All posts by Greg David

Prior to becoming a television critic and owner of TV, Eh?, Greg David was a critic for TV Guide Canada, the country's most trusted source for TV news. He has interviewed television actors, actresses and behind-the-scenes folks from hundreds of television series from Canada, the U.S. and internationally. He is a podcaster, public speaker, weekly radio guest and educator, and past member of the Television Critics Association.

Canadian Screen Award nominees: Sharron Matthews and Vanessa Matsui

It’s Canadian Screen Awards week and we’re celebrating all week long in a very special way. This week, we’ll feature exclusive interviews with the actors and creative folks who are nominated in the television and web series categories.

First up: Sharron Matthews, nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Drama for Frankie Drake Mysteries, and Vanessa Matsui, nominated for Best Lead Performance, Web Program or Series for Ghost BFF

Sharron Matthews, nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Drama for Frankie Drake Mysteries

How do you feel the Canadian TV industry is faring during these pandemic times?
The beginning of the pandemic was…strange, to say the least…but after our first lockdown, I went straight into TWO writers rooms, so we just kept doing what we always do in the arts…creating through adverse times. Artists and arts administrators are used to calamity and since the TV and Film industry doesn’t perform in front of large groups of people, we collectively did some recon, and kept going, kept creating. Then I feel like the TV and Film industry really pulled together and figured out a safe, secure way to physically make TV in the face of great challenges. This is what I love about the arts, it always finds a way to survive and thrive. Shout out to the stage and live theatre makers, who have pivoted and found innovative ways to express themselves and have their work be seen.

How have you fared during these pandemic times?
I’m grateful beyond measure that I had Frankie Drake Mysteries and the animated show Rebecca Liddiard (Mary Shaw on Frankie), Carmen Albano (Detention Adventure) and I created with Shaftesbury (Mary and Flo on the Go), to work on from almost the beginning of the pandemic. I spent most of the time up until we went to camera on both Frankie and Mary and Flo, writing and developing scripts for both shows, so I kept myself singularly focused on work … away from the uncertainty of the world around me. I have done my VERY best to stay positive. Some days have been better than others.

Do you think Canadian TV is stronger than ever when it comes to telling our stories?
I believe that Canadian writers and creators have become braver in expressing our unique comedic and dramatic voices. With worldwide successes such as Kim’s Convenience, Schitt’s Creek, Workin’ Moms, and even Frankie Drake Mysteries (if I may) it feels like we have realized that we don’t have to morph our visions to fit the gaze of other countries. Stories told from a Canadian perspective with a distinctly Canadian sense of humour or pathos have become sought after, which is thrilling and has laid the groundwork for an exciting and fertile future.

Does an award nomination/win serve as validation for you or is it just a nice nod that you’re on the right track, career or choice-wise?
Oh my gosh … I would be lying if I said being nominated by a group of your peer wasn’t validating. It is. It really is. I am thrilled.

What will you wear during the Canadian Screen Awards?
I will be watching all the nights with my bubble pal, Mike Bickerton (nominated for his showrunning work on Canada’s Drag Race) and I’m fairly sure we’ll be wearing caftans. Large, billowing caftans. So, basically? We will be dressed in something we bought off the internet.

What will you eat/drink/snack on during the Canadian Screen Awards?
I’m a Hamilton girl forever, so I’m not too fancy. Chips and wine. I’m a simple gal.

Is there someone who served as a mentor when you were starting out in this industry that you’d give a special shout-out to in your acceptance speech if given the chance?
If I had the chance to give an acceptance speech, the first person I would thank is the indomitable Christina Jennings, head of Shaftesbury and producer of Frankie Drake Mysteries. She’s been a supportive force in my life since the day I started on Frankie. Since then, she’s answered every question I have asked about writing and producing, encouraging me to not have limits when it comes to creating. She sets an example not just for female producers but for producers in general, about how to be tenacious and think big. She’s taught me to give pause, time and energy to ideas that spark the soul, because if they don’t work out … there is a good chance those ideas may lead to greater, more fulfillable ideas. Christina leaves no piece of energy or innovation wasted. THANK YOU, CHRISTINA!!!

