Hannes Richter

Austria in the Universe of the Globes

Hannes Richter
Austria in the Universe of the Globes

Top photo: Wikimedia Public Domain


By Ulrike Ritzinger

On January 10, 2016, the 73rd annual Golden Globes will be awarded at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. In the lead up to the event starting in fall, the advertisement campaigns of production companies and publicists in Los Angeles get into full swing on recently launched movies as they have to position themselves for the upcoming Globes.

What are the Golden Globes all about?
The Golden Globes are recognized as the second-most important awards of the U.S. entertainment industry, after the Academy Awards for movies (aka the “Oscars”) and the Emmys for television. Although there are categories at the Golden Globes which are not considered at the Oscars, an average of 80% of Golden Globe winners were subsequently nominated for an Academy Award over the years. Thus, many experts consider the Golden Globes as an indicator for the Academy Awards.

Austria at the Golden Globes
Even though the Austrian movie Goodnight Mommy (original title: “Ich seh, ich seh”), by directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala with actress Susanne Wuest in the leading role, did not receive a Golden Globe nomination; the Austrian film community still hopes it to be shortlisted for the Oscars. The movie was very successful at various renowned film festivals and, with more than four million views on YouTube, the trailer of the movie was equally well received in advance of the U.S.-premiere in Los Angeles on September 11, 2015.

So far, three Austrian movies were nominated at the Golden Globes (Requiem for Dominic in 1991, the Austro-German Co-Production Das Weiße Band in 2009 and Amour in 2013), while only Michael Haneke’s drama Amour actually won the Golden Globe as “Best Foreign Language Film“ in 2013 (as well as the Oscar for the same category in 2012).

Christoph Waltz was nominated in 2015 for the third time for a Golden Globe: Having won two Golden Globes for his supporting roles in the Quentin Tarantino movies Inglorious Basterds (2009) and Django Unchained (2013), for both of which he also won an Oscar in the same category, Waltz was in the race again in 2015 for his role as Walter Keane in Tim Burton’s Big Eyes in the category “Best Actor in a Comedy / Musical,” but in the end lost against Michael Keaton (Birdman). 

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association & its Austrian Members
With the Golden Globes just around the corner, let’s take a closer look at the organization behind the awards - the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA). The HFPA is a nonprofit organization whose members are active international film correspondents who live and work in Los Angeles, except for the two “honorary life members” Isabelle Caron and Helena Mar-Elia. The admission of new members is only taken into consideration on the proposal of two active members, whereas the presentation of possible candidates is taking place each year between February and March.

Candidates must work as correspondents for foreign media, have been members of the journalists’ union Motion Picture Association (MPAA) for at least four years, and need to win a majority of the HFPA members’ votes. The incumbent President of the HFPA, Italo-Argentine Lorenzo Soria has been a HFPA member since 1989 and had already chaired the association from July 2003 to July 2005. The president, who holds the presidency for a year (re-electable only once), is supported by an elected vicepresident (currently Meher Tatna, listed for Malaysia and Singapore), a treasurer (Jorge Camara, Dominican Republic), an executive secretary (currently Serge Rakhlin/Latvia, Russia and Ukraine) as well as a board. In addition, the HFPA employs four non-members full-time.

Two Austrians are among the 88 members from 55 different countries: Elisabeth Sereda (featured in the spring 2015 issue of Austrian Information) has been a member since 1994, and Barbara Gasser (featured in this issue of AI) was admitted in 2011. The two Germans Dierk Sindermann and Hans Jürgen Spürkel are listed for Austria, as they also write for Austrian media. Germany has the largest number of members, counting 11 correspondents, followed by Great Britain (7), Italy (6) and France (5). Four members represent Japan, Australia and Canada, respectively, while China so far has one.

The HFPA receives substantial royalties for radio and television rights for the Golden Globes, as well as for related activities such as the Golden Globes Pre-shows. The annual preparation and celebration of the Golden Globe Awards is the most visible, but by far not the only task of HFPA members: Approximately 500 press conferences are organized annually by the HFPA, more than 300 interviews given, countless film screenings visited and scholarships in the entertainment industry as well as grants offered (USD 1.5 million only in 2010).

