Inclusion strategies have sprung up aplenty, but how to really move the needle? The organization’s trio take the next step by revealing how to activate Hollywood’s female networks: “I’m not interested in changing hearts and minds anymore.”
Since joining the USC faculty in 2003, Annenberg Inclusion Initiative founder Stacy Smith has published annual reports on the state of race and gender representation in Hollywood. Year after year, the shouts into the void had gone unheard. “For 15 years I was floundering,” Smith tells THR. “Then I found my people.”
Enter Brie Larson, 29, and Tessa Thompson, 35. The trio first met at an early Time’s Up meeting in 2017 at Larson’s house, where Smith broke out her trusty PowerPoint presentation. “When everything you’ve studied is finally delivered to the audience that it’s intended for, they’re able to take flight with the information in a whole new way,” says Smith. She and a group of actresses presented her statistics and strategy suggestions to leaders at UTA, which represents Frances McDormand, leading to the Oscar winner’s onstage declaration heard around the world: “inclusion rider.” It’s a concept first introduced in a 2014 THR op-ed by Smith, who developed the language with producer Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni and attorney Kalpana Kotagal.
Smith, Larson and Thompson also have been on the front lines of pushing for greater inclusion in media. It was an idea sparked at a Sundance gathering hosted by Thompson in January that led to, in June, Smith’s first study analyzing the gender, race and ethnicity of film critics; Larson used her Crystal + Lucy Awards acceptance speech to draw awareness to the issue. A database for studios and publicists, Critical, was launched with Time’s Up: “We have 400 critics on there already,” says the future Captain Marvel.
THR gathered the trio for a conversation about action beyond awareness and how to enforce the proposals put forward.
What was the significance of coming together for the first time?
BRIE LARSON Until we were having these meetings, most of us had never met one another, because there aren’t a ton of films that star that many women at once. Most of us had been dealing with these issues alone, not understanding that if we stood together, we had the leverage to actually get things done.