Industry unites in celebration of talent at Playback Hall of Fame

SarahPolley Atom EgoyanPB Hall of Fame '12 Photographers Pick-23-small

Media and entertainment industry veterans and up-and-comers came together on Friday night to celebrate the 6th annual Playback Canadian Film and TV Hall of Fame in Toronto.

The party at the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studios featured salutes to the six industry icons as they were inducted into the hall of fame.

Also acknowledged were three industry talents for their contributions and successes, as well as a crop of rising Canadian talent, the 2012 Playback 10 to Watch.

One of last year’s 10 to Watch, Ryan Belleville, MC’ed the event and kept things moving, while Mr. D actor Lauren Hammersley spotlighted this year’s 10 to Watch talent and actress Helen Johns handed off awards to presenters.

Inductee Graham Greene took to the stage first, introduced by previous Hall of Fame inductee Tantoo Cardinal.

“I want to thank the judges – probably the first time in my life I’ve done that. And meant it,” Greene deadpanned, before tipping his hat to the all those who helped him in his career.

Cineplex Entertainment president Ellis Jacob introduced inductee Rene Malo, who he called a “good friend, great Quebecer and lifelong contributor to the movie business in Canada” to the stage.

Malo drew cheers and supporting calls of “Shame, shame!” from the crowd when he pointed said that he would not thank the provincial and federal governments for recent industry budget cuts.

Singer-songwriter Jim Cuddy had the house laughing in his introduction to radio mogul and philanthropist Gary Slaight, who received the Swarovski Humanitarian Award, for his contributions to fostering of Canadian musical and entertainment talent.

“When I heard that I would be presenting to Gary, I first thought, ‘Its a very slow year in humanitarianism,” cracked Cuddy, who then described old-friend Slaight as “brilliant, insufferable and scrupulously honest, except when playing cards.”

“He is an enormous aid to musicians and artists across the country,” Cuddy said of Slaight, who earlier this year opened the Slaight Family Music Lab at the CFC, for which Cuddy is songwriter co-chairman.

Slaight, in his acceptance, shared his belief that the industry needs to do everything possible to support the abundance of Canadian talent.

Montreal-based Colin Low, who had a five-decade career at the NFB and early champion of the Imax technology, couldn’t attend the event, but sent a video message, through which attendees were also treated to a preview of his new film, Fernando.

“I have a confession,” said Low in the video, “I’ve never made a film all by myself. Every film I’ve worked on has been made by a team. It has been my abiding joy to be member of some marvelous teams.” (see the full video here)

Director Atom Egoyan took the stage next, praising director Sarah Polley, to whom he presented the Deluxe Award for Outstanding Achievement, for her “extraordinary talent.”

Polley, clearly touched by the award and honour, said she is grateful to have had the mentorship and support of Egoyan and other Canadian filmmakers – before giving her acceptance a twist.

“As honoured as I am by this award, I’m going to give it away,” said Polley, before calling her recently-retired agent, Celia Chassels to the stage. (She is also Greene’s agent)

Polley dedicated her award to Chassels, who she said encouraged integrity over profit, and was a pivotal part of shaping her career.

Host Belleville elicited some laughs following the presentation, noting that Polley had set a dangerous precedent by giving her award to her agent.

Actor and producer Paul Gross introduced the post-humous award to actor Jackie Burroughs, known among other things for her seven-season stint on Road to Avonlea as Hetty King.

Gross recalled meeting Burroughs for the first time when he was 15 years old, working at the Stratford theatre’s box office, before later working with her on another play.

He remembered suggesting to Burroughs that he cut some of her lines in a particular scene, to which she responded with a hand clenched around his throat, saying, “Lines are prisoners of war and I do not give them up!”

Burroughs’ daughter Zoe Yanovsky accepted the award on Burroughs’ behalf, calling her mother “razor sharp, hilarious, fragile, a formidable force, open.”

Sarah Gadon sent a video message from the U.K., where she is on set filming Belle, before her 2012 Playback Breakout Award was accepted on her behalf by her brother James. The Breakout prize goes to a previous year’s 10 to Watch member who has notched a particularly strong period.

Producer Kevin Tierney, a long-time collaborator with producer and broadcast news veteran Bob Culbert, introduced his colleague and inciting laughter, saying that while journalist Culbert “tells the truth, I tell lies.”

Culbert on stage said he shares his award with all working journalists.

“Make sure there’s lot of airtime for Canadian journalism – it’s amongst the best in the world,” Culbert said to the audience.

The final presenter of the evening was Wayne Clarkson, a friend of final inductee Piers Handling for 40-odd years.

Handling, the CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival and recipient of the hall’s industry builder award for 2012, told the crowd that he spent his key teenage years in Germany, and attended a British boarding school. He was a complete Brit upon his return to Canada, he recalled, adding that he became reconnected most strongly through Canadian film.

He echoed Low’s message that all of his work has been done as part of a team, acknowledging both in particular Clarkson and Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television CEO Helga Stephenson, and dedicating his award to the staff and volunteers at TIFF.

Check out a selection of snapshots from the event below, and stay tuned for the 2012 Playback Canadian Film and TV Hall of Fame photo gallery. All photos by Sean Torrington and Alison Mesmer.

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