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Oscar winner Frances McDormand calls for inclusion riders -- what are they?

What is an "inclusion rider"?

LOS ANGELES -- When Frances McDormand capped her Oscar acceptance speech with a rousing call for inclusion riders, the general reaction was more "huh?" than "hooray!" She was referring to using business contracts as a vehicle to further gender and racial diversity in Hollywood by adding a clause that mandates it.

McDormand, honored as best actress for "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," raised the concept's profile in an instant Sunday night.

"Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed," she said, adding, "I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider."

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California explained the concept in a December 2017 paper. It credits initiative founder Stacy Smith as having crafted the rider with employment attorney Kalpana Kotagal. 

The rider is "an addendum to a contract that creates conditions for more equitable casting and hiring, focused on developing a diverse talent pipeline in the entertainment industry," according to the initiative. "This contractual language represents a crucial step in eliminating exclusion of underrepresented or marginalized groups." 

Smith explained the concept in a 2016 TED Talk which has been viewed online nearly a million times:

"A-listers, as we all know, can make demands in their contracts, particularly the ones that work on the biggest Hollywood films. What if those A-listers simply added an equity clause or an inclusion rider into their contract? Now, what does that mean? Well, you probably don't know but 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.  Except maybe 'Avengers.' Right? A few more in 'Avengers.' 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. Now, there's no reason why a network, a studio or a production company cannot adopt the same contractual language in their negotiation processes," she said.

Backstage, McDormand said she just learned of the possibility last week, although she said the opportunity to ask for or demand diversity in cast and crew is not new.

An inclusion rider means "that you can ask for and/or demand at least 50 percent diversity in not only the casting, but also the crew," McDormand said, according to IGN.  

"The fact that I just learned that after 35 years of being in the film business, we're not going back. So the whole idea of women trending, no. No trending. African Americans trending, no. No trending," McDormand said. "It changes now, and I think the inclusion rider will have something to do with that. Right? Power in rules." 

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