How To Give Money The Hollywood Way
It’s tempting to get swept up in all the glitz and glamour surrounding the Hollywood Foreign Press Assocation — a.k.a., the force behind the annual showbiz phenomenon that is the Golden Globes. You know, the huge film and TV awards show handing out statuettes shaped like a planet (not a man) — commandeered too briefly by America’s favorite funny feminists, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey — where attendees get liquored up (in a classy way!) and Meryl Streep blew back the audience’s hair (and Trump’s alleged weave) with a stunning speech this past January.
Peer beyond the sequins, top-shelf champagne, and perfect Louboutins, and you’ll find the HFPA’s hidden purpose: charitable giving. Before NBC started broadcasting the Globes locally in Los Angeles in 1958 and nationally in 1964, it was a rather modest affair. But the network’s substantial licensing fees imbued the HFPA with a mission to do good. They’ve since turned much of that money into yearly gifts dispensed across a wide array of causes: young filmmakers lacking access to the industry, film restoration efforts, promoting cultural exchange through film, and special projects.
Last week, the HFPA held its annual grants banquet at the well-appointed Beverly Wilshire Hotel. If you have any favorite movie or TV stars, they were likely in attendance to accept $2.8 million in donations on behalf of students, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Veterans in Film and Television, the Moth Radio Hour, and many (very many) more individuals and organizations in need.
Host Chelsea Handler aptly kicked off the evening with pointed political remarks:
“Tonight we celebrate the three things Donald Trump hates the most: foreigners, the press, and actually donating money to charity. … The HFPA isn’t just a group that votes for the Golden Globes. These members write for more than 200 publications around the world covering both film and television. That’s a lot of fake news.”
Meher Tatna, HFPA’s newly-inducted president and Hollywood-based correspondent for Singapore’s The New Paper, says that the HFPA doesn’t take philanthropy lightly — and they’ve always used their own experience as a guide. “We give a lot of money to minorities, the underrepresented, foreign students. They share our stories, because [the members of the HFPA] are mostly immigrants who came to this country, many on scholarship, and we were given a leg up.”
Tatna herself was born in Mumbai, she says, and “came to America on a scholarship to Brandeis University. I wouldn’t have been able to afford to come if I hadn’t had that.” Years later, Tatna continues to report on the industry she loves, and recently attended Comic-Con on behalf her publication’s audience of “big movie lovers.” (A lifelong comic book fan, her most anticipated moment at the banquet was seeing Marvel icon Stan Lee.)
Giving so much money away can be a daunting task, however. “We used to react to the crisis du jour, but we just couldn’t get our arms around it every year because there are so many crises,” Tatna says. Now the organization lets trusted experts in humanitarian efforts handle larger donations. This year, the HFPA funded both the International Rescue Committee and Film Aid, which among other projects, gives refugees access to information about their rights through film.
If you’ve got a few bucks to spare — or millions like the HFPA — and you’re interested in philanthropy, Tatna recommends taking a similar approach: Once you figure out which issue is “close to your heart, research the charities. There are many with very high administrative costs, where the bulk of the money doesn't actually go to the cause but rather the organization. Make sure the money is going to the right place.”
HFPA’s grants officer Sandra Cueno spends a lot of her time vetting these organizations, Tatna says. But this is something anyone can do if they do a little digging using tools like CharityNavigator or GiveWell. But the most important part is to “find a cause that gets you going when you look at the state of the world today.”
If you want to help one of the myriad of causes supported by the HFPA, it won’t hurt to tune in to the 75th annual Golden Globes ceremony on Jan. 7, 2018. Until then, Tatna recommends checking out “Atomic Blonde.” “Charlize is really cool and stylish, and she kicks ass,” she says.
Share image: Ava DuVernay accepting on behalf of AFI Women Filmmakers, Patrick Stewart accepting on behalf of Film Aid, Bob Odenkirk and Alison Brie accepting on behalf of Veterans Film & TV. Top image of Meher Tatna. All images by HFPA Photographer unless otherwise noted.
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