History and future met for a close-up on Sept. 15 in the newly dedicated Hollywood Foreign Press Association wing of California State University, Northridge’s Manzanita Hall.
The wing was named for the HFPA — international journalists based in Southern California who cover Hollywood and host the annual Golden Globe Awards® — after it awarded the school’s Department of Cinema and Television Arts (CTVA) a $2 million grant as an investment in the diverse voices of future filmmakers, the largest in a long series of contributions from the association. The university celebrated the dedication during a special ceremony in the Armer Theater before opening up a panel discussion reflecting on more than seven decades of history for the HFPA.
Jenna Elfman, who attended CSUN and is a 1999 Golden Globe winner for her role as Dharma in the comedy Dharma & Greg, moderated the panel of HFPA senior members in honor of the organization’s 75th anniversary. The panel members recalled their favorite encounters with Hollywood royalty — Marilyn Monroe, Alfred Hitchcock, Marlon Brando and Bette Davis made cameos — as they discussed the HFPA’s evolution into a philanthropic organization.
“Over the course of our two-decades relationship, CSUN has proven that the existence of the Department of Cinema and Television Arts continues to be vital,” said Meher Tatna, HFPA president. “It provides invaluable opportunities to underrepresented students and produces exceptional entertainment industry professionals, all while maintaining its top-notch status.”
CTVA alumni work in all aspects of entertainment media, including writing, producing, directing, helming cameras, editing and taking executive roles. The association’s grant funds the HFPA Scholars program, which provides CSUN’s film students with financial support and opportunities, such as internships for the Golden Globes telecast. The grant also supports the university’s efforts to acquire state-of-the art film production equipment.
“The HFPA is investing in improving the film and television community with grants to education, the arts and film preservation,” said CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison. “They are interested in a deeper relationship and a greater presence with the organizations they fund. For their desire to make a positive change in the face of entertainment, celebrate diversity, and offer an opportunity for underrepresented students to have a chance to pursue a career in entertainment, I applaud the HFPA and acknowledge the university’s gratitude for all your philanthropy has accomplished.”
Investing in CSUN’s students is a vital aspect of this grant, as these students will make an impact on the industry after they graduate by providing voices that might not have been as readily heard before.
“The HFPA has chosen to partner with CSUN and invest in our ability to deliver the diversity lacking in the entertainment industry with the quality that our program has shown it can deliver,” said Dan Hosken, dean of the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication.
Attendees in the overflowing 130-seat theater were charmed with stories from a panel that included decades-long members of the HFPA, who discussed encounters with Hollywood legends. Panel members were:
- Aida Takla-O’Reilly, four-time HFPA president, former Board chairwoman and current trustee who has written for papers in France, Turkey, Dubai and Egypt;
- Jorge Camara, current board member and former six-termHFPA president who has written for publications in Mexico, Germany and Australia, and the Hollywood Reporter;
- Mahfouz Doss, an Egyptian journalist and 58-year HFPA member who has held numerous leadership positions with the HFPA;
- Noel de Souza, an Indian journalist and 59-year HFPA member who has worked on the Golden Globes for nearly as long (he’s currently on the seating committee); and
- Philip Berk, an eight-term former HFPA president and South African journalist.
In addition to Dharma & Greg, Elfman has starred in shows such as Damages and 1600 Penn, as well as films such as Keeping the Faith and EDtv. She “spent some time at CSUN, but then Hollywood swept her up,” as CSUN Film Production Option Head Nate Thomas put it. She has a regular reminder of personal connection to the HFPA in the form of her Golden Globe.
“It sits on my desk proudly and I look at it every single day,” she said. “And I cherish it to this moment.”
She proved to be a funny and thoughtful moderator as she encouraged the group of storytellers to choose their favorite stories and share decades of industry insight.
“I went to Charles Bronson’s house,” de Souza recalled. “He was teaching me how to do karate and jiu jitsu and all these things while we were munching on cookies.”
Doss recalled an encounter with Marilyn Monroe and Rock Hudson at a Golden Globes ceremony.
“Somebody took a picture of the three of us together,” Doss said. “I still have it. I show it to people from time to time.”
The panelists recounted the challenges of filing international stories in a time before email. Berk relied on the post office to get his stories to Capetown. Camara recalled going to the airport to ask people boarding outgoing flights to hand-deliver copies of the story to a person waiting in Mexico City.
They spoke of the evolution of the Golden Globes ceremony — network television ad revenue fund the organization’s support of philanthropic causes.
The panelists also encouraged young filmmakers to tell human stories.
“You have a responsibility,” Takla-O’Reilly said. “When you make a movie, you must know everybody’s going to see it. This is a responsibility on you to be honest, to be enlightening, to be putting wind under people’s wings, and to tell them the truth.”