For nearly two years, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has been in the midst of an existential crisis, since February 2021 Los Angeles Times The story revealed a lack of black members and a pattern of financial irregularities. The revelations prompted studios and talent to boycott the HFPA and prompted longtime broadcast partner NBC to refuse to air a Golden Globes ceremony in 2022. On Jan. 10, after a major organizational overhaul and a one-year hiatus, the HFPA will return to holding its flagship event, the Globes, on NBC, hosted by comedian Jerrod Carmichael.
The group’s reforms included inviting 21 new members – US-based journalists working for media outlets overseas – and 103 new overseas-based voters to create a 52% voting group. women and 51.5% racial and ethnic diversity. The HFPA also banned gifts and set up a hotline to report misconduct.
But the organization, which is waiting for the California attorney general to approve its purchase by Eldridge Industries, has a long way to go to regain trust and relevance in Hollywood, and its broadcast deal with NBC is just one. year. (THR is owned by a joint venture between Penske Media Corp. and Eldridge.) Ahead of Golden Globe nominations on Dec. 12, THR spoke to HFPA President Helen Hoehne and Director of Diversity Neil Phillips about the group’s troubled past, its attempts at reform, and whether the loose, goofy Globes of yesteryear will return a day.
What do you want the entertainment industry to know about how the HFPA has changed?
HELEN HOEHNE It really isn’t the old HFPA anymore. Over the past 18 months – almost two years now – we’ve taken a deep look at ourselves and listened to the criticism. The changes we made were the expansion of our voting body, the universal ban on gifts. We’re one of the only award shows to universally ban giveaways. And we’ve built a new infrastructure that has transformed our organization and the awards show into something more diverse, transparent and responsive. We are the only major awards show voted for by a majority of women and by a majority of voters who identify as ethnically diverse. There are also many voters who identify as LGBTQIA+. What I would like the industry to know is that this is not the finish line. It is a journey that will continue for years to come.
Neil, can you explain what your role is within the organization?
NEIL PHILLIPS I have held this position for a little over a year now. What I am doing is helping HFPA embark on a journey of diversity, equity and inclusion as an organization. What I wanted to be very clear about in my work with the organization was that I was not there to help the organization out of trouble. It wasn’t my endgame at all. My interest was, let’s see this as an opportunity to transform who we are and contribute to an evolution not only of the organization, but of the industry as a whole.
Helen, you joined the HFPA in 2004. Were you surprised when the Los Angeles Time the story ran and there was such an outcry over the lack of black members and the financial practices of the organization?
HÖHNE I was not surprised. Internally, we’ve wanted to make changes for some time, but the way the organization was set up didn’t allow us to make some changes, to be honest. We had a very outdated infrastructure, a governance that had old regulations. For us to change, we had to change the infrastructure.
What’s the toughest conversation you’ve had with a publicist since becoming president?
HÖHNE The most difficult conversations we had were about behavior, past behavior of certain members [e.g., complaints of demanding personal contact with talent], which has not been dealt with appropriately in the past. Our reforms have included the operation of a confidential helpline so that if inappropriate behavior occurs, there are consequences. It can be reported to the hotline, and it will be investigated by an independent law firm.
What is your reaction when Brendan Fraser tells you he won’t be attending the show this year?
HÖHNE Look, I respect Brendan Fraser’s decision. I am in contact with his team. Obviously, we talked about it internally. And personally, I sincerely hope that there is a way for us to move forward and that we can regain Mr. Fraser’s trust, as well as the trust of the entire entertainment community.
How will the HFPA ensure that other leaders do not follow?
HÖHNE We can only change the future and make sure it doesn’t happen again. We sure hope people will give us a chance. We’ve had DEI sessions, awareness and sexual harassment sessions, and we’re working with GLAAD on an LGBTQIA+ session. These are sessions that our members undergo, and they are mandatory. They are part of our code of conduct which members have all signed. As journalists, we even have to learn how to ask questions appropriately. Especially with our constituents coming from all different countries, English is not their first language. There is a lot of learning to do, including for myself.
PHILLIPS What we can control is the work we do. And what we hope is that the seriousness with which we undertake the work, that it will be well received. My goal has been, let’s focus on the work that we need to do, and we certainly hope that will be well received beyond the organization.
One of your reforms introduced stricter membership standards. Was anyone who was a member before the boycott asked to leave because they did not meet these standards? Do these reforms really have teeth?
HÖHNE We fired a few members who didn’t meet the standard, yes. We strictly enforce not only the code of conduct, but also the reaccreditation process. If you do not meet the requirements for membership, you will be terminated. Yes, they have teeth. Teeth that maybe don’t make me the most popular person because we have a lot of rules.
Why do HFPA members earn salaries? If they are active enough as journalists to deserve membership, shouldn’t they be able to earn a living from journalism?
HÖHNE Our HFPA members earn salaries because they work on committees that help the association. And when we talk about salaries, it’s more like a small allowance. The main job is that they are journalists and they earn their living as journalists. Previously, most foreign correspondents working in the United States were employed on retainer and operated offices here. But everything collapsed with the closure of outlets and massive layoffs. Most of these offices have been lost and replaced by freelance work. So we found other ways to support journalists in other work. However, this is only a supplement to their journalistic income and in no way a full-time salary.
However, new non-member voters don’t get the allowance, do they?
HÖHNE No, we do not pay our international voters.
Since many of these new nonmember voters are people of color who help make the organization’s vote more inclusive, isn’t it a problem to pay members, but not those voters?
HÖHNE Members are just as diverse as international voters. Last year, we admitted 21 new members from diverse backgrounds, making our total HFPA membership 52% female and over 50% ethnically diverse. So our members who work on committees are very diverse. Our current legal structure does not allow us to compensate non-US citizens or non-green card holders, and therefore they do not provide any of the services for which we compensate some of the current members.
The broadcast rights deal with NBC is just for this year. What will happen with television broadcasting after that? Looking for a new broadcast or streaming partner?
HÖHNE Yes we are. As we know, the media landscape has changed and will continually change. So the goal now is just to put on a great show and then next year we’ll see. We’re thrilled the show is back on NBC for the 80th. Then we’ll come back to that next year.
Was it difficult to recruit broadcasters or animators?
HÖHNE No. We got a lot of support from the studios. We talk to publicists. And it was really exciting to have Jesse Collins and Dionne Harmon [who produced 2022’s Super Bowl LVI halftime show] be the show’s producers and executive producers. I think they are thrilled to see their vision come to life.
The Globes have always been known to be quite a fun and loose show. How are you going to maintain that while producing a show that respects everything the organization has been through for the past two years?
HÖHNE We know this is a very important year for us, of change and transformation. And we come back and show the industry all the work that we’ve done. At the same time, we want to celebrate the 80th Golden Globes. I think everyone missed the Globes because it’s one of the funnest awards shows. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere. It’s a party atmosphere. It’s very unpredictable. And I think we want to keep that. And I think that’s what people are looking for in this post-pandemic comeback period. The atmosphere in general is difficult. People are really looking forward to having fun again. And so hopefully we can provide that.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the December 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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