April 29, 2021

The forces behind the Hollywood "inclusion rider" initiative announced Wednesday they have created a new and "reimagined" rider aimed at further diversifying film and television production crews while increasing accountability measures.

The term first shot to fame after actress Frances McDormand name-checked the phrase during her 2018 Academy Awards acceptance speech. The organizations behind the original rider said the updated version includes an implementation guide and further improvements.

The new rider was developed by Pearl Street Films, Endeavor Content, Kalpana Kotagal of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and #ChangeHollywood, which is an initiative of the civil-rights group Color of Change.

"The emphasis all along has been wanting to advance systemic change, and so the conversation we're really happy to say over the last three years has moved," Kotagal told Law360 in a phone interview Thursday.

"It's moved from the individual to the systemic," she added. "It is the most important change this time around, that's what this signals, is a move by production companies and studios to build the principals of the inclusion rider into their own hiring practices."

When McDormand accepted her Oscar for her role in "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," she told the audience of Hollywood power brokers, "I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider!"

The speech vastly increased the public's awareness and curiosity about the inclusion rider, which had been developed several years prior by Kotagal, Stacy Smith at the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, Pearl Street's head of strategic outreach Fanshen Cox and others.

McDormand's words came only months after allegations of sexual misconduct and assault against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein came to light, sparking the #MeToo movement and pushing the issue of diversity and inclusion in Hollywood to the forefront.

Following McDormand's shoutout, some major studios and production companies adopted the inclusion rider, including Warner Bros., while others developed their own diversity programs. Kotagal told Law360 it's hard to know how much of the ideas behind the inclusion rider have permeated through Hollywood.

"Change is slowly coming to the industry, but there is work to be done," she said. "And this coalition is really lined up to encourage folks to do that work."

The four core principles of the updated inclusion rider are deepening and diversifying hiring pools, setting goals and benchmarks for progress, collecting and recording data and the importance of accountability, Kotagal said.

The new version "expands upon its original legal framework, develops additional tools for hiring crew from under-represented backgrounds, and adds accountability measures and advocates for intersectional inclusivity which includes but is not limited to gender, race and ethnicity, as well as LGBTQIA [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer, intersex, ally/asexual], age, and disability considerations," the groups behind the inclusion rider said in a news release.

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