Actors questioning Canadian Screen Awards move to pre-taped format

A recent change in the Canadian Screen Awards format has some Canadian talent questioning whether it will give actors and creators enough time in the spotlight.

While awards will be handed out in-person for the first time since the pandemic, the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television announced earlier this month that the traditional live broadcast, which honours the best in film and television, will be replaced with a pre-taped telecast hosted by Samantha Bee.

Comedy star and Schitt’s Creek co-creator Eugene Levy, whose CBC sitcom nabbed a total of eight trophies in 2021, said that he understands that many award shows can feel long for the average viewer.

“Sometimes in an award show there are far too many awards,” he said in a virtual interview from Toronto while promoting his upcoming Apple TV+ travel series The Reluctant Traveler. “As a viewer, it’s really tough to sit through that many awards.”

But the Hamilton-born actor said that Canadian creators deserve their moment on stage, in a live awards show format.

“I think it’s important for the Canadian entertainment industry to not have it in an abridged form. I don’t think it does justice to the industry that you’re supposed to be serving.”

Show will include interviews, highlights

The Academy’s vice-president of programming and awards Louis Calabro said the organization wanted a curated show to better engage audiences. The one-hour special will incorporate celebrity interviews and highlights from preceding galas, during which the awards will be handed out by genre.

A woman with blond hair wearing a grey blazer stands before a pink backdrop.
Comedian Samantha Bee will host this year’s edition of the Canadian Screen Awards, which will use a pre-taped format instead of the traditional live show. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/The Associated Press)

When the live award shows were held before the pandemic, the broadcast was typically about two hours long, with the show in 2019 clocking in at two hours and two minutes.

“It’s no secret that we aren’t able to present every category that we have at the Academy each year on the broadcast show,” said Calabro. “It’s always a matter of it representing a fraction of the excellent work that we showcase every year.”

This year there will be seven events, divided by genre, where the nominees and winners spanning 145 categories will be honoured in the days leading up to the Sunday night show.

Calabro said that the new format will also present the CSAs with an opportunity to highlight the work itself, featuring more selected footage from nominated works.

Each gala will be filmed but un-televised in yet-to-be-announced locations with opportunities for winners to accept hardware and give speeches among their peers. Winners will be made public throughout the week with chosen highlights selected and included in the hour-long special at the discretion of the Academy.

“In some of our past shows, we’ve found that those are pieces that resonate with audiences. For example, if someone is watching a really dramatic scene from one of our nominated picks, it really engages the viewer,” said Calabro. “We’re really moving to show the work and really let them play out on screen longer than they typically would in the past.”

Award shows add glamour to hard word, director says

Sort Of and Wong & Winchester comedy actor Grace Lynn Kung acknowledges a certain appeal to a curated award show where the occasional mishap or awkward moment can be edited out if the situation calls for it.

Still, Kung wonders what winners may have to do in order to stand out and make it into the hour-long broadcast. She questions if some will feel the need to “step up their speeches or drama game to make it.”

“It’s introducing an element of being the last one picked for a team if you don’t make the cut,” said Kung. “Should I trip and fall if I get nominated for optimal airtime? I guess time will tell.”

Writer-director Anthony Shim, whose coming-of-age drama Riceboy Sleeps has picked up several accolades on the festival circuit, said that he was hoping for a “back-to-normal awards ceremony” this year, noting the in-person element adds a bit of glamour to the demanding aspects of filmmaking.

“Making films is so rough and it’s so not glamorous,” said Shim. “To have an excuse to get together with your peers and to have a night to just acknowledge one another’s work in person is, I think, part of the reward of making something.”

Canadian Screen Awards nominations will be announced on Wednesday, and awards will be handed out between April 11 and 14. The broadcast special airs April 16 on CBC and CBC Gem.

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