ACCT unveils Canadian Screen Awards

Martin Short is to host the March gala event that replaces the Geminis and Genies and reflects the evolution of the domestic entertainment industry, organizers say.
ACCT Canadian Screen Awards - Print

In May, the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television announced that it would combine its separate celebrations of the domestic screen industries into one industry event, in a move to boost recognition of Canada’s star system and create a powerhouse show for the Canadian public.

That show, bowing March 3 at 8 p.m. on the CBC, is The Canadian Screen Awards, set to be a two-hour, multi-platform, ratings-grabbing, pride-inducing primetime broadcast, says ACCT CEO Helga Stephenson.

“We are all working very hard to produce a brilliant show that will reflect the quality of the programs and films and digital media that we produce every year. We want to have the most known faces possible so that we can connect directly with the Canadian public. We are definitely taking the audience into consideration, because they are the end-users of all of our products,” Stephenson told Playback ahead of the new awards show reveal on Sept. 4.

And the event has also nabbed a high-profile, recognizable host: Canadian actor and comedian Martin Short, who in his own statement Tuesday said, “I applaud the fine judgement of the CBC and the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television in letting me take the wheel of  the brightest new awards show in Canada. I shall endeavour to return it to them with nary a scratch or door-ding.”

Stephenson and ACCT board member Barry Avrich say that the new show is the result of extensive industry consultation, including studies and stakeholder interviews after hearing resounding industry appeals for a “powerhouse” show.

They also wanted the event to be reflective of the increasingly blurring lines between film, TV and digital content.

“A hard look was taken at the old terms of film and television and digital, and really, now it’s about the content and the delivery system. I think the board felt very strongly that they wanted to update, to reflect the reality of the industry as we experience it today and as we’re going to be experiencing it as life goes on,” she says.

Academy reforms

Stephenson says the show is also a major milestone in a series of reforms the Academy has undergone over the last year in a move to reinvigorate the organization and Canada’s star system, and is representative of the rebranding the industry will see in the organization going forward.

“I think it will set the ground work for the years to come. So, we want to set the bar very high because our television programs, our digital media and our films have raised the bar enormously in the last five, 10 years and we want the show to reflect that the bar is much higher than it’s ever been before,” she explains.

And what of the name? Avrich says the board wanted the awards to imbue something that’s prestigious, authoritative and important.

“It would have been easy to come up with a whole bunch of very clever, different cutesy names. I think at the same time, this isn’t the VH1 awards, this is a prestigious award, and I think we all wanted it to be a reflection of the pride that we have in our industry,” says Avrich.

“And it’s not to say the award itself might somewhere down the line pick up an affectionate nickname like the Oscar or the Emmy, but at the same time, it’s an official name needed to have a certain pedigree and prestige to it,” he adds.

In the leadup to the grand event, the Academy will also put on Canada Screen Week, a series of events that will bring professionals from the country’s screen industries together.

“We are looking to use this to make a footprint where once a year, all of the industries will come together in a celebration of excellence, obviously, but also to meet each other and to discuss issues that are relevant and to help shape the industry, but not in such a siloed way. It’s the screen industry, as opposed to film or television or digital. This is where the industries will come together to talk about how to march into the future and how all of these industries can work together. One of the big desires for Canada Screen Week is that it provides those networking opportunities so that people can forge the relationships that may end up in different kinds of creations,” says Stephenson.

Canada Screen Week – Feb. 27 to March 3, 2013 (preliminary schedule)

Feb. 27 and 28 – Canadian Screen Awards gala events at Metro Toronto Convention Centre

March 1 – Nominee Reception

March 2 – In Studio (second edition) at TIFF Bell Lightbox

March 3 – Canadian Screen Awards red carpet, cocktail reception, broadcast event and gala party (off-air film awards presentation)