It was equal parts celebration and call-to-action Thursday morning as members of the province’s screen community gathered in Calgary and Edmonton to hear the finalists for the Alberta Film & Television Awards.
It was to celebrate the best of Alberta’s screen industries in 2019, including film and TV productions, new media and commercials. But with a provincial election looming, Alberta Production Media Industries Association executive director Bill Evans encouraged members to keep the interests of the industry front-and-centre as an election issue. In Alberta, there has been a 10 per cent decrease in production compared to last year.
“We all agree that the current system is not working and we need to mobilize the entire industry and speak with one voice,” said Evans, who hosted the announcement in Calgary.
“Certainly we’re down this year from last year in the number of entries, a lot right here in Calgary. Which I think is just reflective of the economic environment. There are a lot of companies that are not doing corporate communications, those kinds of things. When cuts have to come that’s usually one of the areas that get scaled back. But the flip side of that is that in Edmonton this year, for whatever reason, there’s been an increase in production. There’s an increase there, there’s a decrease here. It levels out a little bit, but overall we are down about 10 per cent.”
Members of the industry have long suggested the province’s incentive program needs to be tweaked to make Alberta more competitive with other jurisdictions such as British Columbia and Ontario. In 2017, the government changed the approval process, which some insiders say takes too long, leading many producers to go elsewhere.
“Their intention was good, to put more checks and balances on public money, which is a good thing,” says Evans. “But the way that they’ve done it makes it a lot less certain that a production can access the incentive.”
Industry stakeholders have started a promotional campaign dubbed Keep Alberta Rolling to put a spotlight on the industry during the election.
Meanwhile, the finalists for the 2019 Alberta Film Television Awards, dubbed the Rosies, were dominated by familiar names, with the Calgary-based CBC mainstay Heartland earning nine nominations and the long-running Edmonton-based comedy series Caution: May Contain Nuts receiving 12. Seven24 Films, which produces both Heartland and the supernatural western Wynonna Earp, received the most nominations of any Calgary production company with 15.
Wynonna Earp and Heartland were the only two finalists in the best dramatic series category.
“We’re very proud of these two shows,” said Michelle Wong, head of business affairs for Seven24. “Heartland … is now the longest-running Canadian drama. And, of course, Wynonna Earp is a great project that has been able to introduce our company to an international audience.”
Heartland is currently in its 12th season. Wynonna Earp was supposed to begin production on its fourth season earlier this year, but has been delayed due to financial issues with distributor IDW Entertainment. The uncertainty has prompted a worldwide campaign by fans to save the series.
Wong said she had no update on when production might start.
“That’s still in process, the discussions,” Wong says. “We are just waiting for all of the pieces to fall in place. The fan base is very passionate. They call themselves Earpers. They are very passionate and I think that is getting the attention of IDW.”
The Rosies will be handed out in Edmonton on April 27. There are 323 finalists in 24 class and 33 craft categories. The class categories are for projects produced or co-produced by an Alberta production company. The craft categories are for film workers who were Alberta residents in 2018.
Alongside its nod for best dramatic series, Heartland received nominations in best digital or interactive project, best director for Dean Bennett, best performance by an Alberta actor for Shaun Johnston, best performance by an Alberta actress for Amber Marshall, best cinematographer for Jarrett Craig, best screenwriter for Mark Haroun, best editor for Ken Filewych and best production designer for Trevor Smith.
Wynnona Earp received nods for singer Jann Arden in the best performance by an Alberta actress category, Jennifer Haffenden for best costume designer, Joanne Jacobsen, Jo-Dee Thompson, Gunther Schetterer and Eva Baulackey for best makeup and hair artists, Greg Lawson for best performance by an Alberta actor and Cathy Cowan for best production designer.
Calgary’s Spotlight Productions, which specializes in documentary film, received 11 nominations in total. They included three nominations for Calgary filmmaker Mathew Embry’s Painkillers: Inside the Opioid Crisis, including one for best documentary over 30 minutes.
Calgary filmmaker Gary Burns’s feature drama Man Running, which opens in Calgary on April 12, received seven nominations, including best dramatic feature, best director for Burns, best screenwriter for Burns and Donna Brunsdale, best cinematographer for Patrick McLaughlin, best editor for Burns and Brunsdale, best original music for Scott Monro & Matt Flegel and best overall sound for Frank Laratta, Brent Planiden and Tyler Rambie.
Here are the nominees in major categories:
Best dramatic feature
#Roxy, Camille Beaudoin & Eric Rebalkin, Producers
Alive, Michael Peterson & Lars Lehmann, Producers
Christmas Cupcakes, Andrew Scholotiuk, Jaro Malanowski, & Dylan Pearce, Producers.
Cor Values, Morgan LeBlanc, Dean Busch & Gilbert Allan, Producers
Knuckleball, Michael Peterson, Julian Black Antelope, Laurie Venning, Lars Lehmann & Kurtis Harder, Producers
Man Running, Gary Burns & Donna Brunsdale, Producers
Best documentary over 30 minutes
Fox Chaser: A Winter on the Trapline, Chris Hsiung, Producer
Ha Ling Peak, Colin Waugh, Scott Francis Winder, Bryce Zimmerman & Jordan Bloemen, Producers Sticks & Stones
Making Coco: The Grant Fuhr Story, Adam Scorgie, Don Metz, & Shane Fennessey, Producers, Score G Productions
Painkiller: Inside the Opioid Crisis, Mathew Embry, Ravinder Minhas & Holly Dupej, Producers
The Bailey Experience, Adam Scorgie & Shane Fennessey, Producers, Score G Productions
Wolves Unleashed: Against All Odds, Andrew Simpson, Producer
Best dramatic series
Best performance by an Alberta actress
Aimee Beaudoin, Caution: May Contain Nuts
Amber Marshall, Heartland
Heidi Ellen, I Am Rare
Jann Arden, Wynonna Earp
Joleen Ballendine, Caution: May Contain Nuts
Siobhan Cooney, Summer’s Monster
Best performance by an Alberta actor
Greg Lawson, Wynonna Earp
Mark Meer, Necessary Evil
Samuel Duke, A Gentleman
Shaun Johnston, Heartland
Sheldon Elter, Caution: May Contain Nuts
Tyler Duffy, Nut Milking: Exposed
For a full list of finalists, visit ampia.org.
By Eric Volmers ~ Calgary Herald