HFPA Highlights Philanthropy with Grants Dinner
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) was founded with the mission of advancing the art of film. Over the last 28 years, the association has donated more than $55 million to organizations related to the entertainment industry as well as to humanitarian causes, has offered more than 2,200 scholarships to film students, and has funded the restoration of 138 films. This year, 20 journalistic organizations were added to the community of HFPA grantees totaling 91 grant recipients.
On the evening of November 12, following a two-year pause due to the pandemic, HFPA grantees, members and friends came together to celebrate the presentation of $5 million in grants, with special emphasis on donations to organizations that serve underrepresented populations as well as organizations that fight for fairness and accuracy in reporting, all committed to the promotion of equity, diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry and journalism.
The event was held in the HFPA’s longtime Golden Globe venue, the Beverly Hilton Hotel, elegantly decorated with Golden Globe statues, red roses and smooth blue lighting, and hosting an exhilarated crowd. “These are some of the most important people in our community,” said Barry Adelman, Golden Globes producer, about the grantee representatives in the room.
“We are incredibly proud of (our) transformation, and we are not done yet; we will continue to make bold changes,” said HFPA President Helen Hoehne, referring to the continuing overhaul of the HFPA. “But there is one aspect of our association that will not change – and that is our commitment to philanthropy. This will always remain the core of our mission. We have supported the arts, journalism, education, film restoration, and many other charitable endeavors. Our philanthropy has always focused on opening doors for young people and underserved communities.”
The program included the introduction of a few of the grantee nonprofits as representatives of the rich diversity of the whole group. Former E! anchor and reporter Jason Kennedy, Master of Ceremonies for the night, cheered the return of the 80th Golden Globes to NBC this coming January 10 and highlighted some of the Association’s values throughout the evening as relating to those mentioned by the grant recipients.
Fernando Rejón introduced the Urban Peace Institute, an organization committed to “end gun and gang violence, to create safer communities in Los Angeles and beyond; work that has never been more important as gun violence is now the leading cause of death among America’s children”. Their focus, he went on, is to train formerly incarcerated and gang-involved individuals to provide service to their communities. “We invest and believe in the power of peace-makers,” he stated. “Over the past year, support from the Hollywood Foreign (Press Association) has allowed the Peace Institute to train and support over 1,000 peace-makers in Los Angeles to create a safe, healthy and thriving community.”
Natalie Farrar Adams introduced the unique CalArts Film & Television program, a longtime HFPA beneficiary. Over the last six years, the impressive aggregate of nearly $500,000 has been given to CalArts students in scholarships. She described CalArts as “a global community of collaborative innovators,” pointing to the fact that the institution has always been at the frontier of art.
“Now in its 31st year, CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) is the go-to organization for any and all Asian- and Pacific Islander-related matters in Hollywood,” declared Michelle Sugihara. Asian representation in Hollywood, and the launching of hundreds of Asian and Pacific Islander careers in the business, have been the focus points of this dynamic group. The National Hispanic Media Coalition is another grantee which was represented in the event by Leila Rezvani, whose mission is to “advocate, promote and fight for representation of Latinx community on all platforms in entertainment.”
“In the beginning of 2022, on the eve of our 40th anniversary, Outfest looked around and found itself in a world of ‘Don’t Say Gay’ and anti-trans legislation,” said Damien Navarro, Executive Director of one of Los Angeles’ largest festivals promoting LGBTQIA+ content. “Rising out of the darkness was a growing number of young voices who were the thunderous generational response making known that nothing short of acceptance for all human rights would be tolerated under our watch.”
This organization’s special attention to the new generations, ensuring that they will carry the torch of freedom for the LGBTQIA+ community, is reflected by the HFPA-supported OutSet. The program consists of a 6-month complete film lab for young filmmakers. “Outfest believes that expanding LGBTQIA+ stories, investment, and human influence into every corner of culture, art and media in the entertainment industry will build global empathy for the queer community, and there can and will be a future of prosperity, equality and fearlessness for anyone that might find themselves othered tomorrow.”
