Oscar-Winning 'Chicago' Producer Urges Canada's Academy to Rethink Awards Voting

Don Carmody - PR Head Shot - 2011

Don Carmody said Canadian kudofest voters need to recognize popular movies, not just passion projects never released at the local multiplex.

TORONTO – Oscar-winning film producer Don Carmody has put his weight behind a major rebrand of Canada’s film and TV awards.

Carmody and Julie Bristow, CBC executive director of studio and unscripted content, are the latest boardroom additions at the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, which has replaced the former Genies and Geminis with a single annual broadcast to honor all screen-based Canadian content.

Carmody is a major get for an Academy looking to fix the mess that was the former Genies, the country’s film awards, and the Geminis, Canada’s TV awards.

“They’re heading in the right direction,” the veteran producer said of the Academy and its new-look Canadian Screen Awards, set to take place March 3 in Toronto.

“It’s about trying to save an institution that I think is valuable,” Carmody added.

He didn’t always have that much faith in Canada's Academy.

As the country’s top film producer, Carmody has seen seven of his films earn the Golden Reel Award as the top-grossing Canadian film.

And yet, despite earning the best picture Oscar for Chicago, Carmody only showed up once at the former Genies to accept any of his Golden Reel Awards.

That’s typical of a producer that has largely shunned the media spotlight and instead labored in the trenches to make over 100 films over three decades, including a slew of Hollywood studio pictures shot in Canada.

But Carmody also recalls attending the 2009 Genies to see one of his films, Polytechnique, Denis Villeneuve’s true-life drama about a 1989 Montreal student massacre, dominate that year’s Canadian film awards.

He judged that year’s awards show in a cold and dark Toronto waterfront nightclub “embarrassing” as an industry showcase.

“You don’t make people feel second class at an awards ceremony,” Carmody recalled.

Now that the Academy is hitting the refresh button, Carmody has bowed to industry pressure and decided to pitch in.

He’s getting actors to attend a Fan Zone on March 2, essentially a meet-and-greet and autograph session with the stars of Canadian movies and TV shows.

That’s going someway to his vision of the Canadian Screen Awards as a Golden Globes-type celebration that stars will want to come out for as TV audiences tune in.

He also wants the Academy to look to the Junos, Canada’s popular music awards, for tips on building fan support.

And yet, Carmody insists organizers of the upcoming film and TV awards show have to go beyond bringing glitz and glam to the industry kudosfest.

He argues the Canadian awards show facelift will come to little if Academy voters keeps nominating films that Canadians have yet to see at the local multiplex.

“If you’re celebrating films that no one has seen, it’s kind of stupid,” Carmody, who belongs to the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said.

Here the veteran producer identifies a culprit for why past cracks at repackaging Canada’s film and TV awards always failed: bloc voting by Academy members that rewards passion projects, mostly from Quebec, not popular movies ordinary people see at the local multiplex.

Carmody applauds Quebec’s film output, which includes this year’s Oscar contender in the best foreign language category, Rebelle, by Montreal filmmaker Kim Nguyen.

“But the fact is Quebecois films are hardly ever released here (English-speaking Canada), except in very small releases that nobody goes to see. Yet they win all the Genie awards,” he insisted.

Carmody ventured Rebelle will deservedly sweep the inaugural Canadian Screen Awards.

But the Congo child war soldier drama hasn't yet received a theatrical release in English-speaking Canada, which doesn't bode well for stirring interest in an industry awards show that bored TV viewers in the past.

Carmody is betting the Academy will move closer to its original mandate to market homegrown film and TV shows to Canadians.

“This is not an overnight fix. It’s probably a two-or-three year fix. They slowly have to build things up,” Carmody added.

The Canadian Screen Awards, hosted by Martin Short, will air March 3 from Toronto, on the CBC network.