Vanessa Matsui, nominated for Best Lead Performance, Web Program or Series for Ghost BFF

Congratulations on your Canadian Screen Award nomination!
Thank you!!

How do you feel the Canadian web series industry is faring during these pandemic times?
Shooting, in general, is challenging right now, so indie filmmaking is particularly challenging because so much of your budget is going to COVID precautions. Which I completely understand and appreciate. Also, I think we are going to see a surge of creations post-pandemic. Especially during that first wave, I’ve heard that so many writers and creators, myself included, finally had the time to write that thing that they’ve been wanting to write. So there may be some unintended POSITIVE consequences to shutting down the industry for a season.

How have you fared during these pandemic times?
Ha! Well, it’s been a roller coaster, to say the least. I feel like each wave came with its own challenges. I’m a mom, so losing my ‘village’ has frankly been traumatic. And I’m a lucky one! I have a home and a partner and I was able to go back to work relatively quickly compared to so many. But in some ways, I’m incredibly grateful for these times. I’m a different person now and I look back on pre-pandemic Vanessa as almost a child. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m definitely a better, more me person now.

Do you think Canadian web series is stronger than ever when it comes to telling our stories?
Yes! There are so many incredible web series right now that I’m such a big fan of. Band Ladies and Bit Playas come to mind immediately.

Does an award nomination/win serve as validation for you or is it just a nice nod that you’re on the right track, career or choice-wise?
It’s a really nice nod. I’m so happy that Kaniehtiio [Horn], Jean [Yoon], and Angela [Asher] were also nominated. I think four actresses being nominated for one show is just fabulous.

What will you wear during the Canadian Screen Awards?
Ha! Sweatpants. Sorry, not sorry.

What will you eat/drink/snack on during the Canadian Screen Awards?
Pizza and wine!

Is there someone who served as a mentor when you were starting out in this industry that you’d give a special shout-out to in your acceptance speech if given the chance?
An early supporter of Ghost BFF was Ana Serrano. I don’t think this show would have gotten as far as it did without her initial support. Also, my late acting teacher, Jacqueline McClintock, who always encouraged me to write and create my own work. She is in my heart whenever I step onto set.

Stream the Canadian Screen Awards on the Academy websiteTwitter and YouTube.

Check out the list of nominees.

Monday, May 17, 2021
7 p.m. ET: Canadian Screen Awards – News & Documentary, Presented by CBC (Narrator: Ginella Massa)

8 p.m. ET: CTV presents the Canadian Screen Awards – Lifestyle & Reality (Narrator: Priyanka)

Tuesday, May 18, 2021
7 p.m. ET: Canadian Screen Awards – Children’s & Animation, Presented by Shaw Rocket Fund (Narrator: Eric Bauza)

8 p.m. ET: Canadian Screen Awards – Digital & Immersive, Presented with the participation of the Independent Production Fund (Narrator: Donté Colley)

Wednesday, May 19, 2021
7 p.m. ET: CTV presents the Canadian Screen Awards – Creative Arts & Performance (Narrator: Tyrone Edwards)

Thursday, May 20, 2021
7 p.m. ET: Canadian Screen Awards – Cinematic Arts, Presented by Telefilm Canada, Supported by Cineplex (Narrator: Nahéma Ricci)

8 p.m. ET: 2021 Canadian Screen Awards (Narrators: Stephan James and Karine Vanasse)

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Canadian Screen Awards’ Beth Janson: “We are focusing on the content”

Last year, the pandemic played havoc with the Canadian Screen Awards. Originally scheduled for the last week of March in Toronto with the usual in-person fan and industry events capped off by a gala, it was all delayed, ultimately going virtual last May.

Now the Canadian Screen Awards are back and, once again, being handed out virtually. But, with a year of experience at this sort of thing, Beth Janson, CEO of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, says the Academy is ready to deliver.

Congratulations on another Canadian Screen Awards. You all have become veterans now because you’ve had a year of the pandemic under your belt to pull this off again.
Beth Janson: Yes. I know. It’s not really an expertise I would have chosen. But we are excited that we have done everything, start to finish, virtually, this year. So it’s been very, very strange, but successful. So, we’re happy about that.

