“I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentleman: inclusion rider.”
– Frances McDormand, 2018 Academy Award Best Actress winner

Frances McDormand at the 90th Annual Academy Awards in 2018. Photo © Amber Ferguson/The Washington Post

Frances McDormand’s best actress acceptance speech got a lot of attention. When part-time Marin resident and straight-talking McDormand uttered the phrase “inclusion rider” she sent millions of viewers to their search engines (many incorrectly typed in “ inclusion writer”). What they found was that “inclusion rider” is a clause that actors, directors and producers can add to a film contract demanding that a certain percentage of women, people of color, LGBT, or other underrepresented groups be included both in front of and behind the camera on the production in which they are involved.

The concept of inclusion riders was publicly introduced in a TEDTalk in 2016 called The Data Behind Hollywood Sexism by renowned researcher Stacy L. Smith, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Frances McDormand was not the only one to be significantly motivated by Smith’s call to arms about gender inequality in Hollywood, as relayed by Mind the Gap founder and MVFF Director of Programming Zoë Elton, Smith’s forward thinking played a large part in the inception of the Mind the Gap gender equity initiative after she took part on a 2013 Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF) panel.

This percentage of women in film that Stacy researched (in 2013) was around the same as I had researched for an MVFF panel over twenty years earlier in 1992. We’d been doing work to open doors for women in film for decades, but in Hollywood nothing had changed!” Zoë recalled. “What more can we do?”  Out of this, Mind the Gap launched in 2015 and last year we put our stake in the ground and committed to 50/50 representation of female filmmakers at MVFF by 2020!

Dr. Stacy L. Smith (L) moderating “Scaling Up”, a panel on breaking barriers and creating opportunity for women in film, at the 36th Mill Valley Film Festival. Photo © Misti Layne

Mudbound film team at the Mind the Gap Summit (L-R: Tamar-kali, Mako Kamitsuna, Dee Rees, Stephanie Lampkin (moderator), Rachel Morrison, Angie Wells. Photo © Kimberly Scarsella

Now in its third year, Mind the Gap has been a leader in promoting inclusion in the film industry. On our way to reach our goal of 50% female directors at MVFF, last year MVFF featured a remarkable 44% female filmmakers (compared to 7% female directors in Hollywood!), including a day long summit and special events with Dee Rees’ groundbreaking film Mudbound, Greta Gerwig with her film Lady Bird on Closing Night, and Tributes to Holly Hunter and Kristin Scott Thomas.

MVFF programmers are already reviewing entries for MVFF 41, to be held in October of this year. We can’t wait to share with you another festival filled with beautiful and inspiring films that represent the diversity of the world in which we live.

Thanks to Stacy Smith for the inspiration and to these supporters for helping make it a reality.