HFPA looks to rebuild Hollywood’s trust: “Don’t we want change?”

The organization’s chief diversity officer, Neil Philips, discusses how they’re addressing big issues and pressing on with the Golden Globes

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) is holding the 2022 Golden Globes in Los Angeles Sunday night, but don’t expect the glitz and glam that they’re known for.

This year, thanks to COVID and an industry-wide reckoning, the ceremony will take place without an audience and without any celebrity guests or presenters. It also won’t be broadcast on television or even live streamed, but the show will indeed go on. 

This year’s contenders are more diverse than previous years and that has a lot to do with the changes the widely-shamed organization has implemented since an LA Times investigation accused them of some very troubling practices last February. 

Aside from revealing that the origination did not have any Black members, the bombshell expose accused voters of accepting bribes and regularly leaving many deserving projects centered on people of color off of their lists. 

The organization made some ill-received attempts to save face in the months that followed, but so far, Hollywood has been reluctant to get back on board. NBC refused to broadcast this year’s Golden Globes and several studios like Netflix, Amazon, and Warner media made it clear that they were done participating in HFPA events until some serious changes are made. 

Neil Philips was hired to be the organization’s Chief Diversity Officer in November and he sat down with theGrio’s Cortney Wills to discuss how he’s tackling some of the criticism and why he’s optimistic that real change is coming. 

While many were stunned when the HFPA announced that it was carrying on with the 2022 Golden Globes after months of controversy, Philips insists that it’s a good sign. 

“The fact that the HFPA is doing what it was created to do — that makes sense. It makes even more sense, especially because of the work that the organization has put in over the last several months to respond to the criticism, to respond to being called out,” he said.

“We are not just going to try to make some kind of quick fix to placate the criticisms. We’re going to look at ourselves in a very deep and deliberate way and we’re going to respond in that way. We’re going to look at how we’re structured, we’re going to look at how we function, how we operate. We’re going to look at our governance. We’re going to look at our eligibility criteria. We’re going to look at our membership outreach. We’re going to look at our executive staffing,” he said. “This is how you want organizations to respond.”

Neil Philips
Neil Philips

Numerous outlets have reported that this year’s Golden Globes couldn’t get any celebrities to agree to participate, and so far, the industry and the public seems slow to accept the organization’s promises. 

“I think it’s a wonderful thing that our society has gotten to a place where the activism and the heightened awareness will call individuals and organizations out when they misstep. When there is underrepresentation, that’s a necessary check and balance. It’s wonderful. And I think there has to be space for those individuals and organizations to be allowed to transform. Don’t we want that to happen? Don’t we want change?” Philips continued. 

“When I see the depth of the HFPA’s efforts to reform and transform, it gives me great confidence that this is going to bear fruit. Not just in the short term to respond to immediate criticism— that needs to happen; but more importantly in the long term. In a sustainable way where true change can happen within the organization, with the organizations that it engages with within the industry, and hopefully, given the visibility of Hollywood, far beyond this industry.”

Despite all of doubt, the HFPA has made some noticeable changes in recent months, including adding several new voting members to the organization, several of whom are Black. This year’s nominees include a lot more melanin. 

Denzel Washington is up for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama for Macbeth and Mahershala Ali is up for the same award for his role in Swan Song. 

Insecure’s Issa Rae and black-ish’s Tracee Ellis Ross snagged nods for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy Series and Barry JenkinsThe Underground Railroad is up for Best Limited Series. Anthony Anderson earned a nomination for his role in black-ish, and King Richard earned several nominations including one for Beyonce’s “Be Alive,” in the Best Original Song category. Will Smith is up for Best Actor in a Drama and Aunjanue Ellis is a contender for Best Supporting Actress. 

The stage is set for the 79th Annual Golden Globe Award nominations at The Beverly Hilton on December 13, 2021 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

The slightly Blacker list of contenders is a step in the right direction, but Philips understands that there’s a long way to go before Hollywood is ready to give the 79-year-old award show another shot. 

“We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and say, ‘This is where we are faulty. This is where we are lacking.’ And we’ve got to address those things. Some of those things can be addressed quickly. Most of them can’t. Most of them take time and resolve. And in many ways, it’s hard to find tangible measures for progress,” he said. “But if we are in the business of transforming, of becoming something different, something better, something more aware, something more enlightened — that takes time. 

And even though the public won’t be watching when the organization announces this year’s winners, Philips hopes that the honors aren’t lost on the nominees and winners.

“It is a complex dynamic, but part of what should be at play here is that there’s creative brilliance being celebrated and that in and of itself is part of what this award does. It’s part of what a Golden Globe nomination and awarding should do. It should acknowledge incredibly hard work, and artistry, and brilliance, and collaboration, and all of these things. And so my hope is that the artists who have been identified and nominated are feeling that.”

For more with Neil Philips and one of the HFPA’s newest voting members, Kelley Carter, check out the latest episode of our podcast, Acting Up.

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