In all seriousness you have had more than a year to plan for this, whereas, last year, you had moving targets all the time. How did you tackle things this year? Did things go more smoothly, what were some things that you decided you wanted to do this year that maybe you weren’t able to do last year?
Yes, last year was very much, a not ideal scenario. This year, we really were able to take more time to think about the creative behind the shows. We hired a creative producer. It’s all original music in our shows. I think it allowed us to take more care with the details. We’re still not having a Zoom acceptance speech award show because, despite everything we’ve seen this whole quarantine or pandemic, we don’t feel like that makes for a very exciting viewing experience.

We still are focusing on the content, so we’re taking more time. We’re playing clips. So much of our awards is about discoverability. And even people who are in our industry sometimes don’t realize the breadth of what’s out there. We’re able to sort of let them breathe more and sort of have it be more of a creative exercise, than a panic exercise.

Is focusing on the creative side of it maybe one of the positives of this situation?
I certainly think that it will change the way we do our shows once we’re back in person because it really is something that resonates. Our model before this was huge events. I mean, we had four galas before and the broadcast was 1,500 people. The galas before were up to 1,000 people. It’s going to be different when we’re able to gather again, and I think that’s going to be OK. I think it’s made us better and stronger for sure.

I was talking to someone recently who complained about the length of the U.S. awards shows. I said, ‘Folks could take a note from the Canadian Screen Awards,’ because you run a tight ship for that gala. It’s an hour long, in the traditional sense when it was on TV, giving out the top awards, and get in and get out.
Well, thank you for saying that, first of all. That’s really, really nice to hear. I think that when you do confine yourself, you have to get creative about how you’re doing things, and every single moment counts. Right?

I think award shows are going to get better after this pandemic, just in general. I know that ratings have been going down, and everyone’s questioning award shows in general in the industry. It’s got some new, fresh energy into the production. Even though the Oscars were not successful, in the viewership it certainly was a completely different show than what we’re used to. And I think that’s good, because you had to make these massive changes, and now you can take what worked there and take the best parts of the big, live show and combine them.

Let’s get into some of the trends. Blood Quantum, 10 nominations. Only in a country like Canada, can you have a zombie horror movie, starring an Indigenous cast and written by someone who is Indigenous, can you have that. I love that about this country.
Yes, me too. You’ll also see that Possessor was also in the mix there. And it’s nice that our members are honouring genre film because we have a huge, long, successful history in that genre. I thought it was really, really great that it was being acknowledged. It’s really exciting that the work that’s nominated this year is probably the most audience-friendly fare that I’ve seen in a long time. It’s good to see because I want as many people to see these films as possible, so I get excited when it’s mixed up, and you have very different films in the mix. It’s not all sort of similar stories.

Looking at the television categories, and Schitt’s Creek with 21 nominations, Canada’s Drag Race has seven nominations. You can’t help but be proud of the storytelling.
Our industry really has a responsibility, a unique responsibility, and an opportunity to contribute to diversity and equity. And I think the direction is really positive. I think there’s a lot more work to do.

But, especially when we’re talking about our industry, what we produce and who we empower to tell the story shape the way so much of the country and the general public perceives experience. It’s really important. You can see it, even in the time that I’ve been here, these programs that seek to fund gender parity. Now we’re moving into funding more diverse creators. It has an impact. I hope that it’s systemic, but I think we’re sort of looking at the right ways to change.

What do you want people to experience during this week of celebrations for the Canadian Screen Awards?
I want everyone to have at least one moment of discovery when they’re watching the show, like, ‘Huh, that looks really interesting,’ and to seek it out.

Stream the Canadian Screen Awards on the Academy website, Twitter and YouTube.

Check out the list of nominees.

