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Frances McDormand’s Oscar Speech Explained: What Is an Inclusion Rider?

Stacy L. Smith of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative first floated the concept during a 2016 TED Talk.


Frances McDormand’s powerful Oscars acceptance speech was a definite highlight of the 2018 ceremony, but her departing words left many with one question: What the hell is an inclusion rider?

“I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentleman: inclusion rider,” said the two-time Oscar winner, accepting the Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

An “inclusion rider” is an amendment to a contract that would require cast and crew on a film to meet a certain level of diversity. McDormand seemed to be suggesting that her fellow actors negotiate inserting such clauses into any future contracts, ensuring racial and gender equity on set. Just before, she had asked all the female nominees in any category to stand up and be recognized. “We all have stories to tell and projects we need financed,” she said with aplomb.

The idea was first floated in a 2016 TED talk by Stacy L. Smith, founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California. The talk was titled, “The Data of Hollywood Sexism.”

“The typical feature film has about 40 to 45 speaking characters in it” Smith said. “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. An equity rider by an A-lister in their contract can stipulate that those roles reflect the world in which we actually live.”

Following McDormand’s speech, Oscar winner Brie Larson tweeted her support for the idea, saying she was “committed to the Inclusion Rider.”

Earlier this year, Octavia Spencer revealed that she and Jessica Chastain had bundled their pay during contract negotiations for a comedy they were developing, eventually receiving five times their initial ask.

Speaking further about the idea backstage, McDormand said, “I just found out about this last week, there’s always been available to everybody that does a negotiation on a film, an inclusion rider, which means that you can ask for and/or demand at least 50 percent diversity in not only the casting, but also the crew. The fact that I just learned that, after 35 years of being in the film business, we’re not going back.”

Watch Smith’s TED Talk below.

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