EXCLUSIVE: Overbrook Entertainment and Endeavor Content adopted the inclusion rider during the production of Hala, the Sundance coming-of-age film written and directed by Minhal Baig. Founder and director of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Dr. Stacy Smith first introduced the policy in 2014 to ensure film and TV productions reflect the real-world population. This means the inclusion of women, people of color, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQ, and other traditionally marginalized and underrepresented communities be represented in front and behind the camera.
In Hala, the inclusion rider policy facilitated the hiring of women into various department head positions and 75% of critical below-the-line roles.
“When we set out to make Hala, it was very important to me that we have diverse perspectives at the table,” said Baig. “Because the story centered around a young woman’s coming-of-age, I wanted to make sure that the female perspective was represented below-the-line. It was crucial that we hire the best candidate for every single role, but the pool we were hiring and interviewing from had to be a diverse one. I solicited reels, resumes, and recommendations from outside the circle of people I personally knew and searched for the talented crew who had an emotional connection to the story. When we began hiring, I was confident that we would hire women for at least half of the roles on the movie, and we far exceeded that number because we had an abundance of an incredible female crew to choose from. It was unlike any set I’ve ever been on in my life.”
Jada Pinkett Smith, Overbrook principal and executive producer on Hala, has been a longtime advocate for diversity and inclusion through the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation, an organization which aims at making the world better by accelerating the growth of initiatives that focus on deepening individual and collective empowerment. Endeavor Content has also committed to doing its part not only through the rider policy but has also a pledged 20% LGBTQ representation in its projects by 2021.
“The idea of the inclusion rider and the language Kalpana Kotagal, Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, and my team developed has been taken to the next level by Overbrook and Endeavor Content,” said Dr. Smith. “As these companies continue to make inclusion part of the fabric of what they do, they serve as an example to the wider industry that content and productions can, in fact, match the world in which we live.”
Hala stars Geraldine Viswanathan as 17-year-old Hala who starts to develop feelings for her classmate, Jesse (Jack Kilmer). Raised in a conservative Muslim household by her mother, Eram (Purbi Joshi) and father, Zahid (Azad Khan), her growing feelings are at odds with her traditional upbringing. At the same time, she finds herself grappling with the knowledge of a secret that threatens to unravel her family. Gabriel Luna and Emmy-nominated Veep star Anna Chlumsky co-star.
Hala will have its world premiere in the U.S. Dramatic Competition section at Sundance on Saturday. Endeavor Content is selling worldwide rights.