Three years after Frances McDormand brought the concept of an inclusion rider public during her 2018 Oscars acceptance speech, a reimagined version of this tool to guarantee inclusive hiring on film and television productions has been launched.
On Wednesday, #ChangeHollywood — an initiative of the civil-rights group Color of Change — joined Pearl Street Films and Endeavor Content in coalition with the original co-authors of the inclusion rider — Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll partner Kalpana Kotagal, Pearl Street’s head of strategic outreach Fanshen Cox, and Endeavor Content’s head of HR Dr. Tasmin Plater — to release an updated inclusion rider template and policy and implementation guide for entertainment industry companies.
It includes new policies that focus on accountability and hiring targets, and bring together civil rights, racial justice and legal expertise, as well as a knowledge of the industry, to provide resources for increased representation throughout Hollywood. More info is at inclusionrider.org.
“We gained tons of feedback over the past three years that changed our approach regarding this edition of the inclusion rider,” says Dr. Plater. “Not only have we made structural adjustments to the policies of the rider to allow for more flexibility, we have also provided guidance for the adopters to focus on four principles: deepening hiring pools, setting targets/benchmarks, measuring their effectiveness and implementing ‘self’ accountability measures.”
First initiated in 2016, the inclusion rider is a contract provision that provides for a certain level of diversity in casting and production staff. Several studios and production companies have already signed on to the new edition, including AMC Studios, Forest Whitaker’s Significant Productions, Scott Budnick’s One Community, Stephanie Allain’s HomeGrown Pictures and digital content company Portal A.
“Our company, along with so many others, paused post-George Floyd’s murder and the summer that was and took a hard look at itself and said, ‘Where can we do better? Where can we demonstrate a more focused commitment?’ And quite frankly, evaluated what was working and what wasn’t working,” says Aisha Thomas-Petit, AMC Networks’ chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. “The inclusion rider really gives us an opportunity to move beyond intention, and really focus more on expectations and actions that should come along with our commitment.”
Kotagal adds that the changes help increase the inclusion rider’s reach beyond clauses in the contracts of specific actors and filmmakers, like Michael B. Jordan and Pearl Street’s Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who have led the charge on its use.
“The original inclusion rider was really developed for A-listers — for Ben and Matt, for Michael B. Jordan, for folks to take and then use in their individual production-by-production negotiation. The reason that we did that is we felt that A-listers and folks with influence in the industry could use that influence to help start a conversation around systemic change,” she says. “Now that we have these companies signed on to implement the inclusion rider as hiring policy, we really feel like we’ve taken the next step toward the kind of systemic change that we think is super important.”
This new iteration of the rider template expands upon its original legal framework, develops additional tools for hiring crew from underrepresented backgrounds, adds accountability measures and advocates for intersectional inclusivity including gender, race and ethnicity, LGBTQIA, age and disability considerations. The coalition will also launch a website of resources featuring hiring databases for BIPOC writers, execs and media and diversity and inclusion data. The importance of these materials is reflected in UCLA’s 2021 Hollywood Diversity Report, which found that people of color represent only 25.4 percent of film directors and 25.9 percent of writers. Its 2020 TV report found minorities only hold 8 percent of studio chair and TV jobs, while across broadcast, cable and digital programming, only 24 percent of credited writers were minorities and only 22 percent of episodes were directed by minorities during the 2018 to 2019 season.
“The inclusion rider is one resource — specifically focused on hiring — that is part of all of the important efforts being made to change Hollywood for the better,” says Cox. “With so much work to be done, we are offering a resource that helps ease the load, because the road to change is long, but with clear, specific, tangible steps, the rider offers a way to help get to our destination.”
#ChangeHollywood, inspired by Jordan and executed in close partnership with WME and Endeavor Content, is the founding vertical of a multi-industry racial justice accountability franchise from Color of Change.
“So far, few executives, studios, productions and agencies in Hollywood have actually backed up their statements about racial equity with action,” says Color of Change president Rashad Robinson. “It’s time to come up with ways to propel change and translate intentions into action. This reimagined inclusion rider and inclusion rider policy are crucial resources to help Hollywood reflect on where it is at and raise the industry’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.”