Golden Globes Try to Define Comedy vs. Drama

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The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has issued a revised set of rules governing the 74th Golden Globes, which will take place Jan. 8.

As it sets Jan. 8 as the date for its 74th Golden Globe Awards, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is grappling with trying to define the difference between comedy and drama, since it hands out awards in both areas in film and TV.

In a revision of the rules that the organization, comprised of foreign journalists based in Los Angeles, has adopted for the upcoming awards season, the HFPA now states “motion pictures shall be entered in the category that best matches the overall tone and content of the motion picture. Thus, for example, dramas with comedic overtones should be entered as dramas.”

Under the new definition, a movie like Ridley Scott's The Martian, which was nominated in the comedy/musical comedy last year, would presumably be more likely to be classified as a drama.

But since the definition could still leave plenty of room for debate, the organization is also specifying how it will decide whether a studio or network has submitted a comedy or drama in the correct category. After the submissions deadline, which has not yet been set but is expected to take place near the end of October, HFPA members will vote by written ballot whether or not to accept a submission in a given category (in terms of both comedy/drama and lead/supporting actor designations); a 2/3 vote of the membership is required to change the submission to another category. Between the submission deadline and the reminder list that comes out in mid-November, studios and publicists are banned from lobbying HFPA members about awards classifications issues. The rules also provide for an early determination of category questions by the HFPA for movies and TV shows that are submitted by Aug. 1.

While such procedures were in practice last year, according to one HFPA insider, the new rules make the procedure more explicit.

The HFPA also is discouraging the industry from lobbying, wining and dining HFPA members for their votes between the time the nominations are announced in mid-December and the awards are held on Jan. 7. The rules now state, "During the period from the announcement of the nominations until the final Golden Globe ballots are submitted, HFPA members should not be invited to and must not attend events (including parties, receptions, lunches and dinners and similar events) at which Golden Globe nominees are present. HFPA members may continue to attend screenings and press conferences available to comparable members of the media at which nominees are present, but may not solicit individual press opportunities with nominees during this period."

The HFPA introduced several changes in its rules regarding foreign-language motion pictures. To be eligible, a film must be first released in its country of origin during the 15-month period from Oct. 1, 2015, to Dec. 31, 2016. (Previously, the HFPA had used a Nov. 1 date for the start of eligibility, but the Oct. 1 date now coincides with the eligibility period for the foreign-language film Academy Award). Also, given the increasing number of films that used several languages, the HFPA said its entries must have at least 51 percent non-English dialogue, and the HFPA may request a continuity script to determine that. And while foreign-language movies must be screened for HFPA members, the HFPA dropped a requirement that foreign-language screeners also be sent to its members.

In other categories, the HFPA defined a what constitutes an original score for the first time, saying “a majority of the score must be original music written specifically for the motion picture and should not be diluted by the use of pre-existing music.” It further states “only the principal composer(s) responsible for the conception and execution of the work as a whole shall be eligible for an award. (The rule now aligns with the corresponding Academy Award rule regarding scores.)

It also specified that for its best screenplay prize will be awarded to writers who have a “screenplay by” or “written by” credit, but writers of source material or who make contributions that don’t receive screenplay credit are not eligible.

The HFPA also addressed the question of digital delivery of films and TV shows. Movies that are released on pay-per-view cable or pay-per-view digital delivery can be considered in the motion picture, but not the TV categories. To be eligible for TV awards, TV movies and series must be released "on a recognized media platform," whether broadcast, basic or premium cable, digital or pay-per-view cable or pay-per-view digital. But shows that are offered on "individual social media accounts do not qualify." That last proviso could affect the eligibility of a show like Louis CK's new web series Horace and Pete, released on the comedian's own lousisck.net, although the HFPA has not yet made a determination about that.

The Golden Globes, produced by Dick Clark Productions in association with the HFPA, will air live on NBC from the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Jan. 8, from 5-8 p.m. PT.

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