In Frances McDormand’s impassioned Oscars acceptance speech for Best Actress, she plead with film industry heavyweights in the room to pay attention to the women around them — whose stories need telling and financing.
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“Don’t talk to us at the parties tonight, invite us into your office or we’ll come to yours; whatever suits you best. We’ll tell you all about them,” the Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri star said.
Yet there were two words at the conclusion of her speech which puzzled much of the room and the public alike: “Inclusion rider.” So, what is it?
An “inclusion rider” is a demand that could be made by leading actors to ensure the production they’re signing onto meets a certain level of diversity.
The idea has been led by University of Southern California professor Stacy Smith, who has been actively researching Hollywood’s diversity problem as part of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.
“The typical feature film has about 40 to 45 speaking characters in it,” Smith said at a 2016 TED Talk.
“I would argue that only eight 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.”
Smith also advocated for Hollywood to adopt something similar to the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching roles.
She argued the rule would work in favour of female directors, of which there are only 4.1 percent in 900 popular films between 2007 to 2016, according to the Initiative’s 2017 report.
With McDormand’s public stamp of approval, the “inclusion rider” will hopefully create a new normal for the screen industry. Just maybe.