The changes we reported the Hollywood Foreign Press Association board had proposed last week may be too little, too late. After the group’s membership voted to approve them, notable companies and individuals have spoken out to express their dissatisfaction with the plan and their intent not to support or work with the organization unless a considerably more thoughtful and extensive overhaul occurs, as reported by Variety.
Netflix co-CEO and Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos explained on behalf of his company, “Like many in our industry, we’ve been waiting for today’s announcement in the hope that you would acknowledge the breadth of issues facing the HFPA and provide a clear roadmap for change. Today’s vote is an important first step. However, we don’t believe these proposed new policies — particularly around the size and speed of membership growth — will tackle the HFPA’s systemic diversity and inclusion challenges, or the lack of clear standards for how your members should operate. So we’re stopping any activities with your organization until more meaningful changes are made. We know that you have many well-intentioned members who want real change — and that all of us have more work to do to create an equitable and inclusive industry. But Netflix and many of the talent and creators we work with cannot ignore the HFPA’s collective failure to address these crucial issues with urgency and rigor.”
Scarlett Johansson dug deeper into the history of the HFPA and the need for a greater reckoning: “As an actor promoting a film, one is expected to participate in awards season by attending press conferences as well as awards shows. In the past, this has often meant facing sexist questions and remarks by certain HFPA members that bordered on sexual harassment. It is the exact reason why I, for many years, refused to participate in their conferences. The HFPA is an organization that was legitimized by the likes of Harvey Weinstein to amass momentum for Academy recognition, and the industry followed suit. Unless there is necessary fundamental reform within the organization, I believe it is time that we take a step back from the HFPA and focus on the importance and strength of unity within our unions and the industry as a whole.”
HFPA President Ali Sar responded specifically to Netflix’s statement, declaring an eagerness to “meet with you and your team so we can review the very specific actions that are already in the works. An open dialogue would help to ensure that we are addressing these concerns as quickly as possible.” He noted that the plan “reflects input from our supporters and critics alike and that it was “overwhelmingly approved by more than 90 percent of the membership—there is no question the membership is embracing this opportunity.”
The HFPA will need to work with more than just Netflix if it wants to recover and remain relevant. Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke issued a statement expressing similar concerns, which conveyed that her company has “not been working with the HFPA since these issues were first raised, and like the rest of the industry, we are awaiting a sincere and significant resolution before moving forward.” GLAAD also decried the lack of effort to welcome “historically marginalized communities” and to “truly reflect the full intersectional diversity of Hollywood.”
Johansson’s Avengers: Endgame costar Mark Ruffalo also had harsh words for the HFPA, saying about his recent Golden Globe win for I Know This Much Is True that he “cannot feel proud or happy about being a recipient of this award.” He added in a statement to Deadline: “It’s discouraging to see the HFPA, which has gained prominence and profited handsomely from their involvement with filmmakers and actors, resist the change that is being asked of them from many of the groups that have been most disenfranchised by their culture of secrecy and exclusion. Now is the time to step up and right the wrongs of the past.”