Oscars 2018: who or what is an inclusion rider?

Frances McDormandImage copyright AFP
Image caption Frances McDormand said she had “two words” for the Oscars audience – “inclusion rider”

If this year’s Oscars are remembered for anything, it may be for making the term “inclusion rider” common parlance.

Mentioned by Frances McDormand at the end of her best actress acceptance speech, it refers to a clause actors can insist be added to their contracts.

“[It] means that you can ask for and/or demand at least 50% diversity, not only in casting but also [in] the crew,” she explained backstage afterwards.

Its mention prompted a dramatic surge of interest in the term on Google.

Many people also searched for inclusion “writer”, having misheard the final sentence of McDormand’s rousing address.

Image copyright Google

McDormand said she had only become aware of the term recently. But it’s actually been around since 2016.

It was coined by media researcher Stacy Smith in a TED talk she gave that year, in which she posited ways to show more women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities on screen.

Dr Smith came up with the concept with Kalpana Kotagal, a civil rights and employment practice attorney in Washington DC, and the producer and actor Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni.

The University of Southern California professor argues that an “equity clause” in an A-list actor’s contract could allow the film’s minor on-screen roles “to match or reflect the demography of where the story is taking place”.

Speaking to an audience in San Francisco, Dr Smith said: “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.”

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Brie Larson, pictured with Frances McDormand at the SAG awards, has pledged her support

Speaking after the awards, Dr Smith said the mention had come as a “complete surprise” and that she was “utterly elated” that McDormand – who won for her role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – had so publicly championed her proposal.

“The goal is that talent can take the inclusion rider and adopt it in ways that make sense for their values and their beliefs,” she told The Guardian.

The good news is that some A-listers are already taking the initiative when it comes to using their position to negotiate a more representative work space.

“I’m committed to the Inclusion Rider,” tweeted Brie Larson, Oscar-winning star of Room and the forthcoming Captain Marvel. “Who’s with me?”

McDormand also got the backing of former tennis player Billie Jean King, British screenwriter Jack Thorne and Pitch Perfect star Elizabeth Banks.

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