As the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements and their effects continue to unfurl, Hollywood is utilizing legal mechanisms via entertainment contracts to implement and supplement the changing norms, from “morals provisions” to “inclusion riders.”
What are commonly referred to as “morals provisions” have a long history in the entertainment industry, but in recent years, have been more commonly found in endorsement and advertising deals than in television and film agreements. Studios and production companies that had stopped using such provisions have started putting in place plans to reimplement them, while those that had been using them all along are revising them to conform to the new landscape. Even distributors who never used morals provisions are starting to include them in their contracts, lest one of their projects ends up with some unexpected negative baggage. Regardless, all of these industry players are looking for ways to tailor their contractual language to better address the valid business concerns related to fallout from the #MeToo movement. Although talent attorneys are generally not pleased at the resurgence of these provisions, it appears unlikely at this time that the provisions will go away entirely; indeed, in some cases talent representatives think that there should be reciprocal provisions benefitting talent if there is another Weinstein-like situation with a studio or distributor.
Unlike morals provisions, “inclusion riders” have almost no history in the entertainment industry; while Stacey L. Smith, a USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism professor, has been promoting the idea of “inclusion riders” since 2014, it wasn’t until Frances McDormand cryptically mentioned them at the end of her 2018 Oscar acceptance speech that the concept gained widespread attention. Although there are differing opinions among lawyers regarding the legality of such provisions, the notion is that talent at a certain level could negotiate to include riders in their contracts which would obligate productions to expand the candidate pool to lead to more diversity in casting and below-the-line positions. In the weeks following the Oscars, a number of high-profile producers, including Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier Society Productions, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s Pearl Street Productions, and Paul Feig’s Feigco Entertainment, have stated that they will begin utilizing inclusion riders.
For more on these issues, see the articles linked below:
The Hollywood Reporter: #MeToo Hits Movie Deals: Studios Race to Add ‘Morality Clauses’ to Contracts
The Atlantic: Can Inclusion Riders Change Hollywood?