What is an inclusion rider, and what can it do to tackle systematic issues of inequality in Hollywood?
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Many people watching the Academy Awards on Sunday were left puzzled when Frances McDormand, in her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress, finished her time on stage with “I have two words for you - inclusion rider”. What is an inclusion rider, and why was she using her platform to bring attention to it? Speaking to journalists backstage after her win, she elaborated that she had only recently learned of this concept, explaining that “you can ask for and, or, demand at least 50 percent diversity in not only the casting, but also the crew… the fact that I just learned that after 35 years of being in the film business – we aren’t going back.” “So, the whole idea of women trending? No, no trending. African Americans trending? No, no trending. It changes now,” McDormand continued. “And I think the inclusion rider will have something to do with that.” The principle of inclusion riders was first proposed by Stacy Smith from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, a thinktank which researches inclusion and diversity in the entertainment industry, in 2014. According to the thinktank’s latest data, it found that only 4 percent of Hollywood’s top 1,100 films in the past decade were directed by women, 5.2 percent were by African Americans and 3.2 percent by individuals of Asian descent. Smith, speaking to The Guardian, explained that a “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.” The clause also stipulates that if the film were to fail to meet the requirements explicit to the inclusion rider, the film’s distributor would have to pay a “penalty” to a fund which supports female directors and other marginalised or underrepresented groups.
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