When Frances McDormand gave her powerful acceptance speech for best actress last night she ended it with a line that had many viewers scratching their heads: “I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider.” Shortly after her speech, “rider” became one of the most searched-for words in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. So just what is an inclusion rider?
A “rider” is an addition to a contract that allows one of the parties to stipulate extra terms. Riders are frequently used in Hollywood when A-listers sign on to a movie. A rider could stipulate almost any demand a star wants: from 100 peeled grapes mouth-fed to him after each shot, to an agreement that all the scenes he is in will be shot first.
The “inclusion” in “inclusion rider” that McDormand referred to is a demand that in order for an A-lister to sign on to a project, that project must include a diverse group of people working on it both in front of and behind the camera. As the New York Times points out:
As an example, it could require the cast be 50 percent female, 40 percent underrepresented ethnic groups, 20 percent people with disabilities, and 5 percent L.G.B.T. people.
If an A-lister would see that the terms of the inclusion rider weren’t carried through, they could claim that the studio or production company violated their contract, which could lead to penalties or the movie’s distribution being put on hold indefinitely.