WME is the agency that represents both Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg and helped facilitate a several-million-dollar pay gap favoring Wahlberg on a film they starred in together, 2017's "All the Money in the World."
WME appears to be taking the right steps. CEO Ari Emanuel (brother of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel) invited Smith to address agents and executives on behalf of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. He later sent a companywide email instructing agents to discuss the inclusion rider with their clients.
"It is imperative that you have a conversation with your film and TV clients about this critical issue," he wrote in the memo obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. "We also know that talking about inclusivity is not enough. It must be institutionalized in order to create change."
What we know is that the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative is actively working with Hollywood players. The think tank is advocating for inclusion riders and trying to get people to buy into the idea. This all sounds good.
But when members of the public ask questions, "Just Google it" doesn't instill confidence. "Just Google it" says: "Go away, mind your own business."
Which doesn't jibe with the spirit of their endeavor.
For some time now, people have been asking why Hollywood gatekeepers consistently favor straight white men over everyone else. And the answer has historically been some variation of: "Go away, mind your own business."
Take Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who said last month that the streaming network is against the ideas of inclusion riders. "We're not so big on doing everything through agreements. We're trying to do things creatively." Here's how USA Today described his stance: "He would rather have his staff speak with the filmmakers about how many women and people of color are working on the project before shooting begins."
But as WME's Emanuel pointed out above, talking about inclusivity is not enough.
It's important to see which high-profile actors are doing their part. A few years ago, agent-turned-producer Gavin Polone wrote a column for Vulture about outrageous perks some actors negotiate into their deals: "luxurious bonus demands like private jets, masseuses and gym trailers," as well as first-class accommodations for assistants, whose salaries are also picked up by the film.
We're talking sizable add-ons. "I've heard of perk packages exceeding $2 million for one actor on one film," he wrote. "That may be a small percentage of the $20 million that that actor was probably paid to do the movie, but none of that money is translated into what the audience sees."
You know what contract stipulation would translate into what the audience sees? Inclusion riders.
It's a great idea. And because it is being led by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, it should be keeping track of it. Let's be open and honest about who's committed to it. And further down the line, how well it's working.