Frances McDormand made a difference at last year’s Academy Awards. When she accepted her award for best actress, she concluded with two words: inclusion rider.
Lots has happened since then.
But first, some history.
A Rider Roll
In 17th century England, acts of Parliament and other official documents were written on scrolls of parchment. When someone had to add a provision, he (yes, he) wrote it on a new roll, called it a rider, and stuck it with the original scroll. Now we don’t need the parchment. Riders became known as the extras added to any contract.
One of entertainment’s most famous contractual riders was the M&Ms clause. Taking us back to 1982, the band Van Halen was on a concert tour that included some smaller towns. To be sure the venue knew their safety requests (like the electrical wiring), they inserted a rider for a bowl of brown M&Ms. If they got their M&Ms, that meant management probably read the contract and knew their safety requisites.
To boost diversity in the film industry, USC Annenberg Associate Professor Stacy Smith suggested that top stars guarantee female and minority presence through a contractual inclusion rider. As she explained, when a typical feature film has approximately 45 speaking characters, the 30 that have minor roles could “reflect the demography of where the story is taking place.” It could include more women, members of the LGBTQ community, the disabled, people of color. Happily, Smith did not stop there. With legal assistance, she created specific contract language for an inclusion rider.
New Inclusion Riders
But it took Frances McDormand to make the difference.
Last fall, WarnerMedia became the first major Hollywood studio to say it would include the rider in every contract. That means HBO, Turner, video games, digital productions, cable TV will all pay more attention to hiring diverse crews and casts. Warner also promised an annual report with its diversity statistics.
However, the other majors–Sony, Disney, Paramount, Amazon–have not yet committed. And Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said he will leave it up to individual content providers, But Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Manuel does have an inclusion rider in her endorsement contract.
Our Bottom Line: Commitment Devices
Behavioral economists typically connect commitment devices to individuals. Related to diet or exercise, a commitment device encourages future discipline. You might go to a health club regularly if the membership cost $1,000 a year. You could stick to your diet if you sign up for weekly Weight Watcher classes.
I suspect behavioral economists would call the inclusion rider a commitment device. They also might add that Frances McDormand gave Hollywood a Nudge.