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Frances McDormand's 'inclusion rider' explained

Actor Frances McDormand accepts Best Actress for 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' onstage during the 90th Annual Academy Awards.
Actor Frances McDormand accepts Best Actress for 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' onstage during the 90th Annual Academy Awards.
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Frances McDormand took home her second Oscar for best actress on Sunday night, and her impassioned acceptance speech set off a frenzy of Internet searches for the term, "inclusion rider." 

The phrase was unfamiliar to a lot of people. In fact, McDormand, who was honored for her role in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” said she hadn’t heard the term until about a week ago.

So what is an inclusion rider, and how might it work? To get the answers to both questions, The Frame's John Horn rang up Linda Lichter. She’s a prominent entertainment industry lawyer who specializes in transactions and contracts.

Interview Highlights

Where the idea of an inclusion rider comes from:

The actual reference is to something that comes from [USC Annenberg School's] Stacy Smith, who's been doing a lot of research about women in the business. It's something that individuals can attach to an agreement that says that they want to have a certain concentration of women or minorities on their film. I don't know if anybody has accepted this, but it's certainly aspirational.

Who is in a position to insist on an inclusion rider:

I certainly think that anybody who is the actor or actress who makes the film "go," or makes the TV show happen, is somebody who can ask for this. I would think that it wouldn't be impossible for an independent film to do it. Obviously it happened on [films] like "Mudbound" and others along that line. The real pressure will be on the major studios to do it — and I think it'll take a while. 

Why it's not just for actors:

I think it has to be producers and directors as well — the people who make a lot of the hiring decisions. I think it also has to be agencies and other people that promote people, because I've been in situations where we ask for lists of writers from agencies and there wasn't a single woman on the list. So we have to have — at every level of the pipeline — an awareness that we need to bring in new voices.

How better representation can increase box office sales:

Apart from the fact that women are 51% of the population, they're 52% of moviegoers and they're 51% of movie tickets purchased ... So we've got an audience argument and we've got research about who it is that makes choices about what movies to go to and what things to buy, that I think should be persuasive. It's a slow process, but I think it's going to be motivated by economics as well as passion and politics.

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