Inclusion Rider? The closing words of Frances Mcdormand.
Many people watching the Oscars were left scratching their heads when Frances McDormand finished her speech with the phrase “I have two words for you: inclusion rider.”
What the heck is an inclusion rider? It’s a way to make Hollywood more equitable. Actors sign contracts when they are cast in films, and they have the ability to negotiate for riders, or additional provisions. An inclusion rider is a stipulation that the cast and/or the crew in a film reflect real demographics, including a proportionate number of women, minorities, LGBTQ individuals and people with disabilities. Big-name actors who have leverage in negotiations could put this stipulation into their contracts and drastically change representation in film. An “inclusion rider” is a clause that an actor can insist be inserted in their contract that requires cast and crew on a film to meet a certain level of diversity.
The concept was explored in a TED talk in 2016 by Stacy Smith, founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California. Having examined the data on diversity in US-produced films, which showed that casting was not representative of the population, she suggested that an “equity clause” or an “inclusion rider” could be part of the solution.
“The typical feature film has about 40 to 45 speaking characters in it” she explained. “I would argue that only 8 to 10 of those characters are actually 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. An equity rider by an A-lister in their contract can stipulate that those roles reflect the world in which we actually live.”
“It doesn’t say you have to hire somebody who fits this demographic group even if you don’t think they’re qualified,” she said. “And I think that quota is such a loaded and dangerous word in this society — it invokes this sense that somehow underqualified people are going to get my job.”
The purpose of the inclusion rider is “to counter biases on the casting, auditioning, interviewing and hiring process. For on-screen roles that are supporting and minor in nature, they have to be filled with norms that reflect the world in which we live,” Smith said. That means, for a contemporary drama, approximately 50 percent women, 50 percent minority, 20 percent people with disabilities and five percent LGBTQ, she added. Historical dramas where this formula doesn’t make sense would be exempt.
With a rider, the exact language is always up to the person negotiating, and Kotagal also wanted to stress the importance of looking at the hiring not just of those on camera, but the people behind the scenes, as well.
Frances McDormand won best actress award for Three Billboards at Oscars 2018
She opened by saying “If I fall over, pick me up because I’ve got some things to say”, and then went on to urge all of the female nominees in the room to stand up.
After McDormand’s speech, some actors immediately offered public support to the idea on social media, with Brie Larson committing to it.
According to Kotagal, before McDormand made the world aware of the term “inclusion rider,” A-listers had already started to use them during negotiations. Unfortunately, she can’t say who. (“I wish I could,” she said.) But there’s a good possibility that McDormand’s outspoken support of the contract stipulations could inspire others to be vocal as well.