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In the #TimesUp era, these two words could help Hollywood add diversity to decision-making

At Sunday’s Academy Awards, Best Actress-winner Frances McDormand ended her acceptance speech with two words: inclusion rider. Jeffrey Brown talks with the the woman credited with inventing the idea, Stacy Smith, founder of USC's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, to discuss what it means, how it works and its potential to combat bias in Hollywood.

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  • William Brangham:

    In the midst of the MeToo and TimesUp movements, last night's Academy Awards had a very different vibe from the past.

    Several presenters and host Jimmy Kimmel spoke about changing the culture of the movie business, and pushing to make it far more inclusive, both in front of and behind the camera.

    Jeffrey Brown looks at a particular call for action.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    A striking moment came when Frances McDormand accepted the Oscar for best actress for her performance in "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri."

    She told the audience she had some things to say, and then put the focus directly on the issue of inclusion and disparities in Hollywood.

    Here's part of her speech.

  • Frances McDormand:

    If I may be so honored to have all the female nominees in every category stand with me in this room tonight, the actors — Meryl, if you do it, everybody else will. Come on.


  • Frances McDormand:

    The filmmakers, the producers, the directors, the writers, the cinematographer, the composers, the songwriters, the designers.

    Come on.


  • Frances McDormand:

    OK, look around, everybody. Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed.

    Don't talk to us about it at the parties tonight. Invite us into your office in a couple days, or you can come to ours, whichever suits you best, and we will tell you all about them.

    I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen- inclusion rider.


  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Two words, but many were left wondering what they mean.

    Well, my guest is credited with inventing the idea of the inclusion rider. Stacy Smith is founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California, where she's released regular reports on the representation of women and others in film. She joins me now from Los Angeles.

    So, Stacy Smith, welcome to you.

    I gather you were as surprised as anybody by that. What exactly is an inclusion rider?

  • Stacy Smith:

    Indeed, I was shocked.

    An inclusion rider is really straightforward. It's a stipulation in an actor or a content creator's contract that says there will be target inclusion goals on screen for diversity in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, LGBT, people with disabilities, and behind the camera, below the line, that good-faith efforts and interviewing will consider women and people of color in key gatekeeping positions.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    So, it's not affecting leading roles, right, but the idea is that the lead actors have the clout or directors have the clout to get this done?

  • Stacy Smith:


    We wanted to respect story sovereignty and ensure that the creative process could thrive. We also don't stipulate for a historical piece that inclusion goals on screen have to be met. For historical dramas, they can cast based on what that might entail for the period or for the story that's trying to be told.

    But for stories that represent present day and take place in cities like Los Angeles, or New York, or Chicago, the story should look like the world in which we live, and that has not been the case in decades in Hollywood.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Well, you know, you have been looking at this lack of inclusion in Hollywood for a long time, I know.

    So, what's the nature of the bias that you see that this would address?

  • Stacy Smith:

    Well, there's not just one bias when it comes to hiring in Hollywood, but I think that the inclusion rider at its outset was really trying to tackle implicit bias in the auditioning and casting process.

    Often, you would see a script, and somebody might have firefighter, police officer, or plumber, and automatically that raises a perception or a thought that it should be filled by a male. And to really counter those occupational biases or those role biases, you need guidelines to help casting directors slow down and be thoughtful and really consider broadly the talent that can fill different positions that are oftentimes very minor in films, but are important in terms of building a pipeline of talent.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    You know, Frances McDormand herself last night said she had just learned about this rider. Is the rider in use now? Are there examples where people have used it?

  • Stacy Smith:

    Well, I think, informally, many times, actors have negotiated through their representatives with different production teams or studios about what they value.

    We took it a step forward. We concretized the language, ensured that there are inclusion criteria in defensible language that actors can use.

    And we have given out that language to multiple individuals that are very prestigious when it comes to their acting careers and have met with entertainment attorneys and agents across the industry. So it has been in use.

    And had I known this was coming, I would have received — or reached out to get permission to talk about the people who have used the rider. But I'm hoping we can circle back very soon and let you know just how many and how often it's in place and the impact that it's had on storytelling in film.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    Well, it clearly got a lot of attention last night.

    What's the reaction since, and how hard will it be to implement in a larger scale?

  • Stacy Smith:

    Well, the reaction has been absolutely amazing.

    There is so much visibility now in the press on this issue, and that this tool can be used by actors and content creators. And it's really easy for this to be adopted by agencies, to put it in the hands of every single one of their clients and ask if they would like inclusion criteria in their contract negotiations for all their upcoming projects.

    So, implementation is easy. This is about just having people say yes across the institutional stakeholders that have typically said no when it comes to decision-making in Hollywood.

  • Jeffrey Brown:

    All right, Stacy Smith, thank you very much.

  • Stacy Smith:

    Thank you.

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