(photos by Derek Langer)
I spent last Sunday night in the press room at the inaugural Canadian Screen Awards. It was quite the night for Canada. The Sony Centre in downtown Toronto was at capacity with Canadian celebs, writers, directors and producers. The two hour broadcast aired on CBC in staggered time slots across the country, with a half hour of red carpet hosted by Shaun Majumder.
This was followed by an hour and a half of Martin Short singing show tunes and cracking one-liners. Oh yeah, I think we gave away a few awards in there too.
The biggest question surrounding the event has perhaps been what to nickname the actual award. While some felt that a nickname would present itself as Canadians talked over the event, others believed a nickname should be chosen and presented to the media as the “official nickname” of the awards. Twitter was ablaze with suggestions and theories over what the nickname should be. When I asked the winners and presenters I heard everything from the obvious “Screenie” to the more imaginative “Candy,” “Geminini,” “Ceesah,” “Huggy,” and “Awardy.” It’s safe to say that by the fifth broadcast one nickname will have broken ahead of the pack.
This was the first year that the film-based Genies and the TV-based Geminis merged into one meta-broadcast. While the ratings were up from last year’s Geminis by over 75%, there was some question about whether the separate ceremonies should have been combined at all.
With two industry galas preceding the main event, a plethora of the awards were given out earlier in the week, saving some of the audience favorites for the televised broadcast on Sunday night. While the members of the Academy worked hard to pare down the categories into a manageable amount, they didn’t quite cover everything. Writer/director Sarah Polley requested categories for crew contributors at next year’s event.
On the subject of combining the two awards shows, Kevin O’Leary (Dragon’s Den) was all for it. He agreed that combining film and tv was the smartest thing to do, creating a wider audience, building ratings and inspiring a higher level of awareness for Canadian productions. Spoken like a true Dragon.
A show this big doesn’t happen without its fair share of controversy. This year’s malcontent came courtesy of several decisions that surprised the audience and ruffled a few feathers. The hot-button issue was CBC’s choice to stagger the broadcasts across different timezones. While this is a classic fight between coasts, staggering this event handcuffed media to one of two realities: hold off on live tweets, announcing the winners, and posting photos until the last broadcast was airing, or spoil the results for those further west. I didn’t see anyone doing the former, especially since audience members were offering digital congratulations during the awards.
Another piece of controversy arose when the award for Best Comedy Series was given in the off-air pre-show. Taken by Less Than Kind, the award was given out to an almost empty theatre, while the attendees snagged one last cocktail before the live broadcast. A compromise was made when a pre-taped segment of the Less Than Kind winners on stage was spliced into the broadcast (the same with Brian Williams who won for Best Sports Host).
LTK showrunner Mark McKinney had positive words down in the press room. “I don’t hold it against the Academy, as they’ve done a lot of things right and done their job for year one. But next year, they won’t get away with the same thing.”
Despite the controversy, attendees of the awards were in high spirits. The red carpet was bustling with celebs and a wild scrum of photographers before the event. The post-show cocktail party was so popular that it continued until staff from the Sony Centre hustled everybody out to the after-party several blocks away.
The audience engaged with Martin Short, and the spirit of camaraderie was evident in the theatre as well as the press room where not only winners appeared, but nominees and attendees also showed up to hobnob with the media vultures and test out the press room food.
Martin Short proved not only to be a nominee and talented comedian but a true entertainer as well, when he busted out a song I’ve dubbed “Marty’s Night” about his chances at winning an award. When he lost in both categories, he kept his good humour, maintaining that his “rock bottom is everyone else’s dream.” Short wasn’t afraid to press a few buttons, poking fun at Cheryl Hickey’s pregnant “ice cream” belly, and critiquing the Housewives’ collective intelligence level. He also brought back some beloved characters from the past.
Jiminy Glick (The Martin Short Show) joined Majumder during the red carpet broadcast, embodying Joan Rivers and bringing life to the pre-show. Some of the major presenters during the awards included Catherine O’Hara (SCTV), Adam Beach (Arctic Air), Kristin Lehman (Motive), Allan Hawco (Republic of Doyle), Allan Thicke (Growing Pains), Sarah Canning (Primeval: New World), Rick Mercer (Rick Mercer Report), Meg Tilley (Bomb Girls), Jody, Ronnie and Mary (The Real Housewives of Vancouver), Gerry Dee (Mr. D), Enrico Colantoni (Flashpoint) and many more.
The last award of the night was given out for Best Dramatic TV Series. Unsurprisingly the final award went to the team from Flashpoint, making them the big winners. This was undeniably a big honor after wrapping their fifth and final season by their own choosing. The series finale aired in December last year.
Flashpoint also took home awards for acting, writing, and the team was honoured for their achievements in television at the industry gala on Thursday night.
The Five Best Things About the Canadian Screen Awards:
- Martin Short as a bagpipe.
- A professional, multi-camera broadcast with an elegant stage, celebrating Canadian achievements.
- The sheer volume of media interested in covering this event.
- The mini roast beef amuse-bouches served after the awards.
- Seeing a theatre filled with diverse Canadian talent, excited to celebrate each other and themselves.
The Top Five “Opportunities” for Improving the Canadian Screen Awards:
- One live broadcast, country wide (no spoilers!).
- A better balance between Film and TV at the Main Event.
- Better media information, press packages, and subtitles on the press room feed during the awards.
- A longer live broadcast, or at least some wiggle room at the end for overages. If the Oscars can close in on 4 hours we can at least manage 2 and a half.
- PICK A DAMN NICKNAME! Tell the press and market it or they’re going to end up being called The Pointies or similar.
And just for good measure, here’s my buddy Strombo looking steeped (yep, I’m bringing it back!):
What were your favorite moments? What would you change?