Navarro’s message echoed the spirit of the night, shared by both presenters and audience, but also by the HFPA itself which has made a point – both internally and externally – of embracing the vision of an all-inclusive future for itself and for the entertainment industry. The same idea was further voiced by Nic Novicki who represented Easterseals Disability Challenge.
“As someone with a disability, I’ve been very lucky in my career,” Novicki told the audience. “I’ve been in over 40 TV shows and movies but the majority of my work has been self-driven – writing, producing and creating my own content. 10 years ago I looked around and said ‘Why aren’t there more people with disabilities creating their own content?’” In 2013, he established a filmmaking competition that included films by or about persons with disabilities.
The impact of Novicki’s initiative grew beyond his expectations, leading to a partnership with the Easterseals Disability Challenge of Southern California. “Today we have hundreds of films and countless success stories of people with disabilities in front of and behind the camera! … We’ve been called a valuable resource and not only for people with disabilities but for the industry.”
“Poetry is a torch in the darkness, igniting the flame of literacy and reconciliation,” said Samuel Curtis, Director of Creative Media, introducing Get Lit, a nonprofit that looks to the power of the word as a way of social and personal transformation. With the HFPA’s support, the organization has partnered with the Compton School District. “Thanks to the HFPA and our partnership with Get Lit,” said Anisha Nicholson, a school administrator, “our youth are enhancing their public speaking and writing skills as they use poetry to awaken the very best within themselves.”
Get Lit’s Deputy Director Mason Granger proudly introduced Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate Salome Agbaroji. The young poet drew the warmest applause and a standing ovation from those present, who enjoyed not only the words of her fluid and powerful poem In the Palms of Our Hands but also her animated and expressive performance of it.
“President John F. Kennedy said ‘If not us, who? If not now, when?’” The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)representative Maryse Sulimma chose the above quote to speak for this group’s resolution to “uncover and highlight systemic failures that undermine the public good.” Internationally operated, this group of journalists continues to publish stories that “rock the world, sparking investigations, toppling corrupt regimes, spotlighting crimes, strengthening democracy, and firing up debate and outrage.”
She added that, with the help of the HFPA among others, “ICIJ has been responsible for the biggest collaborative journalism project in history: The Pandora Papers.” A brief video offered more information on the project, which includes 12 million documents, and involves multiple countries’ top officials.
Another impressive international organization – FilmAid – believes that all people on earth deserve to tell their stories. “We know people have power and agency to tell their own stories in their own voice and to become agents of change,” Michelle Sokolowski stated. FilmAid workers roam the world, facilitating filmmaking everywhere that stories need to be told – from Estonia to the indigenous populations of Venezuela and Columbia – “democratizing” the craft.
Also, a highlight was a performance of “Gimme Gimme” by Lucy Winzenried who was introduced by Andrew Lewis. In his remarks before accompanying Winzenried on the piano, he said, “I received my Master of Music Degree in Choral Conducting at Cal State University Los Angeles, a university that is one of the many beneficiaries of the generosity of the HFPA grants program.
“So I know firsthand the impact the HFPA’s support can make – how it can give people opportunities they may have never had. And as a music teacher, thanks to Cal State LA and a firm believer of the philosophy of ‘paying it forward,’ I’m always on the lookout for talented young people. In short, what HFPA invests in its grantees can pay dividends in nurturing talent years later.
“One of the most impressive and talented young people I’ve been fortunate to work with is here with us tonight. Lucy Winzenried is a senior in high school and is looking forward to next year attending one of the California colleges next year that is an HFPA grantee.”
Senior Vice President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Hollywood Bureau Kyle Bowser stressed the importance of the media industry in raising awareness about the need to include “underrepresented segments of our populous” as the impact of the entertainment business is “global and consequential.”
At first glance, the event might seem like simply a preamble to the upcoming Golden Globe Awards. But the passion exuded by the speeches of each and every one of the presenters stemmed from places far away from the Beverly Hilton, places rife with untold stories – the streets, inner cities, remote and isolated communities. And so, this coming together of advocates for disparate milieus in the nation and in the world at the crossroads of the media industry was emblematic of a positive turn in Hollywood’s history.