Published June 5, 2014 on Vancouver is Awesome.
What a difference a year makes in the BC Film industry. 2013 got off to such a dismal start that it spawned a mood of doom and the Save BC Film movement or as the Leo Awards Gala hosts Zak Santiago, Pascale Hutton and Christopher Heyerdahl put it — would the last filmmaker in BC please turn out the lights? But our local film family came together and 2013 turned out to be one of the best-ever years for BC-made film and television. Definitely one worth celebrating at the 16th annual Leo Awards over three nights at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver last weekend. “Was I the only person not hired for Godzilla?” joked Heyerdahl about the monster blockbuster which brought so much work to the Vancouver area and Vancouver Island.
Ben Ratner’s Down River, inspired by his friendship with late Vancouver actor Babz Chula, capped the Leo Awards Gala on Sunday night with its win for Best Motion Picture from an unprecedented nine nominees. It’s the little Vancouver movie that could because we made it with love, said lead actor Helen Shaver, who plays an older woman named Pearl who guides three younger talents who live in her West End building. When Pearl gets ill with cancer and unexpectedly leaves their lives, the three are forced to face the future on their own.
On Friday night Ben Ratner took home the Leo for screenwriting his movie and on Sunday, his wife Jennifer Spence won the Leo for her supporting performance as one of the young talents, artist Aki. Down River’s other two awards: overall sound and Gloria Tsui for costume design to total five.
In television, the second season of hit Vancouver-cop-from-the-future series Continuum on Showcase and the inaugural season of hit Vancouver whydunit crime drama Motive on CTV went head to head for Leos. It wasn’t a sure thing with such well-matched competition, but smart, sci-fi hit Continuum took home the Best Dramatic Series award for the second consecutive year as delighted showrunner Simon Barry and cast made their thank yous from the stage. Other awards for the timey-wimey international hit, now sold to fifty-plus countries around the world: Simon Barry for screenwriting the season two finale; Lexa Doig for her supporting performance as a Liber8 “terrorist”; Kimani Ray-Smith for stunt coordination; Michael Wale for cinematography; Allen Lee for picture editing; and Jennifer Kipps for makeup for a total of seven Leos.
Trumped by Continuum for the big award, Motive did well in performances. Vancouver’s procedural-with-a-twist reveals The Killer and The Victim at the top of each episode, hiring the best of BC actors to “kill” other BC actors or be suspected of killing other BC actors, star Kristin Lehman explained to the crowd. She and Louis Ferreira were both nominated for their lead performances as detectives Angie Flynn and Oscar Vega, who solve the murder each week and uncover the reasons behind it. When Ferreira won his category, Lehman happily accepted the Leo for her co-star, explaining he was in Los Angeles to work through some “green card” stuff. She then thanked herself since that’s what cutup Ferreira would do if he were at the Gala, perhaps rambling on about her “soft skin”. Other awards for this summer hit on American network ABC, which averaged four million-plus viewers a week in the U.S. and hit a record five million this week: Katherine Isabelle for guest performance; and Andy Mikita for directing for a total of three Leos.
Other television series awards: Alberta-filmed Blackstone earned two Leos for lead and supporting performances and American-TV-series-filmed-in-Vancouver Almost Human won two Leos for hair styling and production design of its sex-bots episode Skin, partly filmed in the Waterfall Building near Granville Island. Of the other American shows which film in Vancouver, The CW’s veteran Supernatural won a Leo for its visual effects of angels falling from heaven in its season 8 finale; and Lifetime’s newbie Witches of East End for its costume design. And Toronto-shot SPACE series Bitten picked up a Leo for Mackenzie Gray’s guest performance, his second Leo in two nights but first Leos in sixteen years of nominations.
ABC’s Once Upon a Time did not get a happy ending with its Leo nominations, but Beverley Elliott who plays Granny on the modern fairy tale series, arguably stole the show. She dominated Night Two of the Leo Awards or “hump celebration” night, as she called it. The woman tells jokes, has anecdotes about famous actors she’s worked with like Henry Winkler and came armed with a Top Ten List of 10 worst things to find on a craft table — wieners in water soup. But nothing I write can convey the power of her singing. Beverley Elliott can belt it out. Her song “I’m Mad at Myself” stayed in my head overnight Saturday through Sunday to be replaced by her Gala number, “I’m an Actor for Hire”. Look for her autobiographical one-woman show this September at the Vancouver Fringe Festival.
In the realm of BC motion pictures, the most-nominated feature Down River won the night with five Leos. But Ana Valine took home the Best Directing Leo for her mother-and-daughter con movie Sitting on the Edge of Marlene starring nominated Paloma Kwiatkowski (Bates Motel’s Cody) as the daughter. The film also picked up a Leo for production design for a total of two awards.
Horror thriller Evangeline, represented by director Karen Lam and star Kat de Lieva on the red carpet, picked up two Leos for sound editing and hair styling.
The Harmon family‘s If I Had Wings scored a Leo for Jaren Brandt Bartlett’s lead performance and Gastown anti-romance Cinemanovels a Leo for Lauren Lee Smith’s lead performance. And chameleon actor Michael Eklund won a Leo for his supporting performance in The Call opposite Halle Berry.
Hitchcockian thriller 3 Days in Havana won the Leo for cinematography; STD rom-com That Burning Feeling for picture editing; Stephen Seagal movie Force of Execution for stunt coordination; Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium for visual effects, feel-bad comedy Lawrence & Holloman for casting; Brent Butt’s comedic film noir No Clue for musical score and Evil Feed for makeup.
In TV movies, the Winnipeg-shot Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story scored eight awards, including one for lead performance by Michael Shanks, whose young daughter accepted her Dad’s Leo.
Were there any awards that Anxious Oswald Greene didn’t win in the short film category for a total of thirteen Leos? Yes at least two, with Mackenzie Gray’s black-and-white noir short Under the Bridge of Fear earning one for costume design. Both look must-see from the clips.
Emergency Room: Life and Death at VGH not only won Best Documentary Series, but also the inaugural People’s Choice award voted on by the public.
Our own sitcom Package Deal, partly filmed in front of a live studio audience in Burnaby, won the Leo for Best Music, Comedy, Variety Series for its first season. Creator Andrew Orenstein, who flew up from Los Angeles, was impressed by the warmth of the BC Film community, in contrast to a perhaps more cynical Hollywood.
For Spooksville producers, winning the Leo for Best Youth series proved bittersweet because they’d just learned their series had not been picked up by the Hub network. They dedicated their Leo to a colleague who died when filming of their first and perhaps only season started in Duncan, outside Victoria.
But nothing could dampen the enthusiasm of web series winner The True Heroines. Check it out and all the other nominees in this growing category.
Until next year.
Click here for a complete list of Leo Awards winners.