HFPA head a 'full-time job'

Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. prexy Dagmar Dunlevy is a cool, no-nonsense blonde.

As she whips into the HFPA’s grand new Beverly Hills digs on a sunny November morning, Dunlevy helps get a slow-starting press conference under way before sitting down to speak frankly about her tenure with the group and plans for the upcoming year.

“I can’t stand armchair quarterbacks,” she says. “I rolled up my sleeves a long time ago and decided I must get involved. You find out things don’t change in 24 hours.”

“This is a full-time gig,” continues Dunlevy, who was elected to the HFPA’s top position in June. “It’s an honorarium, and because we’re a nonprofit, it costs me money to show up here.”

Dunlevy’s paying job, like the rest of the HFPA clan, is that of entertainment journalist. Her steady outlets are German women’s weekly Neue Woche and Canuck fashion magazine Flare, for which she writes a celebrity column. Dunlevy, whose American accent belies her European upbringing, has worked for German publishing congloms most of her professional life. Currently, she’s with the Burda Media (Neue Woche is one of its imprints.) and she started out with the Bauer Media, where she logged a dozen years as U.S. bureau chief of young entertainment mag Bravo.

Back in the Bauer days, Dunlevy remembers applying to become a member of the HFPA and getting turned down — twice. Now an 18-year HFPA member, Dunlevy notes that she’d like to take the group of Golden Globes voters to the next level.

“Over the years I’ve gotten to know members on a personal basis,” she says of the disparate collection of foreign journalists. “You come to appreciate different cultures and ways of approaching problem solving. And they see that I am sincere about wanting to make the HFPA stronger.”

Dunlevy, who served as the group’s secretary and as a board member for many years, knows the importance of putting her words into action.

“I can’t stand armchair quarterbacks,” she says. “I rolled up my sleeves a long time ago and decided I must get involved. You find out things don’t change in 24 hours.”

Among the things on her agenda for 2002 involve lifting spirits and making her fellow members’ jobs a little easier. A sitting area in the brick walkway leading up to the entrance of the HFPA offices is in the works to appease the smokers in the group; and several programs are centralizing the information-gathering process.

The HFPA has started hosting press conferences at its headquarters for smaller indie films that don’t have the luxury of studio junkets. And a screening area will be enclosed and soundproofed so that members can view new films in the comfort of the Normandy French building that now serves as their home.

As for the Golden Globes plans this year, Dunlevy reveals one of the main themes of the show will be “the celebration of the human spirit.” The program book, for instance, will highlight quotes from entertainment luminaries in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But the night’s tone will not be solemn, she assures: “I want a balance — not too down, not too heavy-handed, but not so light that it never happened.”

And Dunlevy reminds: “It’s not just about the Golden Globes, that’s just one night out of 365. But the more successful the show is, the more we have to give away.”

The proceeds of the Golden Globes telecast go to various charitable causes. This year, Dunlevy spearheaded a move away from political and medical charities. In July, the HFPA presented $485,000 in donations to organizations such as the Film Foundation, Sundance Institute, American Film Institute and various film schools.

“We want to encourage artists and filmmakers and help people achieve their goals,” she says.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more