HFPA: a quirky cluster

A look inside the Hollywood Foreign Press

This article was updated on Dec. 20, 2004.

Who exactly are the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.?

The 91 foreign journalists who make up the HFPA — 83 of whom vote on the Golden Globes — are ubiquitous this time of year. They attend intimate screenings, dinners and cocktails thrown by the studios, receiving a level of attention that few other journalists enjoy.

They stand out for other reasons, too. The group is an idiosyncratic alliance of journos with diverse backgrounds from far-flung parts of the world.

HFPA members admit their multiethnic group is quirky. In an interview, a few members roll their eyes playfully over “the South Americans,” who are apparently outspoken, and “the Germans,” who get the lion’s share of the work due to the current economy.

But as a group they defend their credentials. They aver that the American media, often unfamiliar with many foreign publications, tends to dismiss those that don’t have the cachet of Le Monde or Britain’s Times.

“Ask (an American journalist) what Panorama is,” says Mike Goodridge, a 35-year-old British HFPA member, referring to the Italian mag. He adds that one reporter for a major national newspaper didn’t recognize Screen Intl., for which Goodridge is the U.S. editor.

Members have no qualms about admitting that concern over competition affects whether applicants are accepted into the cozy group.

“You have to worry about certain markets,” says Scott Orlin of German film mag Cinema. “The two biggest groups come from Italy and Germany. We have 11 or 12 members who write for German (outlets). So if there’s a really good journalist from Germany who wants to come in …,” Orlin shrugs.

The reality is that most HFPA members are struggling to make a living in an age when foreign pubs are growing less reliant on journalists living in Hollywood. Information is readily available on the Internet, and studios routinely fly in the foreign press for junkets, and, likewise, take their talent on international tours.

As for demographics of the HFPA, much of the old guard remains (the same could be said of the Academy and many other awards-voting groups), but HFPA prez Lorenzo Soria says there has been a recent push to bring in younger blood from legitimate publications.

“In the past three years we have accepted many new members,” he says. “I’ve been around for 15 years. There’s been a big change in the profile of membership. It is now younger.”

The HFPA can admit five members annually; four were accepted this year, compared with one in 2003 and three in 2002.

One HFPA vet disagrees that there has been much of a shift in membership. “The older members do not want competition. It’s very hard to get voted into the group.”

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