The Oscars, Golden Globes and Canadian Screen Awards have long since handed out their last statues, but we’ve saved the best film and TV awards show for last here in British Columbia. The 21st Leo Awards descended on downtown Vancouver this past week honouring the best and the brightest of BC’s local film industry. Encompassing over 100 individual categories, the awards are spread out over three nights culminating in a Gala event on June 1 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and the Hollywood North team was there to take in the action.
“What I love about the Leos is the fact that it celebrates our local community” says Lexa Doig, nominated for her guest appearance on the CBC medical drama Unspeakable. “I think it’s wonderful here in Vancouver because we get overlooked, particularly in Canada because the majority of attention seems to be focused out east. That’s no shade to Toronto,” she’s quick to add. “I’m from there!”
Speaking to Lexa Doig on the Red Carpet
There was indeed a palpable sense of community in the room as the red carpet was filled with local heroes from Stargate and Sanctuary alumnus Amanda Tapping to director Bruce Sweeney who was nominated for three Leos for his dysfunctional family drama Kingsway, named for a roadway transversing East Vancouver.
“It’s like this street that goes through Vancouver that’s diagonal, right?” notes Sweeney. “Every time you get on the street, you get messed up. You think you’re going one way and you (end up) going the other and I thought that would just morph into a relationship analogy seamlessly.”
For all the familiar faces, there was plenty of fresh talent on the carpet as well. The cast and crew of the Yellowknife-shot thriller Red Snow were there in full force. Telling the story of a captured First Nations soldier in Afghanistan and his bold escape with the aid of an Iranian family, the film has been nominated for a staggering 10 Leos, many in acting categories.
Speaking to Red Snow actress Mozhdah Jamalzadah
“So far, I am loving it!” beams star Mozhdah Jamalzadah , nominated for her performance Khatira in the film. “I’m just taking it all in. To have my family here with me, to have the Red Snow team here with me is just the most amazing experience. We’re so excited!”
As the carpet emptied out, the dining hall filled up as the lights dimmed promptly at 7pm for the show to begin. After a short intro from Leos president Walter Daroshin and a spirited cover of FloRida’s Good Feeling by the house band, host Peter Kelamis got things underway with his folksy brand of humour, although the biggest laugh came from an unintentional Chinese robocall midway through his set!
Leos for 31 categories were awarded throughout the evening with standouts including Syfy series Van Helsing which collected awards for Best Lead, Supporting, and Guest Male Performances as well as Best Supporting Female. However, it was CBC’s tainted blood scandal drama Unspeakable that walked away with Best Dramatic Series with producer Robert Cooper noting in his acceptance speech that it “shouldn’t be like finding a unicorn” to produce a series set in Canada.
Filmmakers Kailey and Sam Spear show off their Leos for CC
The awards proceeded through the Television Movie (“I asked my agent if the title had ‘Christmas’ in it” quipped Best Male Performance winner Niall Matter on Frozen Love) and Short Drama where Crazy8’s 2018 breakout hit CC swept up Leos for Best Writing and Best Female Performance for Jewel Staite. The star was unable to attend but Writer/directors Kailey and Sam Spear made the most of it by having the audience participate in an impromptu birthday video!
Gabrielle Miller accepts her Leo for her performance in Rabbit
On the Motion Picture side, Corner Gas alumnus Gabrielle Miller picked up a fourth career Leo for her gritty portrayal of a sex worker in Rabbit. “ I was a little nervous about this part going in.” noted Miller earlier on the carpet. “(Director) Ken and I have a friendship and a working relationship that goes back twenty years. So basically anything that Ken is doing I would want to be a part of.”
Bruce Sweeney ultimately scored one of his nominated categories for his Kingsway screenplay. Slightly blinded by the lights on the podium, he noted that he was glad he had shopped for a suit at the bay earlier that afternoon!
The final award of the night went to the Haida-language period drama Edge of the Knife for Best Motion Picture. Decked out in traditional coast salish regalia, producer Kristy Assu and actress Adeana Young accepted the award on behalf of the cast and crew, noting the remarkable achievement of producing a Haida-Language film and the role it plays in reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous Peoples.
The Hollywood North Magazine Team (L-R) Darren Weisner, Shaun Lang and Nick Wangersky
The ceremony may have come to an end, but local post production house Finale hosted an after-party just one floor below with most attendees stopping by to further congratulate each other and celebrate their collective success. It was all well-deserved as most would soon head back to sets, production offices and editing suites to continue work on countless future projects that will soon grace our screens and perhaps these same halls next year at the 2020 Leo Awards. Stay tuned…