Music acts and big names figure in entertaining new Genies

Kirstine Stewart and Helga Stephenson (pictured) talk to Playback Daily about setting the stage for an engaging awards show that includes big-name presenters and a multi-platform strategy to reach viewers.

Engaging an elusive TV audience for the 2012 Genie Awards will come through entertainment, Kirstine Stewart, executive director of English services at the CBC, predicts.

“We believe that it’s important that an industry so aimed at entertaining Canadians also make an awards show which can entertain Canadians – we better be able to at least do that, but it hasn’t been easy,” Stewart tells Playback Daily.

So the CBC and the Academy for Canadian Cinema and Television (ACCT) are making it easier for Canadians to tune into the country’s film awards by presenting a host of big-name Canadian music acts like K’Naan, Johnny Reid and The Sheepdogs, and presenters like Allan Hawco (Republic of Doyle), Adam Beach (Arctic Air) and Jason Priestley (Call Me Fitz).

And with that, the stage is set for the 32nd annual Genie Awards on Thursday night in Toronto, and with it, a new and different multi-platform awards show that ACCT interim CEO Helga Stephenson says will make it easier for Canadians to follow the drama from the red carpet to the winners’ podium.

The annual Canadian cinema showcase, this year hosted by Andrea Martin and George Stroumboulopoulos, will air live on CBC at 8 p.m.

With an eye to a bigger Genies audience, the Academy also launched a national campaign in January to promote this year’s broadcast, with ads featuring clips from 2011 Canadian films pieced together around the concept of generating love for Canadian cinema.

“The Genies were established to promote the best talent in the Canadian film industry in particularly, and the entire film industry in general,” explains Stephenson.

She added the multi-platform engagement strategy is another step in ramping up awareness of Canadian film.

“Through the national broadcast in partnership with the CBC, through the CBC live webcast of events leading up to and including the awards, through the social networks like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, through our partnerships with the theatres playing our trailer and through the mainstream and industry press, we use every means possible to reach all audiences across the country and, indeed, across the world,” Stephenson said.

“We are inviting the entire country to participate in the way they prefer,” she adds.

Jean-Marc Vallee’s Café de Flore is the frontrunner in this Thursday’s Genie Awards, with 13 nominations; David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method is a close second with 11 nominations; and Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar has nine nods.

Quebec films will dominate the Genies yet again this year, with only Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method standing in the way of a Quebec sweep, as in recent years.

Quebec films contending in the best film competition include Café de Flore, Monsieur Lazhar and Ken Scott’s Starbuck. A Dangerous Method and Larysa Kondraki’s The Whistleblower rounds out the prestige field.

“We’ve seen the success of Canadian television and those Canadian stars increase lately, and the hope is that there’s the start of something wonderful in Canada, being able to celebrate our own talent,” Stewart says.

“What is perhaps needed is more profile for the successes they have already scored around the globe,” Stephenson adds, with an eye to building a profile for homegrown movies beyond the Genies.