The Golden Globes nominations hit the wire this AM, and aside from the fact that no major broadcast network saw any nominations (the first ever in the History of histories), most people were crying afoul over the fact that there were few, if any nominations for female Directors, or female artists in many categories at all. Such lists and opinions can be found here, here and here.
But the problem isn’t the problem. And the story isn’t the story.
Do you actually know who makes up the Golden Globes? Do you know which people actually vote for the nominations and awards? The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (or HFPA) is made up of about 90 members from approximately 55 countries, and have questionable experience as journalists, reporters and the like. Some of them are employed, others in the past have been known to be holding down jobs in restaurants while determining the financial futures and career opportunities of the talent they heap praise upon.
But when nominations are decided by 90 people with questionable backgrounds (versus the 12,000+ Academy members, divided into groups based on real experience and skill), the waters get muddy pretty quickly and the politics behind the whys of nominations and awards get fairly creepy.
Let’s break down some of the creepiness of it all.
Every year, the HFPA not only requires that studios screen their films for the HFPA group ahead of the film’s release, but they also encourage each studio to join them for a “press conference” that is only attended by the HFPA members. They also encourage that if you’re going to do a press conference, you bring your celebrities out for such events, so each HFPA member has the opportunity to ask them inane questions and take selfies with them for their own social media profiles. The press conferences themselves are hilarious; the HFPA prepares “fact sheets” for each actor or actress who shows up, with details about their personal life, tattered relationships, and the kind of gossip you’d find on TMZ. Then each HFPA member is allowed to get up and ask questions you’d think would be about the movie or the craft, but often result in questions like, “What’s your favorite food?” or “How do you like living in London?” or “Why did you break up with your fiancee?”
And when the press conference is over, each HFPA member angles for a picture with said celebrities, with hugs and handshakes, and the like. Celebrities know that if you don’t show up and give the HFPA members that opportunity for face time, they’ll gravitate towards the celebrities that do. Face time equals attention equals nominations in many situations. And celebrities like Jennifer Aniston (who is clearly happy today) who have been a part of the HFPA’s world for decades, hold a sweet spot in their hearts, so it’s even easier to nab nominations if the relationship is there.
If you were a fly on that wall, in those places, you’d even hear the HFPA members (in between going back for seconds at the buffet) talk about just how much each movie has spent. Are they spending enough? Do they care enough to spend enough? It’s a process that benefits the deep pocketed big guys and puts everyone else back on their heels, just hoping for a miracle.
But those are just the press conferences. What about the gifts?
If you are hoping for a Golden Globes nomination, and you’ve ponied up for an HFPA press conference, you have to make sure you’ve thought about what kind of gift you’re going to hand deliver to all 90 members of the HFPA. Is it going to be something unique? A letter from the Director with a rare bottle of champagne? Are you going to get creative and fly a handful of the HFPA to a far off island where they’ll hob nob with the actors? Sending screeners or letters is fine, but the HFPA members will tell you in no uncertain terms, that if the gift isn’t rare and unique (and valuable), then they may not remember your film come nominations time.
The rhyme or reason of the Golden Globes nominations is often cited has having no rhyme or reason. But the reality is, they do. The rhyme is about personal time with your actors and the reason is because they love celebrities. If you’ve shown them you’re spending a lot of money and the talent shows up to shake their hand, and the gifts landing on their doorstep continue that narrative, you’ll be in a good position to nab an award if your movie is reasonably good.
Then why does the HFPA rarely acknowledge female talent, you’ll ask.
With an international group of voters, who have traditionally been stuck in their old ways, and not nearly as progressive as the United States (yes, we know, we’re still hardly there) — it’s just a trend that is hard to reverse. With the Academy admitting almost 800+ new diverse voting members each year, there’s a chance for change. But when you have 90 members, who rarely cycle out, the change in the system is going to take a really long time.
But maybe we shouldn’t be as concerned with complaining about the results, and instead should focus on how the heck 90 people have built up such an impact on the success or failure of a film these days.
Maybe that’s the story people should be focused on.