Ulrike Ritzinger with Conchita Wurst (right) and barbara gasser at the 2015 Golden Globe Awards
Photo: Ulrike Ritzinger

The History of the HFPA
The HFPA was founded in 1943 by a correspondent of the British Daily Mail. Just one year later, the association granted its first award in an informal ceremony at 20th Century Fox when the correspondents presented an award to the president of Warner Brothers, Harry M. Warner, for his humanitarian work during lunch at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

The idea to award recognitions for outstanding cinematic achievements for the film industry was born. The expert representatives of the international press saw it as their responsibility to let the audience know their opinion on Hollywood’s best productions. In the early years, only cinematic productions were rated, which is why there were initially only six categories: Best Movie, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. In 1951, the categories Best Movie, Best Actor and Best Actress were divided in two sub-categories - drama on one hand and musical/comedy on the other – a distinction that has endured at the Golden Globes but does not apply for the Academy Awards.

Given the growing popularity of television, it was decided in 1956 that this new medium should also be considered. As a result, the Golden Globes as we know them today are being awarded in 25 different categories – 14 for cinematic projects and 11 for TV productions. Due to a lucrative contract with NBC, which held the exclusive broadcasting rights until January 2008, the Golden Globes experienced tremendous growth in terms of significance and financial means. The channel has been broadcasting the ceremony since 1958 in the Los Angeles area, and since 1964 nationwide.

The HFPA and the Golden Globes have also benefited much from the prominence of U.S. movie productions overseas. Fifty to sixty percent of cinema revenues nowadays come from overseas, as China alone boasts 40,000 cinemas. The last Terminator movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, for instance, was very successful abroad (notably in China) while it flopped in the United States. The Golden Globes also had to survive scandals – like the accusation AI 43 that HFPA members had been affected in their impartial assessment by grants or by lobbying, resulting in a NBC broadcast refusal between 1968 and 1974. One of the challenges that the HFPA has to face today is the aging of its members: Considering the precarious situation of print media, the elderly members “stick” to their seats, keep their hard-earned relationships and knowledge to themselves, thus making the introduction of new members obviously difficult, if not impossible.

How to Win a Golden Globe
Each year, about 300 English speaking and 80 foreign language films are being submitted to the HFPA, according to well defined selection criteria and categories. In that respect, one of the preconditions for the submission of foreign films in the category “Foreign Language Motion Pictures” is a length of more than 70 minutes and 51% of non-English dialogue.

In addition, the movies must have been shown in the home country for at least 14 months and for at least a week in the Los Angeles area before the awards to allow them to be seen by the voting HFPA members (a regular release in the U.S., however, is not necessary). Goodnight Mommy, for example. was screened by the Silent Movie Theatre for a few weeks in September 2015. Otherwise, the submission criteria are relatively loose compared to the Academy Awards; also, in contrast to the latter, there is no limitation of applications per country.

However, since it is simply impossible to see all of the almost 400 submitted movies and television productions, the great challenge for producers and publicists is to get the voting members to actually watch their movie. The cost of a screening is approximately USD 1,000 to USD 1,500. For motivational reasons, the screening is usually framed by a reception. Also, although digital distribution makes it easier even for small productions to apply, to compete with the established giant conglomerates is yet a different story as the principle of “marketing money is key” still dominates - as President Lorenzo Soria said at a meeting with the Consular Corps recently.

As if to prove him right, the publicist for Goodnight Mommy indeed approached the Austrian Consulate General in Los Angeles with a request for support of a screening for HFPA members. In any event, after announcing the nominees on December 10th, 2015, it is also President Lorenzo Soria’s honor and privilege to lead the 73th Golden Globes on January 10th, 2016.

Ulrike Ritzinger is the Austrian Consul General in Los Angeles. She is also featured in ‘Meet The Consul’ on page 48 of this publication.