No rest for the bleary-eyed

Award season brings onslaught of competition

There are signs that signal the arrival of every season on the calendar, and for members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., awards season brings an onslaught of dozens if not hundreds of movies and television shows all competing for attention.

“It has been crazy,” says HFPA member Ruben Nepales of the year-end crush that includes a blizzard of screenings. “It’s almost nightly, and on top of that we have a full schedule of press conferences. I’m already feeling it.”

And that’s only part of the picture for the seven-year member of the HFPA, the org that will announce the nominees for the Golden Globes on Dec. 15 and name the winners a month later. Nepales also has his day job, writing three columns a week for the Philippines Daily Inquirer.

“Sometimes I’m still up at 2 or 3 in the morning trying to meet my deadline,” he says, adding that his wife, Janet, understands the hectic schedule. She’s also an HFPA member, writing for the competing Manila Bulletin.

With all those responsibilities, efficiency is a must.

One of his time-savers is carpooling with his wife to screenings and other events, so on the way home one of them can start working on their story as the other navigates Los Angeles traffic. Nepales also stays current with several media outlets on Twitter to help him focus his viewing list.

“You have to read up on what’s going on, what’s the latest and what’s creating buzz,” he says. “As a journalist, you have to listen to what others are saying, but in the end it’s your own verdict, your own opinion about that film or TV show.”

Lynn Tso, who writes for TVBS Weekly in Taiwan, has developed a survival strategy of her own, something she deemed a necessity after joining the HFPA a decade ago.

“When I started, I really didn’t know what I had gotten into. It was really a daunting task,” she recalls. “But over the years, you learn how to pace yourself and develop a system that works for you.”

That system includes setting priorities, reading the trades and other media, following what respected critics have to say and exchanging opinions with other HFPA members.

While attending screenings are a regular part of Tso’s schedule, using a laptop and other portable playing devices greatly expands the number of movies and TV shows she can watch.

“Once you prioritize, things are actually a lot more manageable than people might imagine, but it’s still a huge job,” Tso says.

Another fan of DVD screeners is Dierk Sindermann, an HFPA member for more than 25 years who writes for publications in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. He finds DVD screeners extremely useful — particularly when it comes to foreign films — and would like to see more online streaming available.

“I don’t know about the security issue, but maybe the studios will figure that out,” he says.

In awards circles, the Golden Globes have long been a rare breed because voters need to be well-versed in both movies and television. That dates to the 1956 ceremony when the HFPA added TV to its established film awards repertoire.

Today, the 81-member org has a film committee that coordinates screening and press conference schedules with the studios, and another group that works with TV nets. When it comes to awards voting, would a similar division of responsibilities among members lighten the year-end load? Absolutely, says Sindermann, but it’s not a workable option.

“You have to see show business has a whole: Television and movies. I don’t think you can split it up,” he says. “Actually, I wouldn’t be doing a service to my outlets to say, ‘I’ll watch all of the television shows, but forget the movies.’ From a professional standpoint alone, I have to stay on top of everything. Splitting it I don’t think would be a good idea.”

While Tso admits it’s impossible for every member to watch everything that’s eligible, she strives to give everything she does see careful consideration.

“When you’re doing what we do, you feel like you have a responsibility,” she says. “You really don’t want to let people down because people work really hard to get (a project) going.”

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