What’s an inclusion rider?
In her Oscars acceptance speech, Frances McDormand made an unusual request: She wants Hollywood actors to put inclusion riders in their contracts.
That kind of clause would require producers to cast actors who represent the demographics of where the film takes place. They would consider actors’ gender, race, sexual orientation and physical abilities. The riders could also stipulate that the producers try to hire a diverse behind-the-scenes crew, according to the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, a think tank that studies diversity in entertainment. The initiative is part of the University of Southern California Annenberg’s School for Communication and Journalism.
The concept was created in part by USC professor Stacy L. Smith, who has researched the underrepresention of women and minorities in films.
Smith wrote about the “equity rider” in a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter in 2014. She said at the time that the clause could require that minor characters in a film “should match the gender distribution of the setting for the film, as long as it’s sensible for the plot.”
If A-list actors who worked across the 25 top films in 2013 had made that change, she wrote, “the proportion of balanced films (about half-female) would have jumped from 16 percent to 41 percent.”
“Imagine the possibilities if a few actors exercised their power contractually on behalf of women and girls,” she added.
Smith elaborated on the concept in a 2016 TED talk.
She said that a typical film has about 40 to 45 speaking roles in it, adding that only about 10 of those are relevant to the story.
“The remaining 30 or so roles, there’s no reason why those minor roles can’t match or reflect the demography of where the story is taking place,” she said.
McDormand told reporters backstage after her best actress Oscar win that she had just learned about the concept last week.
“The fact that I just learned this after 35 years of being in the business, we’re not going back,” she said.
The actor said diversity has been treated as a trend in the industry, and called on that to change.
“The whole idea of women trending. No. No trending,” McDormand said. “African Americans, trending? No, no trending. It changes now, and I think that an inclusion rider will have something to do with that.”
The concept also gained support from Brie Larson, who won the Academy Award for best actress two years ago.
“I’m committed to the Inclusion Rider,” she tweeted. “Who’s with me?”