Should the HFPA split into two groups?

Voters overwhelmed with assessing TV and film

While the Oscars are all about movies, and the Emmys focus exclusively on television, the Golden Globes ambitiously cover it all.

In an age where both mediums and their stars seem to be increasingly intertwined, it just makes sense to recognize film and television as flip sides of the same entertainment coin.

The downside? At a time when many Academy voters complain that they have no time to see all their nominated movies, members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. have it much worse. They have to watch hundreds of nominated TV programs and films, and can hardly be getting much sleep these days.

So should the HFPA consider forming separate TV and film groups, allowing voters more time to concentrate on just one area? Jorge Camara, president of the HFPA, doesn’t feel that such a move is necessary nor that it would prove beneficial.

“So far, we haven’t had any problem dealing with both areas, so the idea of splitting them into two different voting groups hasn’t even come up,” he says.

Camara goes on to point out that covering both film and television has been a long tradition for the Globes.

“It began with our show back in 1956, and it’s worked out very well over the years,” he says. “As you know, we recognize new shows such as ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Mad Men’ ahead of everyone else. So we’re definitely a big part of the game.”

As Gabriel Lerman, a member who reps Costa Rica, says, “Obviously some people are more focused on cinema, and others on TV, and we have committees who work specifically in each area, but all our members participate when it’s down to choosing a film or show.”

Camara does admit, “It gets very hectic as we get closer to the awards season, with the sheer amount of movies and TV shows we have to watch. It’s not easy.”

But he stresses: “Screeners have gone a long way to helping our 80 or so members deal with the huge volume. We’re already catching up with films that we haven’t seen, and as for TV shows, we get those screeners on an ongoing basis throughout the year, so that is very helpful.”

Scott Orlin, who writes for the German market, agrees that new technology has become “a major part” of the viewing equation for members.

“Luckily, we now have everything from DVDs to TiVo to ease the burden, and so there are now plenty of opportunities to catch a TV show or a movie besides when they’re airing that night or just opening that weekend,” he explains. “I can only speak for myself, but I know that I always find the time, somehow. I take the whole process very seriously, and I think it’s important that I’ve been afforded this opportunity to hand out this recognition.”

Says Lerman, “Of course it’s very difficult to see everything, but luckily we have members who do have the time to see everything.”

As for any concerns that some smaller but worthy movies and shows might fall under the radar because of viewing time constraints and subsequent lack of attention, Camara insists: “It’s not the case. We haven’t seen that sort of situation arise yet, so we don’t feel it’s an issue for us.”

Orlin seems less sure.

“Do some things slip through the cracks? Yes, it’s just inevitable,” he says. “You simply can’t watch every single film or show, but I guarantee you that everyone who votes for the Academy Awards doesn’t watch every single film, and everyone who votes for the Emmys doesn’t watch every TV show. You do the best you can given the time and numbers you have to deal with.”

For Lerman, whose focus is cinema, it’s foreign films that might suffer most.

“The Academy voters only have to see something like 175 movies, which is still a huge number, as it’s one film per country,” he notes. “For us, any country can submit as many films as they want.”

The result? Members are “drowning” in film, “and it’s just very hard to get anyone’s attention, especially when we get maybe 20 screeners a day at the end of the year,” Lerman observes. “So if a film doesn’t have the support of a studio, getting our attention is very hard, and I pay a lot of attention to foreign films.”

Orlin says the crush of foreign films is especially heavy just before the submission deadline.

“The problem with foreign films, more than anything else, is that they all wait to the last minute because everyone feels that the last one in will be remembered by more people. I wish they’d just balance it out more so that we could watch them at our leisure in far less hectic times.”

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