mississippi is so wonderful and great because it's such a creative area," said Mingo.

Mingo has a growing list of credits in the film biz, and was initially pushing to film her second feature in the Magnolia State. Now, she's not so sure about that happening.

Mingo calls it a shame that the bill could be driving away business.

"If nobody's going to bring jobs here because of Mississippi politics then those people all that great talent has to go somewhere else to find work," Mingo said.

Producers and directors aren't the only ones opposing the law. Cat Leatherwood says she's worked dozens of films as a second camera assistant, and has already heard from several planned projects who are taking their business elsewhere.

"Many of them have backed out. Many producers who come through the festival circuits, which we forget about, they're not going to come back to the state," said Leatherwood.

This means money out of her pocket, which also means Leatherwood may have to end up leaving the state to find work. But, that's not what she wants.

"I want to stay in the state. I want to make the state better," said Leatherwood.

To do that, the camera assistant says it's up to her and the other citizens of Mississippi to make their voices heard.

"We've actually got to do something. We can't just sit here and get mad at our legislators anymore," added Leatherwood.

According to the organizer of the Sun and Sand Film Festival, Wes Benton, several films have already expressed hesitation about continuing plans to film in the state. Several A-list actors contacted festival organizers Tuesday, asking them to not advertise that they would be coming to the festival.

Benton says nothing is set in stone regarding those actors at this time.

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