Warner Bros has become the first major Hollywood Studio to adopt a company-wide policy designed to increase the diversity of their employees, both on and off-screen, expanding upon a concept popularised by Frances McDormand earlier this year during her acceptance speech at the 2018 Academy Awards, where she won Best Actress for her performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

An “inclusion rider” is a clause that an actor/crew member can insist on being inserted in to their contracts that requires cast and crew on a film to meet a certain level of diversity.

Dr Stacy Smith, founder of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California, is responsible for the concept after conducting research on diversity in films produced in the United States, which showed that the casting was rarely representative of the population as a whole. Smith suggested that an “equity clause” or “inclusion rider” could be a part of the solution.

“The typical feature film has about 40 to 45 speaking characters in it” she explained. “I would argue that only 8 to 10 of those characters are actually relevant to the story. The remaining 30 or so roles, there’s no reason why those minor roles can’t match or reflect the demography of where the story is taking place. An equity rider by an A-lister in their contract can stipulate that those roles reflect the world in which we actually live.”

Smith’s research conducted on the top 100 American movies of 2017 shone a harsh and revealing light on the issue of diversity and inclusivity in the film industry, finding that just 31.8% of characters with dialogue were women and that white actors occupied 70.7% of all speaking roles, with men cast in more than twice as many roles as women.

Warner Bros announced their new initiative on Wednesday, stating that it will also apply to their sister companies, HBO and Turner, with the initiative going into full affect for the first time with Just Mercy; an upcoming film starring Michael B. Jordon, who was one of the first actors to commit to the idea back in March.

“Inclusivity has always been a no-brainer for me, especially as a black man in this business” explained Michael B. Jordan, star of Creed and Black Panther. “It wasn't until Frances McDormand spoke the two words that set the industry on fire – inclusion rider – that I realized we could standardize this practice.”

WarnerMedia, the parent company of HBO and Warner Bros, did not provide and specific details in the announcement, but said in a statement that “we will engage with our writers, producers and directors to create a plan for implementing this commitment to diversity and inclusion on our projects, with the goal of providing opportunities for individuals from under-represented groups at all levels”.

Michael B. Jordan called the WarnerMedia policy an “enormous step forward” for the industry and added that “This is a legacy-bearing moment.”

WarnerMedia said it would issue an annual report on its progress.