While accepting her Oscar for Best Actress Sunday night, Frances McDormand urged fellow nominees to stand up for diversity, calling on Hollywood to better implement inclusion riders.
“We all have stories to tell and projects we need financed,” the Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri star said. She then ended her speech with a phrase that not many could define. “I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: Inclusion rider.”
An “inclusion rider” is a clause that actors can demand be inserted in their contract that requires cast and crew on a film to meet a certain level of diversity.
After her win, during a press conference, McDormand explained what inclusion riders were and that she had recently learned of the concept. “You can ask for or demand at least 50% diversity in not only the casting and the crew. The fact that I just learned that after 35 years in the film business – we aren’t going back.”
The concept of inclusion riders and equity clauses were explored in a TED talk in 2016 by Stacy Smith, founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California. Smith had examined the data on diversity in US-produced films, and discovered that casting was not representative of the population. So, she suggested that an “equity clause” or an “inclusion rider” could help remedy this.
After McDormand’s speech and press conference, viewers reacted to the newfound information on tangible ways in which Hollywood can boost diversity.
After the ceremony, Smith said she had worked with attorneys to create specific contract language and has already been in touch with actors interested in the idea.
“The real goal is to counter bias in the auditioning and casting process,” she told Guardian, explaining that under the contract, if the film ultimately failed to meet the requirements, the distributor would have to pay a “penalty” to a fund that supports woman directors and other underrepresented groups.
Smith said A-list stars could use inclusion riders to ensure proper representation and inclusion of women, people of color, LGBT people, and people with disabilities in Hollywood.
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