WME is throwing its support behind the inclusion rider, the clause that has been top of mind in Hollywood ever since Frances McDormand uttered the phrase as the parting shot in her best actress Oscar acceptance speech.
Over the past year, the agency has been in conversation with Stacy Smith, director of USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, to help develop language for the rider, a clause that A-list talent can incorporate into their contracts requiring proportionate representation of women or other underrepresented groups in their projects. Smith first proposed the strategy, then called an “equity rider,” in a Hollywood Reporter guest column.
On Monday morning, Smith addressed WME during its weekly company-wide meeting, attended in person and via video conference by approximately 500 agents and executives across the agency’s departments. During Smith’s presentation of data on the current state of diversity in the entertainment industry, Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel voiced his commitment to change, and a day later sent an agency-wide memo calling for all agents to discuss the inclusion rider with their clients.
“It is imperative that you have a conversation with your film and TV clients about this critical issue,” he wrote. “We also know that talking about inclusivity is not enough. It must be institutionalized in order to create change.”
Three Endeavor agents — WME partner and talent agent Phil Sun, WME partner and music agent Samantha Kirby Yoh and IMG Models president Ivan Bart — sit on the advisory board of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, and Sun’s client Michael B. Jordan was among the first to adopt the inclusion rider for his production company, Outlier Society. Since then, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Pearl Street Films, Paul Feig’s Feigco Entertainment and Brie Larson also have pledged their commitment.
In addition, Endeavor Content will consider the inclusion rider as a best practice, urging the projects it finances and sells to have their background actors and below-the-line crew reflect the real-world population. And three of the production companies it has invested in — Scott Budnick’s Good Films, Bruna Papandrea’s Made Up Stories and Lynette Howell’s 51 Entertainment — have also adopted the rider.
“Ari Emanuel and WME’s leadership on adopting the inclusion rider is a watershed moment for the entertainment industry,” Smith said in a statement. “Ensuring that clients are not only aware of this tool but are given the option to use it on all future film and TV deals is a game-changer. This act of leadership will have profound effects on the nature of inclusion in storytelling for years to come. Now, we invite the studios to follow suit.”
Read Emanuel’s full memo, below.
WME is supporting the adoption of the inclusion rider across our industry. While we have been working with Dr. Stacy Smith for the past year, it’s now time to take action across the company.
It is imperative that you have a conversation with your film and TV clients about this critical issue. The numbers we heard from Dr. Smith are unacceptable. While the rider is not a panacea for the lack of inclusion in our industry, it does set a path for real change particularly for females, people of color, the LGBT community and people with disabilities.
In partnership with our clients, we have the opportunity to change Dr. Smith’s statistics, and the way our world is perceived by adopting the rider in all of our contracts. We know that through culture we can break down prejudices, implicit biases and stereotypes that threaten people’s abilities to succeed.
We also know that talking about inclusivity is not enough. It must be institutionalized in order to create change.
Our partners at Endeavor Content are adopting the guidelines from the inclusion rider across all projects.
We must continue speaking with our clients, and then push the studios, networks and buyers to adopt these principles. Let’s encourage others to join Michael B. Jordan, Brie Larson, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who have publicly declared their support of the rider.
Please speak with Ari Greenburg and Tom McGuire if you have any questions. They will start the outreach to the community. Each agent must start a dialogue with their clients.
We have a responsibility to both ourselves and our community to support this initiative.