At the 2018 Oscars, Best Actress winner Frances McDormand challenged her Hollywood peers to consider the power of an inclusion rider in their contracts.
I had to look it up.
I bet you did, too.
Because inclusion rider is not an everyday term.
And Frances McDormand knew that.
Moments after receiving the Best Actress prize for her role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, she made a powerful statement from the Dolby Theatre stage:
“I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider.”
There were a few puzzled looks. A few nods. A few grins.
There was enthusiastic applause, too. But it was clear that many of Hollywood’s elite had never heard those two words before. At least, not in the same sentence.
Backstage in the Press Room, McDormand explained the concept in response to a question from a Vanity Fair journalist.
“(It) means that you can ask for and/or demand at least 50% diversity in not only the casting, but also the crew,” she said, admitting that she’d learned about the clause only last week despite 35 years in showbiz.
In the entertainment industry, riders are the parts of the artist’s contract that outline special requests. So, an A-lister might have riders for accommodation (hypoallergenic linen on a waterbed), food (vegetarian meals prepared by a professional chef) and beverages (imported organic orange juice). Often, riders cover what you and I would call the perks of celebrity status.
But, as McDormand pointed out at the Academy Awards, riders can also deal with big issues. The inclusion rider, in essence a diversity clause, can be leveraged by actors and actresses who are serious about transforming the film business.
Think about that for a minute. Think about that seriously.
The biggest names in one of the biggest industries in the world have this tool at their disposal.
It’s a powerful tool.
It’s a tool that can be used in the pursuit of diversity.
In the pursuit of equality.
In the pursuit of progress.
In the pursuit of change.
And right now, Hollywood needs change.
We’ve seen that. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have shown us that.
What would happen if every single artist insisted on an inclusion rider from now on?
Every. Single. Artist.
The studio executives would shit bricks, for starters. But beyond that?
Imagine the potential. Imagine the possibilities. Imagine the conversations!
The conversations… I think Frances McDormand wanted to start a few of those.
She ended her Oscar acceptance speech with two unfamiliar words because she wanted everyone in that auditorium to stop and think.
She wanted you and me to stop and think. She wanted us to ask: “WTF is an inclusion rider, anyway?”
She wanted us to go and investigate the idea.
She wanted us to talk about it.
She wanted us to discuss it.
She wanted us to debate it.
Because words have power.
When they’re written. When they’re spoken. When they’re printed on a billboard.
Mildred Hayes knew that.
Frances McDormand knows that, too.
So do I.
And so do you.
Let’s start talking about inclusion riders.
Let’s start talking about bold initiatives to bring people together.
Let’s start talking about ways to make diversity the rule, rather than the exception.
It’s not going to be easy.
But it is going to be worthwhile. ♦ JP