Genies’ red-carpet ride to Parliament Hill

The Genie Awards ceremony has played in Toronto since its inception in 1980, with the exception of a couple of botched road trips down Highway 401 to Montreal in the mid-'90s. If those moves were made to appease the French, they didn't work.

The Genie Awards ceremony has played in Toronto since its inception in 1980, with the exception of a couple of botched road trips down Highway 401 to Montreal in the mid-’90s. If those moves were made to appease the French, they didn’t work.

The first Genie Awards in Montreal were held in December 1993 and broadcast in French only on Radio-Canada. The second time, in January 1996, the show was broadcast on both SRC and CBC, in French and English, respectively. But without simultaneous translation, the results created problems for unilingual viewers – they could understand some of the show but not all of it, so many changed the channel.

The end result is that Quebec created its own feature film awards, the Prix Jutra (named after the late cinéaste Claude Jutra), which this year took place in la belle province on March 29, just one week prior to the Genies (April 4).

So one might suspect that the Academy’s trip to Ottawa would address this mega language problem for the country’s film awards show, but apparently not. There’s no translation again this year.

If it wasn’t for a language fix, why did the Academy move its jewel-in-the-crown show to the country’s most bilingual city?

Marc Glassman talks to its CEO Sara Morton and chair Ron Cohen about the motives for the change and plans for this year’s 29th annual Genie Awards show, as well as a new ‘Genie Week’ leading up to the extravaganza.

Playback: Why Ottawa?

Ron Cohen: We received an invitation in 2008 from the National Capital Commission to bring the Genie Awards to Ottawa for our 29th anniversary. We felt it would be a good move. [After all], the Genie Awards are a national celebration encompassing both languages, so they would be right at home in Canada’s most bilingual city.

PB: How will you attract the industry to the show?

RC: Thanks to the support of the host region, we have partnered with Via Rail to make it easy for the industry to get to Ottawa from Montreal and Toronto, and we have partnered with five hotels to provide affordable accommodation for the industry.

We believe that holding the Genies in the nation’s capital, and making use of some of its most stunning venues for our events, will help attract key members of the industry as well as re-energizing the show.

PB: The Oscars had actors as hosts and offering introductions. Will there be similar or new innovations at the Genies?

Sara Morton: This year, the awards broadcast has been lengthened from 60 to 90 minutes. In addition, we are taking advantage of the National Capital Region’s stunning landmarks – the awards will be presented against the backdrop of the Canada Aviation Museum, and related events will take place at the War Museum and the Museum of Civilization.

PB: How will the weekend work for those going to Ottawa?

SM: Typically, the Genie Awards are an industry event that culminates with the live television broadcast. Nominees and special guests will be invited to travel from Toronto and Montreal to Ottawa on designated Genie trains and to attend a host region reception following their arrival on April 3. For ticket-holders, a red-carpet cocktail will precede the televised awards ceremony on April 4, and the broadcast will be followed by a gala dinner and after-party.

With the move to Ottawa and support of the National Capital Commission, the Academy wanted to explore the public’s interest in being a part of the awards ‘buzz’.

With that in mind, we created a contest with a new partner [Movieola.ca] to offer Canadians a chance to win a Genie Awards Star Treatment, which will include the flight to Ottawa, a visit to the Genie Gift Lounge and a walk on the red carpet.

With the assistance of the NCC and a host region committee, additional events that will be open to the public are being planned to take place in Ottawa during the week leading up to the Genies.