Prominent producers and celebrities like Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Paul Feig are jumping on the inclusion rider bandwagon following Frances McDormand’s best actress Oscar acceptance speech.
Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni said late Monday on Twitter that Damon and Affleck’s production company Pearl Street Films would be adopting the inclusion rider in conjunction with USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.
Early Tuesday, “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig followed suit saying on Twitter that his company is also going forward with the inclusion rider for all film and television productions.
Feig thanked Stacy L. Smith, the director of USC Annenberg’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, for her “guidance and inspiration.”
“We challenge other companies and studios to do the same,” Feig wrote.
“Black Panther” actor Michael B. Jordan was one of the first to lend his public support to the concept after the Oscars for his company Outlier Society, which is developing a sci-fi series for Netflix and other projects.
McDormand brought new attention to contract addendums requiring studios to hire a diverse crew and cast for a project at the Oscars on March 4. The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative explained the concept in a December 2017 paper, crediting Smith as having crafted the rider with employment attorney Kalpana Kotagal.
Pearl Street Films has been working toward addressing the crisis of representation in the entertainment industry with Annenberg’s guidance for nearly two years after Damon and his show “Project Greenlight” became embroiled a controversy over the show’s choice to spotlight a film by a white, male director. During the production, he clashed with producer Effie Brown in a conversation that was perceived to be racially insensitive.
In response to an outcry for more diversity, Damon told The Associated Press in July 2016 that an idea they were exploring was putting clauses in contracts to promote more inclusive hiring — in what appears to be an early precursor to the inclusion rider. That was around the time when J.J. Abrams and Ryan Murphy began actively trying to diversify their production teams.
But when Pearl Street announced their adoption of the concept Monday, some on social media scoffed. Both Damon and Affleck have in the past five months faced public scrutiny for either comments, in Damon’s case, or alleged past behavior, in Affleck’s, in the #MeToo era and to some are emblematic of an outmoded entertainment industry. Others called it a step in the right direction.
And not all companies are jumping to embrace the practice of instituting inclusion riders. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said last week that his company is, “Trying to do things creatively” and not just through “agreements,” USA Today reported.