The Academy Awards are always magical. The congregation of Hollywood’s most influential producers, creative directors and of course, the fleet of renowned actors and actresses. It’s a night when the art of movies is celebrated, and only the Oscars are reserved only for the most dedicated, flamboyant actors and actresses who have worked tirelessly to earn it.

The 2018 version was clearly not an exception. The 90th Academy Awards, presented by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, honored the best films of 2017 and took place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. Hosted by the ever-flamboyant Jimmy Kimmel, the award show sparked to life as soon as the curtains were raised.

The night went on as “The Shape of Water” bagged the award for the Best Picture and Gary Oldman deservingly won the Best Actor award. As for the Best Actress award, it was none other than Frances McDormand, who bedazzled the audience with her breathtaking acting in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. She took to the center stage amidst a deafening applause. Gracing her presence with a beautiful smile, she went on to thank the entire team that worked behind making the movie a success. And not long after she picked up her statuette from the presenters, she put it down to ask all the female nominees in the building to stand: “Look around, everybody,” she said, “because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed.” Right after this, she concluded her speech with, “I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider.”

Inclusion. Rider. That was it. The entire Internet broke out into a frenzy. Google search results for the term “Inclusion Rider” skyrocketed overnight and the entire mass media started discussing this mysterious, little-heard-of term that the Award-winning actress has suddenly uttered. And even before anyone could understand anything, conversations spurred all across Twitter like wildfire.

So what exactly is an ‘Inclusion Rider’? In the simplest of all terms, an inclusion rider is a clause in an actor’s contract that requires the cast and crew to be diverse in order to retain the actor. By using the inclusion rider, an actor negotiating to join a film can insist that the supporting roles or characters of the movie should match the gender distribution of the setting for the film, as long as it does not harm the movie’s plot.

The reasons for pushing artists to implement inclusion rider is in fact pretty valid. Dr. Stacy L. Smith, the Director of Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California, has recently published a research that is based on 900 films across the span of a decade. The statistics seem to be pretty enthralling:

  • Only 31.4% of speaking characters were female, even though they represent a little more than half the U.S. population.
  • Women represented 4.2% of the directors and only a staggering 1.2% of the composers.
  • About 29% of speaking characters were from nonwhite racial/ethnic groups, compared with nearly 40% in the U.S.

These surely goes on to stress the need for actors and actresses to exercise their rights of seeing a diverse film crew with the help of using an inclusion rider.

Dr. Smith, the person behind coining this particular term, seemed to be extremely happy with how this concept has lately been going viral. Even though the inclusion rider might seem only like a Hollywood thing, she’s glad that the public knows about it. The purpose of the inclusion rider is “to counter biases on the casting, auditioning, interviewing and hiring process. For on-screen roles that are supporting and minor in nature, they have to be filled with norms that reflect the world in which we live,” Smith said. That means, for a contemporary drama, approximately 50 percent women, 50 percent minority, 20 percent people with disabilities and 5 percent LGBTQ, she added.

Meanwhile, other artists and film crew have shown immense support towards Frances and her interest in inclusion rider. Bria Larson, Alicia Lutes, and several others have tweeted to show their support. Notable actor Michael B. Jordan has tweeted, “In support of the women & men who are leading this fight, I will be adopting the Inclusion Rider for all projects produced by my company Outlier Society. I’ve been privileged to work with powerful women & persons of color throughout my career & its Outlier’s mission to continue to create for talented individuals going forward.”

Despite the term seeming to be relatively new, it is surprising to know that it has been existing for a good number of years. “I just found out about this last week,” McDormand told reporters after the ceremony, referring to the inclusion rider concept. “And so, the fact that I just learned that after 35 years of being in the film business — we’re not going back.” Indeed, because diversity and the utilization of a wider range of film crew have recently given the world the critically acclaimed “Black Panther” movie, among many others. We can only hope to see movies surpassing these in the years to come; in terms of diversity, equality and cinematic excellence. 

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