Plus, Annenberg Inclusion Initiative founder Stacy Smith tells Moneyish how the rider could change the representation game in Hollywood
Frances McDormand is still riding the inclusion wave.
Months after her improvised mention during a best actress Oscars acceptance speech, the “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” star this week reiterated her call for the inclusion rider, a clause in an A-lister’s contract demanding gender and racial equity for minor roles.
“I have been vaguely aware of and completely intrigued by the series of USC Annenberg studies on gender parity in film and television, which were commissioned by Women in Film and the Sundance Institute,” McDormand said Wednesday night during a speech at the Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards, according to IndieWire. “But I didn’t know that the author of the studies had taken the next step and created an actual working legal tool.”
McDormand also brandished a bumper sticker-style sign bearing the words “Inclusion Rider,” turning to stretch it across her backside.
“Little did I know. Now I know a lot more. And I’m here tonight to take some responsibility for my actions and to restate a call to action,” she said. “If I may use a sporting metaphor: If you want to go fast, go it alone. If you want to go far, do it together.”
The inclusion rider, developed by University of Southern California Annenberg Inclusion Initiative founder Stacy Smith alongside lawyer Kalpana Kotagal and actor-producer Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, seeks to increase diversity and better reflect our world’s demographic makeup by boosting representation of women, people of color, LGBTQ people and the differently abled in minor onscreen roles. It’s a way “to slow down the auditioning and casting process and ensure that casters are thoughtful and really auditioning talent from different groups,” Smith told Moneyish in March, “not those that might just easily come to mind.”
The rider also covers below-the-line, off-camera gigs like director of photography, cinematographer, first and second assistant director, and composer, which can often go to the same individuals within a tight network, Smith said: “This is one way to ensure that bias due to familiarity or past working relationships … can’t just simply be carried over,” she said. “There needs to be a good-faith effort to interview and potentially hire in those key positions behind the camera.”
Among the 100 top films of 2016, a previous study by Smith’s team found, just 31.4% of speaking characters were women — a measly 1.5% increase from 2007. Under 30% of all characters came from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups. “It really doesn’t make sense that we see such tilted representation of straight, white, able-bodied males onscreen year in and year out,” Smith said. “The inclusion rider can really be used as a tool to make sure that the casting process is equitable.”
The rider contains an evaluation component, so studios that don’t meet the contract’s stipulations face a financial penalty; tax credits, Smith hopes, will provide further incentive to create productions of inclusion. Smith, who had discussed the rider with folks from WME, UTA and other top agencies, said post-Oscars that she was “absolutely elated” to learn it had reached McDormand’s ears.
Going forward, she added, “it would be great if one of the agencies took a leadership position and said, ‘We’re asking all of our talent if they would like an inclusion rider’ … and making sure it is part of the process for how actors’ contracts are put together and negotiated for any of these notable and large films.”
“I’m waiting for the agencies to call and make a public pledge to adopt, because that would be the home run — not just for the industry, but for all those folks who tune in and don’t see themselves represented,” Smith said at the time. “This could be a major leap forward for making sure storytelling is as inclusive as the world we live in.”
Some stars have jumped on board since Smith spoke with Moneyish: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Pearl Street Films production company announced in mid-March that it would adopt the rider, as did actor Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier Society production company and “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig’s Feigco Entertainment.
This article was originally published March 5, 2018, and has been updated.
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