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HFPA Grants Write a Better Future for Students

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. is known to people around the world for its star-studded Golden Globe Awards. But the organization’s charitable efforts often escape the public’s gaze.

Over almost three decades, the Hollywood Foreign Press has provided more than $20 million in grants to high schools, universities, and entertainment-related organizations. As a result, more than 1,300 students have received scholarships to support their education.

Now HFPA is preparing to gift $2.4 million to another group of recipients at its annual banquet on Aug. 4 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

“That’s when we can showcase to the world that HFPA is not only about putting on an award show in January, or all of the press conferences and other activities that we do year-round,” says Lorenzo Soria, president of HFPA. “It’s also about giving back. It’s a moment where we can tell another side of our story.”

Soria says the organization has received hundreds of letters from students. “If it wasn’t for our grants, they wouldn’t have graduated. It’s gratifying for us because we can see our money in action.”

One school that has benefited from HFPA’s charitable efforts is Cal State Northridge. Since 1998, CSUN has received over $900,000 in grants to assist with students’ senior film projects and fellowship funding. Just last year, CSUN’s department of cinema and television Arts received an unprecedented $2 million grant with a portion going toward the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. Scholars Program to support underrepresented film and TV students in the industry.

“A very big component to this is going to be providing mentorship,” says Nate Thomas, CSUN professor. “We’re talking about providing industry mentorship to these scholars that will help students make the transition, because a large part of this industry is who you know.”

HFPA’s grants have helped CSUN students from Latino, African-American, Asian, and LGBT backgrounds “turn aspirations into reality and tell their stories which are reflective of their communities,” Thomas says.

Two HFPA scholars have been admitted to CSUN this year, and the university has plans to admit four to five a year in the future. “So many folks in this town talk about diversity, but it’s all talk,” Thomas adds. “This is one organization that puts their money where their mouth is.”

A smaller, yet, still effective grant of $25,000 went to LAUSD/USC Media Arts & Engineering Magnet School to purchase cameras, light kits, and audio gear for the institution’s Lights, Camera, Take Action project. Serving 50 to 60 low-income students annually, Lights, Camera, Take Action, allows participants to create socially conscious documentaries and ad campaigns for various nonprofit organizations in their communities.

“We get a lot of students that come from low socio-economic households,” says Matthew Waynee, cinematic arts instructor. “So they might not have equipment at home like you might find in more affluent neighborhoods. This has really given them the opportunity to see what higher level of equipment they can learn film on.”

Waynee says it has made a noticeable difference in his students when “they feel they are not just students shooting video with their phones.” Many have gone on to pursue film at the college level as a result of the experiences they’ve had through HFPA grants. “When they see their projects on the L.A. Times website — when they feel that it’s real, and know that the money came from Hollywood Foreign Press — it pushes them a little more,” he says. “I’ve been blown away at the professional level of work my students have been able to do. We are really trying to bridge the gap for our students.”

Pictured: Minority students at Cal State Northridge relied on HFPA funding to complete their film “Champion.”

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