Changes are brewing in Hollywood. Movements like #OscarsSoWhite and #TimesUp have thrown down the gauntlet for broader representation in the entertainment industry, both on screen and off. Both A-listers and fans want to see the industry, which has been historically dominated by white men, employ more women and people of color. Frances McDormand voiced such a request during her Best Actress acceptance speech, which she concluded by saying, “I have two words to leave you with tonight, ladies and gentlemen: inclusion rider.”
An inclusion rider, as popularized by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s Stacy Smith, is essentially an “equity clause” that heavy hitters can add on to their contracts. If A-listers work the inclusion rider into their contracts, they can stipulate that hiring them also means taking on a more diverse cast and crew. The latest high-demand Hollywood players to join the cause are Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, via their production company Pearl Street Films.
The Manchester by the Sea production company announced their commitment to the inclusion rider Monday night via Twitter. Actor-producer Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, an Annenberg Inclusion Initiative board member and a woman of color, tweeted on behalf of Pearl Street.* She thanked Black Panther actor Michael B. Jordan for leading the way with his company’s decision to adopt the initiative:
This is a wise move for Pearl Street, whose co-founders have come under fire in the past. Ben Affleck faced sexual harassment contentions after he voiced his disapproval of Harvey Weinstein, and his association with brother Casey Affleck doesn’t exactly boost his #MeToo cred. Matt Damon also got into hot water when he defended Al Franken and tried to assert that it was wrong to “conflate” sexual harassment and rape. The pair, who have been linked since they penned and starred in 1997’s Good Will Hunting, have also notably lacked racial diversity in their production projects. Damon has produced such films as Promised Land and Manchester by the Sea, which feature predominantly white casts. Ditto Ben Affleck’s Live by Night (save Zoë Kravitz) and Argo, the latter of which features Affleck playing a Latino character. Damon famously butted heads with producer Effie Brown over the issue of casting diversity on the last season of Project Greenlight.
All in all, this decision marks an important step toward greater Hollywood diversity. Here’s hoping Affleck, Damon, and co. are the first of many to put their money where their mouths are.
Correction, March 13, 2018: This post originally misspelled Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni’s last name.