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What’s An Inclusion Rider? Here’s The Story Behind Frances McDormand’s Closing Words

Frances McDormand speaks to the crowd after accepting her Oscar for her lead role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. During her acceptance speech, she promoted the notion of an “inclusion rider” — setting off frenzied Google searches across the country.

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

Two simple words they may be, but when Frances McDormand closed her acceptance speech with them at the Academy Awards, not a whole lot of people had heard those terms paired that way. The big spike in Google searches for the phrase Sunday night reflects the frantic clatter of people across the world summoning those key words.

So, what is an inclusion rider, exactly?

Simply put: It’s a stipulation that actors and actresses can ask (or demand) to have inserted into their contracts, which would require a certain level of diversity among a film’s cast and crew.

For instance Smith, who directs the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California, told NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly she had “absolutely no idea” McDormand would bring up the concept at the Oscars. “But,” Smith added, “talk about being elated and thrilled to hear those two words broadcast around the world.”

Smith has pushed for years for more diverse representation in film — delivering a TED Talk on the topic while she was at it — and the inclusion rider has been a crucial arrow in her quiver.

“The goal really is to figure out: How do we move from all the lip service in Hollywood to actually see the numbers that we study every year move?” Smith said.

And those numbers have been stark. Here’s a brief look at some of the findings she and her colleagues published last year in a study of 900 films across a decade-long span:

  • Just 31.4 percent of speaking characters were female, even though they represent a little more than half the U.S. population.
  • Women represented 4.2 percent of the directors, and just 1.4 percent of the composers.
  • About 29 percent of speaking characters were from nonwhite racial/ethnic groups, compared with nearly 40 percent in the U.S.
  • Only 2.7 percent of speaking characters were depicted with a disability, despite the fact that nearly 20 percent of people in the U.S. has one.

Though Smith does not believe there are many film stars yet who have pushed for an inclusion rider, she said some indeed have asked for it. Smith said she and her colleagues work with civil rights attorney Kalpana Kotagal to craft language for these actors in their contract negotiations.

Oscars 2018: Who were the activists with Common and why were they so important?

‘The activists we asked to join us onstage are people who have dedicated their lives to making the world better,’ says rapper

Some 24 hours before Common and Andra Day took the Dolby Theater stage to perform their Oscar-nominated song “Stand Up for Something” (from “Marshall”), a group of activists gathered in Beverly Hills to celebrate the moment.

For the performance, each activist was contacted personally by Common and Day, who came up with the idea to use spotlights on stage as a visual element and to literally highlight those on the ground doing the daily work of changing the world.

The activists included Alice Brown Otter (Standing Rock Youth Council); Bana Alabed (author and Syrian refugee); Bryan Stevenson (Equal Justice Initiative); Cecile Richards (Planned Parenthood Action Fund); Dolores Huerta (Dolores Huerta Foundation, United Farm Workers of America); Janet Mock (#GirlsLikeUs), José Andrés (ThinkFoodGroup); Nicole Hockley (Sandy Hook Promise); Patrisse Cullors (Black Lives Matter); and Tarana Burke (Me Too).

Common used his Oscars performance to condemn Donald Trump’s “hate” and the National Rifle Association.

The American rapper’s performance of “Stand Up for Something” with singer Andra Day has been held up by many as one of the highlights of this year’s Academy Awards.

In keeping with the explicitly political message of the rendition, the pair were joined on stage by 10 activists who Common and Day personally invited.

“In American life, there are these people who abandon comfortable circumstances and take on issues that are bigger than themselves. And that is a thankless, thankless job to take on,” Dave Chappelle said when introducing the performance on Sunday night.

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