HFPA’s Nearly $2 Million In Grants Bring Joy, Laughs and Tears

Jenny Slate, Jason Segel, Michael Pena and Kristen Bell pose for a photo during the HFPA Grants Banquet
Jenny Slate, Jason Segel, Michael Pena and Kristen Bell pose for a photo during the HFPA Grants Banquet
 AP Images

Midway through the Hollywood Foreign Press Associations Grants Banquet, actor and comedian Jason Segel came onstage with Anne Heche to accept on behalf of Outfest and UCLA with a beaming smile and said, “I’m so excited we’re presenting here at the Golden Globes.”

After the laughter died down, Heche told him, no they were at an event where the HFPA gave grants to worthy causes, not at the famous awards show.

“OK,” said Segal. “I’ll adjust my speech. As a little boy I always thought with a start in a little town and a lot of luck and some elbow grease, someday I could make it to the HFPA Grants banquet!”

It again brought laughs, but there was some truth to it. What over the years was a casual luncheon, usually at the Beverly Hills Hotel, was re-invented on Thursday evening in the ballroom at the Beverly Hilton into a much slicker affair, just this side of television ready. It might not be the Globes but the event was presented in the evening for the first time, with the Moet & Chandon champagne flowing. It was more like Hollywood’s biggest party — the Golden Globes — than the afternoon party it used to be.

The shift to the evening brought other changes. Those on hand to share in the foreign press’ philanthropy no longer ascend the dais to stand with the star or give thanks. Instead, a parade of TV and film stars were introduced. Most read from a teleprompter a thoughtful message about the group or groups or institutions receiving the grants. There was never any mention of just how much each got this year, and none of the recipients in the audience were part of the program this year.

Theo Kingma, a tall, well-spoken Dutch photographer now in his second term as president of the HFPA, acted as master of ceremonies and proved an amiable and efficient host. He started by noting the group was giving out close to $2 million, bringing the total over the last two decades or so to about $20 million. He also announced that as part of the deal to continue producing the Golden Globes together, Dick Clark Productions was donating $7.5 million over the next few years to provide matching grants that bolster the philanthropic efforts of the 85 or so members of the HFPA.

Kingma opened by remembering Lauren Bacall and Robin Williams: “No performer likes to be confronted by silence, so in memorial … I would like to ask you for a moment of applause.”

That brought a thundering response from the audience composed of those receiving grants, stars, publicists, media and friends of friends.

Sofia Vergara was the first presenter. “I’m here to talk about children,” she said, adding: “I have raised a real son and on Modern Family two fake ones.”

She praised the Pablove Foundation Shutterbugs program, which teaches kids with cancer to find their creative voice through photography.

Kingma came out and surprised her by announcing that a little boy named Jake, who had been on the red carpet along with other press taking pictures and who had benefited from the Shutterbugs program, was in the room. He brought Jacob onstage where Vergara hugged him as the crowd cheered.

Morgan Freeman accepted on behalf of The Film Foundation after a video that included an appearance by director Martin Scorcese, who thanked the HFPA for more than a decade of grants that have helped save and restore more than 460 movies.

“Movies touch our heart, our vision and change the way we see things,” said Freeman. “They take us to other places. They open doors and minds. Movies are the memories of our lifetimes. We need to keep them alive. These are the words of Martin Scorcese, who founded and has overseen the Film Foundation since 1990.”

The Film Foundation, noted Freeman, has restored works by directors including D.W. Griffith, Bob Fosse, John Ford and William Wyler.

Other presenters included Channing Tatum, Patricia Arquette, Chris Evans, Chaz Ebert, Elle Fanning, Gina Rodriguez, Kerry Washington, Minnie Driver, Robert Pattinson, Rose McGowan, Nick Jonas and Andy Samberg.

Kingma noted Samberg was a Golden Globe winner in January for his new Fox TV series Brooklyn 99. He added that Samberg had left production to be there: “We may literally have to give him a police escort when he leaves here.”

On the red carpet before the show Driver said she had come to support the Screen Actors Guild Foundation and the HFPA. “I like when one big organization gives to another,” said Driver. “I like when the money is going to help people who — actors traditionally do not have a lot of money. Most actors can’t afford to go to classes and seminars and pay all sorts of things, so what the SAG Foundation provides is a brilliant resource for all actors.”

Abigail Spencer, who stars on the Sundance drama Rectify, came to accept on behalf of future filmmakers. She said she worked with a filmmaker who got a grant from a different group. “He ended up winning the student Oscar,” said Spencer. “These things really matter. Just because of your financial situation doesn’t mean you can’t get into the school or the program … We just need outside sources to do that, so it’s why they are doing it.”

English actor and singer Eddie Redmayne praised the HFPA for “supporting young and emerging filmmakers. They seem to be doing a really great job of embracing film in its entirety.”

Among those attending was Larry Laboe, executive director, New Filmmakers Los Angeles, whose group was given a grant for the first time of $5,000. It was less than requested, but Laboe was happy to get it. “It comes in a crucial year for us,” explained Laboe. “Our organization has grown so much. We need to move our capacity to the next stage.”

He plans to use the grant to hire another staff member and expand international outreach — to bring more films to an American audience — with a special effort to reach Hispanic filmmakers around the globe. Added Laboe: “So it kind of goes along with the international spirit of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.”

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