Monday, May 17, 2021
7 p.m. ET: Canadian Screen Awards – News & Documentary, Presented by CBC (Narrator: Ginella Massa)

8 p.m. ET: CTV presents the Canadian Screen Awards – Lifestyle & Reality (Narrator: Priyanka)

Tuesday, May 18, 2021
7 p.m. ET: Canadian Screen Awards – Children’s & Animation, Presented by Shaw Rocket Fund (Narrator: Eric Bauza)

8 p.m. ET: Canadian Screen Awards – Digital & Immersive, Presented with the participation of the Independent Production Fund (Narrator: Donté Colley)

Wednesday, May 19, 2021
7 p.m. ET: CTV presents the Canadian Screen Awards – Creative Arts & Performance (Narrator: Tyrone Edwards)

Thursday, May 20, 2021
7 p.m. ET: Canadian Screen Awards – Cinematic Arts, Presented by Telefilm Canada, Supported by Cineplex (Narrator: Nahéma Ricci)

8 p.m. ET: 2021 Canadian Screen Awards (Narrators: Stephan James and Karine Vanasse)

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Food Network Canada delves into Cheese: A Love Story

From a media release:

The creamy richness of Camembert, the smooth texture of fresh mozzarella, the oozy stream of melted raclette: arriving this summer, Food Network Canada and Corus Studios dive into the evolving world of cheese with food travel docu-series Cheese: A Love Story. Hosted by the world’s youngest Maître Fromager (Cheese Master), Afrim Pristine travels the globe exploring the most iconic cheese locations and hidden gems to get a deeper look at one of the world’s greatest, and most beloved foods. Cheese: A Love Story makes its debut on June 9 at 8 p.m. ET on Food Network Canada.

Afrim Pristine is Canada’s leading cheese expert, owner of the Cheese Boutique in Toronto, Ont., and has over 25 years of cheese experience. His passion and commitment to learning more about this magical food stems from his father and family business of 50 years. In this six-part series Cheese: A Love Story, Afrim embarks on a journey to meet up with the farmers, cheesemakers, shop owners, affineurs and chefs in Switzerland, France, Greece, Toronto, Quebec and British Columbia. In each episode, Afrim’s love of cheese only grows fonder as he gets an in-depth look at how each culture has made it their own. Throughout his excursions, he crosses paths with culinary pioneers including: Chuck Hughes (Le Bremner) and Michele Forgione (Chez Tousignant) in Quebec; Elia Herrera (Colibri) and Aiko Uchigoshi (Aburi Hana) in Toronto; and Wall of Chefs’ Rob Feenie and Top Chef Canada Season 7 winner Paul Moran in British Columbia, and many more.

In the premiere episode airing Wednesday, June 9 at 8 p.m. ET, Afrim starts his journey in Switzerland, where he meets with chefs, cheesemakers, vendors and a legendary affineur, Roland Salhi to learn the fine art of aging. In the home known for Gruyère, raclette, fondue, and the famous holey Swiss Emmental, Afrim learns firsthand how these classic cheeses stand the test of time and discovers the modern approaches the Swiss have innovated in the world of cheesemaking.

For recipes and food inspiration all summer long, plus an exclusive in-depth look at the cheeses explored in the upcoming series Cheese: A Love Story visit foodnetwork.ca. Check back week-to-week for full episodes and new editorial content.

Cheese: A Love Story is produced by Proper Television, A Boat Rocker Company, in association with Corus Studios for Food Network Canada. For Corus Studios and Food Network Canada, Andrea Griffith is Executive in Charge of Production, Krista Look is Director of Original Lifestyle Content and Lisa Godfrey is Senior Vice President of Original Content and Corus Studios. For Proper Television, Cathie James and Lesia Capone are Executive Producers and Scott Harper is Series Producer.

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Season four of the award-winning series Employable Me premieres June 9 on AMI-tv

From a media release:

Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) announced today that Season four of the award-winning series Employable Me will premiere Wednesday, June 9, at 8 p.m. Eastern on AMI-tv.

Employable Me is a moving six-part documentary series featuring job seekers who are determined to show that having a physical disability or neurological condition shouldn’t make them unemployable. Seasons one, two and three of Employable Me captured Rockie Awards for Best Lifestyle Program at the Banff World Media Festival. Additionally, Season three of Employable Me won a Diversify TV Excellence Award at MIPCOM in the Representation of Disability, Non-Scripted category in 2020 and 2016.

