Canada's Gemini Awards to Change Rules For TV Co-Productions

The Borgias Cast 2011

The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television is set to introduce a separate competitive category so European costume dramas like "The Borgias" no longer dominate the annual awards show.

TORONTO - In a dramatic switch, Canada’s Gemini Awards is set to introduce a separate category for co-productions.

New rules, set to be unveiled by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, aim to prevent minority co-productions with minimal Canadian participation dominating the Canadian TV awards, as they have in recent years.

“We are always looking for ways to improve representation of all segments of our industry and we have been studying the categories and will be able to make an announcement shortly,” Academy chairman Martin Katz said Tuesday in a statement.

If you’re unclear on the concept, the Gemini Awards celebrate the best in Canadian TV.

So there were a lot of red faces at the 2011 Gemini Awards last year when the trophy for best dramatic series went to Showtime/CTV’s The Borgias, a Canada-Hungary-Ireland co-production about an Italian Renaissance crime family.

And the best dramatic mini-series award went to Starz’ The Pillars of the Earth, another European costume drama co-produced by Canadian, American and German companies that aired on pay TV here.

A Canadian TV show shot in Budapest about the building of a magnificent medieval English cathedral -- doesn't that make Pillars a British show?

Never mind, as the new co-production category at the Geminis aims to end confusion and signal Canada’s TV awards should not give its loftiest awards to multiple passport dramas that go overseas for most of their financing, talent and story-lines.

Part of the problem is the Canadian government, a major financier of homegrown TV shows, has been encouraging local producers to work with foreign partners to share risk and resources.

The success of that export drive has been reflected at the Geminis, which saw the best Canadian drama prize in 2010 go to Showtime/CBC’s The Tudors, another Canadian-European co-produced costume drama, this time about Henry VIII.

You have to go back to 2009 to see in CBS/CTV’s Flashpoint a best drama winner at the Geminis that was actually shot in Canada.

And the two years before that saw the best drama Geminis go to Intelligence and Slings & Arrows, both recognizably Canadian shows.

That was well before cash-strapped Canadian broadcasters started commissioning costume dramas like The Kennedys and The Borgias, whose steep budgets were spread across a host of co-producing markets.

Of course, homegrown comedies like Less Than Kind and Call Me Fitz in recent years have grabbed a slew of Gemini trophies and attention.

But the drawback is homegrown sitcoms, while holding up a mirror to Canadians, don’t sell nearly as well internationally as global dramas like The Tudors and The Borgias, whose creative is driven out of the U.S. and which are shot in Europe and posted in Toronto.