Who Votes for the Golden Globes? A Hollywood Foreign Press Association Explainer

Each year, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association hands out Golden Globe Awards to the top movies and TV shows of the year. While the Oscars are voted on by thousands of members of the motion picture industry, those who vote on the Golden Globes awards are less well known. Here’s a FAQ on just what the Golden Globes are and who votes on them.

What are the Golden Globes and when did they start?

The Golden Globe Awards are voted on by members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The organization has been honoring films since 1943; they added the prizes for television starting in 1961.

Who is in the HFPA, and how do you become a member?

The HFPA consists of Southern California-based journalists who cover Hollywood for news outlets in 55 countries, including nations in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. The membership has remained fairly consistent for the past few decades. In 2019, there were 87 voting members. The HFPA accepts new members every February and March, with the rules for membership listed on the organization’s website. Among the requirements are at least four articles published in international publications each year and proof of payment for the articles. Only a few new members are accepted each year.

What is the Golden Globe Awards nomination process?

Each member is sent a ballot, along with a list of eligible films submitted by studios (a movie must have opened in the U.S. during the calendar year to be eligible). All active members can select five nominees for each category, ranking their choices from 1 to 5. The Ernst & Young accounting firm tallies the ballots and members don’t know who’s nominated until the official announcement.

What is their voting process?

Members are invited to screenings throughout the year — sometimes the screening is specifically for HFPA members and sometimes it’s with other journalists, or at a film festival. Each member votes privately, and Ernst & Young tallies the final ballots as well. They also receive dozens of DVD screeners of eligible films.

Why do they award both TV and film?

The members write about Hollywood for their respective countries, and found that readers were increasingly interested in TV work, as the networks began to export more TV shows to other countries. In the 21st century, the lines between films and TV programming are getting more and more blurred so it makes even more sense to award both.

How are the Globes different from Oscars?

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has about 8,700 voting members, all of whom work in moviemaking: actors, writers, directors, production designers, editors, etc. The HFPA consists of international journalists.

Why are there separate categories for drama and comedy/musical?

The HFPA started the comedy/musical category in 1951. If you look at Oscar history, it’s clear that comedy movies don’t get nearly as much awards attention as more serious fare. Sometimes the distinctions are fuzzy: The studio submits a film as either a comedy/musical or drama, but it is up to the HFPA to decide. For example, the 1983 film “Terms of Endearment” was submitted as a comedy, but the HFPA decided it was a drama. Last year, “A Star Is Born” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” competed in the motion-picture drama race, rather than musical. Either way, it gives comedies and musicals a chance for recognition. Over the years, comedy/musical Globe nominees have included films like “Love, Actually,” “Notting Hill,” “Sister Act” and “Harold and Maude,” which were embraced by audiences, but generally ignored by critics groups and the Oscars.

Why are some American films nominated in the best foreign-language film category?

The HFPA categorizes American films in the best foreign-language film category if the majority of the film’s dialogue is not in English, such as “Apocalypto,” “Letters From Iwo Jima” and most recently, “The Farewell.” Foreign-language films are not eligible to compete for a Golden Globe in the best drama or musical/comedy film categories, though the director, writers and actor can compete with those of English-language films. In comparison, the Academy won’t allow American films to compete in Oscar’s international-film category, nor do they allow films in English from outside the U.S. to compete in the international film category. The Oscars require each country to select just one film to enter, while the HFPA allows as many as the members want to nominate. For the 2020 Golden Globes, two films from France were nominated.

Does the screenplay race combine categories?

The Golden Globes’ screenplay race includes both originals and adaptations (e.g., “The Irishman” is an adaptation, while “Marriage Story” is an original).

Do HFPA members make a lot of money from the TV broadcast?

The HFPA is a non-profit organization so no members can profit personally from the money NBC pays to air the awards show. The organization’s grants program benefits organizations that offer scholarships, promote film education, aid refugees and restore films. Overall, the group has donated more than $33 million to various schools and arts organizations. The HFPA also used the money to buy new headquarters, and will sometimes pay for its members to attend film festivals, such as Cannes and Toronto.

How much does the HFPA make from the NBC deal?

In 2010, NBC agreed to a multi-year pact to pay $20 million a year for the Globes. In 2018, Variety reported that the new deal boosts the figure to $60 million a year, a large chunk of which goes to the show’s producers Dick Clark Productions.

How did a group of little-known journalists end up putting on such a big awards show?

Hollywood studios found it didn’t hurt to participate in another starry show before the Oscars, keeping their films and TV shows in the public’s eye. The looser Golden Globes ceremony and plethora of after-parties make it a glamorous night and a chance for some heartfelt speeches just before Oscar nominations ballots are due. It’s also an opportunity for presenters, as well as contenders, to plug their films and shows before millions of TV viewers.


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