Produced by Thomas Howe Associates Inc. (THA), Season four of Employable Me provides an honest and emotional look at the challenges Canadians of varying abilities face in the job market. Each one-hour instalment features two job seekers who are blind, partially sighted or have a neurological condition such as cerebral palsy or Autism Spectrum Disorder as they change employers’ perceptions and possibly land a coveted job.

THA followed all safety protocols as stipulated by regional and provincial health authorities during the production of Season four.

“We are excited to introduce 12 new Canadian job seekers to the Employable Me fanbase,” says John Melville, Vice-President, Content Development and Programming, AMI-tv/AMI-audio. “We challenge employers to learn from and utilize the information presented to make their workplaces truly inclusive and diverse.”

“We thank the job seekers and their families for allowing us to tell their stories,” says Thomas Howe, President and Executive Producer at THA. “It was a challenge to film during the pandemic, and we are proud of what everyone has accomplished.”

Employable Me focuses on the strengths and talents of potential employees, with help from experts in the medical and hiring fields. Season four experts and community partners include world-renowned autism specialist Dr. Wendy Roberts, motivational speaker Tracy Schmitt and March of Dimes Canada.

Among the companies participating in Season four are Loblaws, Hamilton Conservatory of Music, Rick Hansen Foundation, The Bata Shoe Museum, My Access Masks and Heritage Toronto. Additionally, digital exclusives available at AMI.ca or via the AMI-tv App for Apple and Android devices revisit past job seekers to update viewers on where they are now in their careers and offer advice on job seeking.

In keeping with AMI’s mandate of making accessible media for all Canadians, Employable Me utilizes Integrated Described Video (IDV) to make them accessible to individuals who are blind or partially sighted.

Employable Me is produced by THA in partnership with AMI and TVO, and is licensed by all3media international.

Season four of Employable Me premieres on Wednesday, June 9, at 8 p.m. ET. Stream past episodes and seasons on AMI.ca or via the AMI-tv App for Apple and Android devices.

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Drew Hayden Taylor is Going Native on APTN

I first saw Drew Hayden Taylor in the CBC POV documentary “Searching for Winnetou.” Available on CBC Gem, the episode followed Taylor as he explored the German obsession with Indigenous North Americans. The curious and entertaining documentary stuck with me for awhile. So, I was pleased to learn he was back on TV, this time as the star of his own series.

Going Native—debuting with the first of 13 episodes on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Eastern on APTN—finds the celebrated Anishinaabe humorist and author exploring how Indigenous Peoples have changed the world, and are re-shaping their culture today. Each instalment represents at theme; Saturday’s “Going Horse” tracks the history of the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and equines, and includes interviews, stunning vistas and footage of Taylor scrambling to mount a horse.

“One of the problems I’ve personally had—as an Indigenous humorist—is a lot of the media coming both from the Indigenous community and about the Indigenous community, like novels, movies, etc., deal with a darker aspect of the First Nations communities dealing with the oppressed, depressed and suppressed nature of a lot of our stories and history,” Taylor says. “Having traveled to over 150 Indigenous communities across Canada and the United States, I’ve always been greeted with a laugh, a smile and a joke. It’s always been my firm belief that it’s been our sense of humour that has allowed us to survive some of those darker periods of our history.

“I know we have a sense of humour,” he continues. “We have a sense of whimsy, a sense of enjoyment of life that is not frequently witnessed by the dominant culture and that was one of the things I wanted incorporated into this series.”

That humour and enjoyment is shown in the sidelong glances between horse experts helping Taylor scramble onto a regal horse or the wonder in his face as he learns Indigenous Peoples were tracking their place in the galaxy for likely before Europeans were. Future episodes investigate architecture, music, food, fashion, business and pop culture, all delivered by Taylor, who has a twinkle in his eye and wonderment at the information he learns.

“The depth of knowledge that was available to our ancestors is truly stunning,” Taylor says. “I grew up in the Indigenous culture and I’m still learning so much about my own culture.”

Going Native airs Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. ET on APTN.

Images courtesy of Ice River Films.

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