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In the wake of the Feb. 21 Los Angeles Times exposé about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s demographics and behavior, no constituency has been harder on the group behind the Golden Globe Awards than the community of entertainment industry publicists. Indeed, back in March more than 100 PR firms from both sides of the Atlantic notified the HFPA that they would cut off their clients from the organization unless and until the HFPA enacted “transformational change,” and they have been true to their word.
On Wednesday evening, the HFPA will vote on a slate of bylaws that, to many, would represent that sort of change. Not only would the organization significantly tighten its ethics policies, but it would also begin the process of recruiting Black journalists to become members (there are currently zero) and moving inactive members to non-voting “emeritus” status (a move that has prompted several senior members of the group to threaten legal action).
Ahead of that vote, The Hollywood Reporter consulted eight top industry publicists — men and women of varying ages who represent individuals, studios, networks and awards campaigns — and granted them anonymity in return for candor about which of the 84 current HFPA members they hold in the highest regard and would work with even if those individuals did not have a Golden Globe ballot.
In other words, we set out to try to determine which current members the publicists regard as part of the solution, not part of the problem.
While one might suspect that only newer members would earn the publicists’ seal of approval, given that they weren’t present as the current HFPA demographics and ethics policies evolved, one would be wrong. The name most frequently cited — by six of those surveyed — was Silvia Bizio, who has been a member for 38 years. Bizio, whose bylines appear some 200 times per year between La Repubblica, Italy’s largest daily-circulation newspaper, and its sister publication, the weekly L’Espresso, is widely regarded as an honest and clear-eyed analyst of the industry whose coverage can truly move the needle.
The next most cited individual, named by five of those surveyed, is also an HFPA veteran: Scott Orlin, a member since 1990, who — despite being one of three Americans in the group — has long represented Germany in the group, currently via the movie magazines Cinema and TV SPIELFILM.
Cited by four respondents each were five-year HFPA member Brent Simon — one of the group’s other Americans — a senior staff reporter and film critic for the Chinese website Mtime, as well as a current member and past president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association; Jenny Cooney, who since 1989 has represented Australian and New Zealand in the group and currently writes for the major outlets Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, while hosting the podcast Aussies in Hollywood; Henry Arnaud, a member since 2018 who freelances for high-end glossies in Switzerland while also posting many interviews on his YouTube and social media pages; and Anke Hofmann, the Hollywood correspondent for TV Digital, a bi-weekly German publication with two million readers, and a contributor to Germany’s Vanity Fair.
Hofmann, who has been a member for 20 years, recently spoke at an HFPA/publicists meeting and pleaded through tears for publicists to “find it in your heart to forgive our past and embrace our future, and to join our journey. Allow us to earn your trust again. We would like to continue being an ally and voice against social and systemic injustice domestically and internationally — through our philanthropy as well as our journalistic work. Hollywood is filled with movies and series about second chances. It would be great if you and us could write this script together.”
Receiving three mentions each were Finnish freelancer Kirpi Uimonen Ballesteros, a member for a decade, who established and oversees the podcast HFPA In Conversation, one of the few places where — for better or worse — a wide cross-section of HFPA members can be heard by the public interacting with talent; Tina Christensen, a 2013 addition to the group who is classified as representing Denmark, but actually serves as the Hollywood correspondent for a variety of Danish and Swedish newspapers and magazines; Michele Manelis, who has written for Australian and New Zealand publications since becoming a member in 2012, and currently reaches a large audience through the News Corp Australia Network; Adam Tanswell, who since 2015 has represented the UK in the group and is currently Total Film‘s Hollywood correspondent; and South African correspondent since 2003 Margaret Gardiner, who was a beauty queen (Miss Universe 1978) before entering journalism (one hiccup in her otherwise solid track record came on Oscar night earlier this year when she made headlines for appearing to confuse Daniel Kaluuya with Leslie Odom, Jr.).
Clocking in with two mentions each were Helen Hoehne, the US correspondent for TV Movie, who has been an HFPA member since 2004 and is the group’s current vice president (she was one of the three members who took the stage during the most recent Golden Globe Awards telecast to promise reforms were on the way); Katherine Tulich, who since 2010 has represented Australia in the group (she frequently appears on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation network, and her bylines can also be found in the Los Angeles Times and Variety) and has long been the sole member in attendance at the annual Telluride Film Festival; Ramzi Malouki, a member since 2002 who, as an independent contractor, hosts a show on Cine+ (one of Canal+’s cable networks) and produces stories for CNews (Canal+’s news network), and is categorized a representative of French Polynesia; and 17-year member Ruben Nepales, whose column used to be carried by Filipino Daily Inquirer, the Philippines’ leading newspaper, but now appears on the website Rappler, and whose COVID project was creating a coffee-table book of photographs of actors that he snapped while interviewing them. (His wife, Janet Nepales, is also an HFPA member.)
The Hollywood Reporter is not naming members who received only one mention or no mention at all.
One publicist consulted by THR declined to name any members, insisting, “Literally none of them are legit,” and lamenting, “We have to do HFPA press and then real press.” But several others publicists noted that while not all HFPA members are heavyweights in their field, the same could also be said for the membership of the Critics Choice Association, British Academy of Film and Television Arts and other awards-dispensing organizations.
That is true, but those other organizations’ awards are decided by considerably more than 84 people. In a group as small as the HFPA, every vote could swing a race one way or another.
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