WarnerMedia Launches Company-wide Inclusion Initiative

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Six months after best actress winner Frances McDormand delivered a figurative mic drop at the Oscars by championing the idea of inclusion riders, WarnerMedia – including Warner Bros., HBO and Turner — has announced a company-wide policy outlining its commitment to diversity and inclusion in front of and behind the camera.

The statement policy revealed plans to “use our best efforts to ensure that diverse actors and crew members are considered for film, television and other projects, and to work with directors and producers who also seek to promote greater diversity and inclusion in our industry,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. The new policy includes taking steps throughout production, especially in the development phase, along with issuing an annual report on the company’s progress.

“It is essential that our content and creative partners reflect the diversity of our society and the world around us. Together with other production companies, networks, guilds, unions, talent agencies and others in the industry, we all must ensure there is greater inclusion of women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, those with disabilities and other underrepresented groups in greater numbers both in front of and behind the camera,” the policy statement reads in part.

“The companies of WarnerMedia have a historic and proven commitment to diversity and inclusion.  But there is much more we can do, and we believe real progress can be made in the industry.  We will work with our partners in the entertainment community to make this commitment a reality.”

The first project to fall under the new policy will be the legal drama “Just Mercy,” which will star Michael B. Jordan and is being produced under his Outlier Society shingle.

Written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton the film just started production in Atlanta this week. Based on the book “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption,” the film adaptation tells the true story of Bryan Stevenson (Jordan), a gifted young lawyer fighting for equal justice in a flawed legal system, according to Variety. Oscar winners Brie Larson and Jamie Foxx are set to co-star.

Jordan, who also serves as an executive producer on the film, and his agent Phillip Sun at WME, helped WarnerMedia launch the new policy, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“Inclusivity has always been a no-brainer for me, especially as a black man in this business. 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. It allowed me to formally pledge my production company, Outlier Society, to a way of doing business,” Jordan said.

“The WarnerMedia family has introduced an approach that accomplishes our shared objectives, and I applaud them for taking this enormous step forward. I’m proud that our film, ‘Just Mercy,’ will be the first to formally represent the future we have been working toward, together. This is a legacy-bearing moment.”

As previously reported, most people are at least somewhat familiar with riders, which are provisional clauses in contracts, and an inclusion rider basically would be a clause that an actor would put into a contract to ensure gender and racial equality in the hiring for the project.

“I just found out about this last week. There has always been available to all, everybody who does a negotiation on a film, which means you can ask for or demand at least 50 percent diversity in not only the casting and the crew. The fact that I just learned that after 35 years in the film business – we aren’t going back,” McDormand said backstage at the 90th Academy Awards in March, when she won best actress for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

Emphasizing diversity and inclusion has proven a lucrative strategy for Warner Bros. The studio recently released “Crazy Rich Asians,” the romantic comedy featuring an all-Asian cast that has become a breakout hit. After topping the domestic box office for the previous three weeks, the $30 million film finished at No. 2 this past weekend, bringing in an additional estimated $13.6 million, pushing the film’s domestic cumulative haul over $136 million, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com. The film also added another $5.6 million in 23 markets, bringing its global take to just shy of $165 million. The film will open in the UK this coming Friday followed by debuts in Mexico (Sept. 21) and Japan (Sept. 28).

The studio previously released Patty Jenkins’ critical and commercial smash “Wonder Woman,” and its upcoming projects include the sequel “Wonder Woman 1984,” the animated flick “Smallfoot” and recently announced “In the Heights,” “Birds of Prey,” “The New Gods” and more.

“I’m proud that Warner Bros., and our sister companies HBO and Turner, are willing to state unequivocally that this is where we stand on diversity and inclusion. Our policy commits us to taking concrete action to further our goals, to measure the outcomes and to share the results publicly,” said Kevin Tsujihara, Chairman and CEO, Warner Bros. “I’m also thrilled that we were able to work with Michael B. Jordan to craft a meaningful policy and framework that will apply to all of our productions, across all of our divisions, going forward.”

On the TV side, the studios’ projects include “Black Lightning,” “Claws,” “Lethal Weapon,” “Love Is___,” “Queen Sugar,” “Riverdale” and “Supergirl,” along with upcoming series “All American,” “David Makes Man,” “God Friended Me,” “Lovecraft Country,” “Madam CJ Walker” and “The Red Line.”

“The core values of the WarnerMedia companies are built on doing innovative work in a manner that respects our creative partners, their aspirations and their individuality,” said WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey.  “I am proud of the progress that the leaders of our businesses have made, and we believe this is the next logical step to improve our content and cement our leadership in contributing to positive change in the industry.”

-BAM

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