Canadian Academy CEO on the CSAs virtual rollout

Beth Janson shares how the Academy has found an engaging way to honour the nominees online and via social media channels from May 25 to 28.

Get your acceptance speeches ready – the Canadian Academy has revealed the dates of the virtual Canadian Screen Awards to announce the winners.

The announcement of the 144 categories will be rolled out in themed segments between May 25 to 28 on the Academy website, as well as its Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube channels. The awards are held in partnership with CBC and CTV and with the support of Telefilm Canada and the Canada Media Fund.

The Canadian Screen Awards were originally set to be handed out during Canadian Screen Week, from March 23 to 29, culminating in the broadcast gala. It was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Academy made the decision to postpone the announcement.

Canadian Academy CEO Beth Janson told Playback Daily that the decision to announce came after industry members and nominees reached out, curious about who the winners were. The Academy recognized an opportunity to honour the screen-based industry at a time when on-screen entertainment has become more crucial than ever. “The reality is we have to move forward,” says Janson. “This is a resilient industry and I think it’s important that we represent that resilience and maintain this moment of coming together.”

The rollout of the awards will consist of “eight pre-taped, thematically distinct” shows, divided into categories. May 25 will announce broadcast news, sports programming, and documentary and factual; May 26 will be for children’s and youth programming (presented by Shaw Rocket Fund) and lifestyle and reality; May 27 will cover scripted programs and performance; while May 28 will be devoted to the cinematic arts. Narrators for the shows include Eric McCormack, Herbie Kuhn and Lloyd Robertson, and each presentation has been produced in-house.

Janson says the Academy didn’t want to recreate a ceremony that would have happened at a gala and wanted to find a way to put the nominees first. “We’re going to tell a story with each genre of grouping and we hope this will be an engaging way for people to come together with their teams,” she says, adding it’s been” all hands on deck” for the Academy to pull it off.

While the support from CTV, CBC, Telefilm and CMF has helped the Academy keep going, Janson says the financial impact has been “dramatic,” including for the Quebec office. They are currently working on how to adapt Quebec’s Gémeaux Awards, determining factors like eligibility and windows in light of the current situation.

“When you lose more than 50% of your revenue you have to change up how you’re doing things, and that’s what we’re doing,” she says. “We’re going to come through it the best way we can and trying to be supportive of an industry that is feeling huge losses across the board.”

While Janson says it’s too early to discuss the 2021 Canadian Screen Awards in detail, she says they have discussed factors such as how much content will be eligible and the financial costs for members to submit. “We’re trying to figure out ways to get back into the essence of the awards,” she says.

Schitt’s Creek leads the nominations for the 2020 Canadian Screen Awards with 26 nods, while The Song of Names leads film nominations with nine. The full list of nominees is available on the Academy website.