The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) was founded in 1943 under the name The Hollywood Foreign Correspondents Association by one William Mooring, a correspondent in Los Angeles for The Daily Mail in the UK.
The group gave out awards from that year on, although the Golden Globe itself was inaugurated in 1947. Through the decades, the group of international journalists has developed what can only be described as a legendary status in Hollywood.
On the one hand, they are the object of casual derision, especially from the domestic media who question why 90 or so foreign junket press should retain such influence; on the other hand, they have become a fixture which consistently and reliably foreshadows the Oscars and stages one of the most popular awards shows in town.
Away from the awards show itself, the HFPA spends its year organizing press conferences with film and television talent from the US and overseas, access to whom represents the livelihoods of its members.
Last year alone HFPA president Phil Berk, who writes for FilmInk in Australia, Elle in Hong Kong and Galaxie in Malaysia, estimates that the group was given access to over 500 press conferences. The members have never represented themselves as critics, a fact that further infuriates domestic critics who believe that the Globes are taken too seriously.
The ascendancy of the HFPA has only really occurred in the last decade or so when a long-term network deal was signed with NBC, assuring the awards show had a national platform which only the Oscars can best. Last year, the show drew 18.7 million viewers on its new Monday night slot, having been moved there to avoid ABC’s Sunday night Desperate Housewives juggernaut.
The day-to-day concerns of the journalists in the HFPA, however, are far removed from the talk of ratings. Principal issues are the problems of day-and-date releasing and how that has affected lead time for talent access and the increasing demands of international media to get talent at the same time as domestic media.
‘We are very lucky in the access we get,’ says Lawrie Masterson, an Australian member who arrived in LA in 1996 and who works under contract with the News Ltd Sunday newspaper network in Australia like Sunday Herald Sun in Melbourne and The Sunday Times in Perth as well as on a freelance basis with Women’s Weekly in New Zealand and the Qantas in-flight magazine. ‘To me, as a working journalist, the access is the greatest advantage of it although being involved with the Golden Globes is obviously a lot of fun.’
‘The HFPA is very helpful,’ adds Jean-Paul Chaillet, a well-known French journalist who came to LA for Premiere magazine in 1990 and now works for both Cine-Live and Madame Figaro. ‘I joined in 1992 and even since then it has become more significant than it was. It helps your profile which is always important in LA because there are so many foreign journalists here.’
But Rocio Ayuso, a veteran Spanish journalist who is the LA correspondent for El Pais and Spanish news agency EFE adds that membership of the HFPA also involves a lot of additional work, both within the administrative structure of the association and during Golden Globes season when members have to vote on a deluge of foreign-language films and new TV shows.
‘Being a member really broadens your horizons and gets you much more in touch with the politics of the entertainment community but it’s definitely not a free ride as some people think. There’s a lot of additional work there.’
Ayuso covers the LA beat for Spain which encompasses much more than just Hollywood issues, namely politics and Latino issues. ‘Being a member of the HFPA is among my credentials, but first and foremost I am a journalist. I think some people outside the HFPA forget that sometimes.’