MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
In her Oscar acceptance speech last night Frances McDormand, who had just been handed the statue for best actress, asked every female nominee in the room to stand up.
(SOUNDBITE OF 90TH ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS)
FRANCES MCDORMAND: OK, look around, everybody. Look around, ladies and gentlemen.
KELLY: Look around, she told the crowd. We have stories to tell. We have projects we need financed. McDormand ended her speech with this.
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MCDORMAND: I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen - inclusion rider.
KELLY: Inclusion rider. So what is that? Well, let's put the question to Stacy Smith, who pioneered the idea. Stacy Smith is founder and director of USC Annenberg's Inclusion Initiative. Welcome to the show.
STACY SMITH: It's great to be here. I'm smiling listening to the lines from last night.
KELLY: Listening to it, did you know that Frances McDormand was going to sound that battle cry last night?
SMITH: No, I had absolutely no idea. But talk about being elated and thrilled to hear those two words broadcast around the world. It was amazing.
KELLY: Because this is a relatively new concept, tell us what it is. What is an inclusion rider?
SMITH: Inclusion writer is a stipulation that is put in a content creator's contract. We wrote it thinking really about A-list talent. And it specifies that for onscreen, supporting and small parts that the world in which the story exists should reflect the world we actually live in, which is in the U.S. roughly 50 percent female, 40 percent people of color, 20 percent people with disabilities, 5 percent LGBT.
KELLY: So basically if I'm an A-list movie star and I'm about to sign a contract for a new film, I can say part of my contract is you have to have a cast and also staff on this film that reflects diversity.
SMITH: Well, I think the goal really is to figure out, how do we move from all the lip service in Hollywood to actually seeing the numbers that we study every year move?
KELLY: Yeah. It was interesting. I saw Frances McDormand was interviewed backstage afterward and she said, this is something I only heard of just really recently. And she's been in the business in Hollywood for decades.
SMITH: Right. The op-ed I wrote where I came up with the idea first appeared back in 2014 in the Hollywood Reporter.
SMITH: And the goal has really been to get it into the hands of notable people. And I can be really honest here. The Time's Up movement has really been the catalyst to see this spread in ways that it probably wouldn't have beforehand. But I think there's an appetite now to ensure that equity and inclusion are part of the process in telling these stories.
KELLY: What kind of pushback have you gotten? I can imagine, for example, that producers and directors would fight hard to make the casting decisions, the pay decisions that they think are the best ones for the film and not let a actor, no matter how A-list they might be, dictate that.
SMITH: It's a very low bar that we're asking to cross in terms of the typical feature film has 40 characters. Only about eight to 10 of those characters are really relevant to the storyline. And that leaves at least 30 that could easily be diversified and - in making sure that the ecosystem of that story looks like the world we live in.
KELLY: What is the difference, Stacy Smith, between an inclusion writer and a quota? If you say has to be 50 percent women or has to be X percentage people of color, I mean, a quota is something that, you know, has an awful reputation, has been widely discredited in, say, college admissions.
SMITH: When you see these scripts - and you might have a role, let's say, as a plumber, right? And the automatic go-to occupationally might be for a male actor to audition for that part or a firefighter or a police officer. So something is perpetuating a bias or an invisible quota year in and year out, and people don't seem to be complaining about that. So why not have tools to ensure that these biases that are clearly operating can be countered as well? And that's really the goal here, is to help have a tool to slow down the process and be more thoughtful.
KELLY: Stacy Smith, thanks very much.
SMITH: Thank you so much.
KELLY: Stacy Smith - she is director of USC Annenberg's Inclusion Initiative, and she's been talking to us about the inclusion rider.
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