All hail McDormand
Last night (March 4) Frances McDormand picked up Best Actress at the Oscars for her jaw-dropping performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and took the opportunity to honour the #TimesUp movement, which has seen widespread call for greater equality across the entertainment industries – and beyond – in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
As part of her moving speech, the actor implored all the women in the room to stand up and be counted, before she said: “We all have stories to tell and we need finance. Don’t talk to us about it at the parties tonight. Invite us into your office in a couple days – or you can come to ours, whichever suits you best – and we’ll tell you all about them. I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: ‘inclusion rider’.”
What’s an inclusion rider?
It was a hell of a mic-drop moment, but what actually is an ‘inclusion rider’? McDormand explained to the press backstage: “[It] means that you can ask for and/or demand at least 50% diversity, not only in casting but also [in] the crew.”
The clause, which can be added to actors’ contracts at their request, has actually been around since 2016 and was co-created by University of Southern California communications professor Dr. Stacy Smith, civil rights and employment practice attorney Kalpana Kotagal and producer and actor Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni.
Dr. Smith, who has expressed her delight at hearing the phrase as she watched the Oscars on television last night, explained in a TED Talk she gave in 2016: “The typical feature film has about 40 to 45 speaking characters in it. 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.”
Many high-profile actors and media figures have now pledged their allegiance to the inclusion rider clause. Brie Larson tweeted, “I’m committed to the Inclusion Rider. Who’s with me?”, while Whitney Cummins posted, “We should support this for a billion reasons, but if you can’t find a reason to, here’s one: it will make movies better.”
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And Amy Schumer wrote: “Artists! Ask for an inclusion rider for all the projects you work on to make your work more reflective of the real population… Thank you Frances!!!”