It’s not enough to say this year’s Academy Awards was all about diversity or representation or #TimesUp.
Because what it really was all about was the inclusion rider.
This is a provision in an actor’s contract that can ensure casting in films be more diverse and provide percentages by which to achieve it (e.g. gender parity, people of color, LGBTQ, disabled). It may also extend to ALL CREW MEMBERS on any given film.
In an electric speech near the end of the ceremony, Frances McDormand did many things but the most interesting among them had nothing to do with her best actress win or performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri.
It was the I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen – inclusion rider – a line that went from getting a blank stare from tens of millions of viewers to almost instantly becoming not only the #1 trending topic on Twitter but the Merriam-Webster dictionary website’s top search for the night.
There are ribbons and there are movements but at the end of the day there are really only CONTRACTS.
This is not a Hollywood thing. This is a business thing. ALL BUSINESSES.
Ms. McDormand makes it clear with each public appearance that it’s no accident she’s gained her greatest acclaim playing no-nonsense, complicated women. But with that last line, specifically those two words, she’s not playing. She’s instead employing an extremely savvy use of a very public platform towards a really specific CONTRACTUAL REQUIREMENT to diversify.
It’s the iteration that follows the movement, which followed the ribbons, which channeled the marches – but this time on paper and in a court of law, if it comes to that.
Or put another way – the less kind and gentler version of you are the change you’ve been waiting for.
Her second most interesting moment was that, after thanking her family, she requested EVERY FEMALE NOMINEE in EVERY CATEGORY stand up for the world, and more importantly, the Hollywood patriarchy in attendance or watching, to see. She then admonished all those in power (aka many of the straight white guys of a certain age who claimed to be shocked by actions of guys like Harvey Weinstein – my editorial comment, not hers) that each and every one of these women have stories to tell and projects we need financed and instead of talking to them at a party that night to meet with them in an OFFICE (Note: We’ll go to yours or you can come to OURS) in a few days where we’ll tell you about them.
This was not just the actors and the female writers and directors and producers she was pointing to. This was the female cinematographers, songwriters, composers, designers… Well, you get the picture.
Sure, there were other MOMENTS. Jimmy Kimmel was funny, charming really. Presenter Sandra Bullock made some hilarious remarks about dimming the lights so she could look 35 again, and 89-year-old James Ivory finally got the Oscar that eluded him as director of such classic films as Howard’s End, Maurice and Remains of the Day for his brilliant screenplay adaptation of Call Me By Your Name.
Not to mention cinematographer Roger Deakins actually winning an Oscar after FOURTEEN nominations for his work on Blade Runner 2049 and Mexican-born Guillermo Del Toro’s two heartfelt acceptance speeches about the value of youth, art and American immigration as the best director and producer of this year’s best picture, The Shape of Water.
All of them were good, if not great. In fact, so were all the musical numbers. (Note: Yes, we were surprised too!).
But nothing captured the desire and mood of what’s really going on in the industry like the inclusion rider. Nothing.
Let the buyer beware.