February 2, 2018

Hollywood Foreign Press Association Funds $2 Million Scholarship

By Hugh Hart

Last summer in Oxfordshire outside of London, 18-year-old Amy Sotnick was hanging out by the river with a few friends enjoying the warm evening air when she got an email on her phone. She recalls, “It was from USC and I’d already been accepted, so I wondered ‘What’s this?’ Then I read that I’d won a scholarship from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. It was a massive surprise!”

Sotnick began her BA in Cinema & Media Studies at the USC School of Cinematic Arts this fall as one of the first beneficiaries of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association Endowed International Student Support Fund. The $2 million gift represents SCA’s largest endowment earmarked specifically for foreign students. HFPA International Scholars, which this year also include South Korean Mineou Han, each receive a $20,000 deduction from tuition fees. Sotnick says, “This scholarship means the world to me because I can focus a lot more on doing what I’m interested in rather than having to get a job, for example, to help pay for college. Now I can get completely invested in my studies.”

HFPA has previously used revenue from its annual Golden Globes telecast to fund SCA scholarships, but the idea for a more robust endowment came about two years ago when the Association’s then-president Lorenzo Soria met with Dean Elizabeth M. Daley to discuss possible partnerships. Soria says, “There had been some debate about giving money to a school that already gets big donations from famous filmmakers. But then Dean Daley told me about a young woman from West Africa who was accepted into the School, but because foreign students can’t get Pell Grants, the School just couldn’t make up the difference in financial aid. This saddened Dean Daley, and since we are an association of foreigners ourselves, that story resonated for us.”

Current HFPA President Meher Tatna cites the newly created “International Scholars” program as a key component of her group’s mission. “We’re very interested in supporting talented people who are underrepresented in the film and television industries,” she says. Tatna, a Mumbai native, vividly remembers when she first arrived in the United States to attend Brandeis University equipped with one suitcase and $500. “A lot of us in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association remember what it was like to be international students struggling to come up with tuition,” she says. “The idea for this scholarship really hit home.”

At USC, where nearly 70 percent of students receive some form of financial assistance, HFPA’s scholarship fund aims to support foreign applicants who are ineligible for U.S. government loans and grants. “The film school is making a significant effort to bring in more international students,” says Marlene Loadvine, Senior Associate Dean, Advancement at USC School of Cinematic Arts. “This scholarship support flies in the face of everything going on in the world right now, where people are turning inward and building fences. HFPA is making an important  statement by planting its flag here and saying ‘Let’s make a difference.’ We hope others follow HFPA’s example.”

This article originally appeared in the current issue of In Motion, SCA's annual magazine.