HFPA Bolsters Grant Giving at YouTube Event

The Debbie Allen Dance Academy
Courtesy of Michael Higgins/HFPA

While much of the world knows the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. (HFPA) for the Golden Globes, the annual kudosfest it puts on, it is equally well known for the money from the television contract is spent on philanthropy. Since 1987, the HFPA has disbursed $44.5 million and that tradition continues this year with $5.2 million given to various organizations and schools that work in and with the entertainment industry.

Though the money was given at a big socially distanced event that was presented online on YouTube on Oct. 13, Meher Tatna, board chair of the HFPA, says since the lockdown in March the org has donated $300,000 in three batches to various institutions.

“A lot of students were in distress, they had to leave their dorm rooms, a lot of them are food insecure so we, the HFPA members, voted to give emergency grants to everyone,” she says.

The average gift was about $20,000, mostly to colleges, but “there were other grantees who were going to remove their employees off the payroll because they couldn’t afford to keep them.”

The beneficiaries are in education, including several schools, and press freedom-related and film restoration orgs. The process of selecting grantees did not change from previous years, says Luca Celada, board member and co-producer of “HFPA Philanthropy: Empowering the Next Generation,” the YouTube event that was presented Oct. 13.

The title is a reference to the work the org has been doing with younger people, many in inner-city schools.

“Outreach to what in the end will be our future, the future of the industry, showing them that we want to actively showcase their work and kind of give them a leg up and taking that extra step,” Celada says.

“Throughout the year we have an application process with our grants officer,” he adds. “Many of these 77 are repeat grantees although some are new.

“We usually do it in a ballroom. we present it in person,” Celada says. “Of course, like everyone else, we’ve changed. In a way we are making the most of that with this format and actually highlight some of the work the young people are doing with 11 schools that we are specifically highlighting.”

“HFPA Philanthropy: Empowering the Next Generation,” showcased some of the recipients of the HFPA’s largesse with stars such as George Clooney, Jurnee Smollet and John David Washington, singers including Billie Eilish and Mary J. Blige participating in the event hosted by James Corden. HFPA is considering repeating it.

“The idea is to make it part of our philanthropy effort, to take one further step besides financially supporting also kind of reaching out keeping in mind the kind of year it has been,” Celada says.

Also this year the org added the Social Justice Grant, $300,000 presented to the Urban Peace Institute’s Connie Rice by Tracee Ellis Ross on Oct. 13.

The passing of HFPA president Lorenzo Soria did not affect the HFPA’s grant process as the decisions were made before he died. “All the processes that he put in place, we just continue,” Tatna says.

“The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. is committed to giving back, and providing grants to deserving organizations and individuals,” says Ali Sar, the new president. “We are committed to continuing our unwavering support of educational, cultural, humanitarian and journalistic efforts.”

The money that the HFPA disburses comes from the goose that lays the Golden Globes but what is going to happen in the future is anybody’s guess.

Tatna points out that the awards were moved, but beyond that, “Who the hell knows? Nobody knows anything. Will there be a second wave? Will there be a flu pandemic?”

Celada adds, “In the long run I would imagine it would affect us as it would the entire industry.”

Looking to the future, the pair would like to expand the HFPA’s philanthropic efforts. For Tatna that means more to refugee organizations. Some of the checks that were given at festivals, including at Cannes, didn’t happen because the event was canceled.

Celada, for his part, would like to go beyond monetary giving to experiences. The HFPA already offers internships, director residencies and fellowships.

“But I think also some of our members could do courses or go and speak at some of these schools, have more interns join us and actually kind of give in experience and not only in money. I think that is, there is room there to become more involved.”