Confessions of a CSA Nominee
My first confession is that I wasn’t technically a nominee. My buddy Dani Bailey was though. They were nominated for a song we recorded together for the feature film I wrote and directed, Hunting Pignut. So I consider myself an extended nominee, once removed.
The excitement of getting nominated for a Canadian Screen Award is exhilarating. The recognition that comes along with it is a welcome boost both to the film and to Dani and my careers. Then there is the personal validation. Months ago, when the nominee list came out, CBC radio host Ted Blades played Dani’s song on his show “On The Go” and I bawled with pride and joy. Dani used to busk in front of the Sobey’s liquour store on Merrymeeting Road.
For them to go from Sobey’s busker to getting recognized as “one of the most talented professionals working in Canada” as their acceptance letter put it, made me fiercely proud. Proud of Dani, proud of Pignut, happy that my instinct to use 5 of Dani’s songs to give a lyrical voice to our protagonist, was a “sound” one.
So our trip to the CSAs as buddies first and then collaborators was especially magical. It started in front of my friend’s house where we are staying. We were snapping pix of ourselves all gussied up and a group of ACTRA reps in a car asked us if we were going to the CSAs by chance and if we wanted a ride. Filmmaking is often a small, tight world, even in a mega production center like Toronto, we discovered.
We pull up to the red carpet with our new friends and discover that we’re not on the list to walk it. Not even Dani, an actual nominee. Their list has pictures of celebs for the door staff to reference. We couldn’t even claim we were Sarah Polly and KD Lang to get the full red carpet experience that we told everyone to watch the live stream for. So a group of us Red Carpet rejects walked around the building to the regular “most talented professionals working in Canada today” main door entrance.
The atmosphere inside the Sony Center was charged. It’s a time where everything is possible for everyone. Our dreams of receiving a Canadian Oscar for projects we’ve worked on for years and years still intact. The anticipation of getting to scream happily as Dani leapt up to the stage to claim a statue for their incredibly haunting music bubbled in my gut. Dani met up with and became buddies with their competition, Joshua Hill, part of the team who wrote and composed “The Crown Sleeps” from The Breadwinner, also a beautiful song. The room and the people in it sparkled with possibility, and actual sequins - everywhere. We walked around meeting and chatting up folks with stars in our eyes.
The whole event was classy and beautiful. The ball gowns, an insanely delicious green drink, the hors d’eorves, many vegan selections, or close enough. The topper for me though, the highlight of the evening, were the political acceptance speeches. What an incredible platform to get to say something meaningful, to better our industry and the world!
Kim’s Convenience star Paul Sun-Hyung Lee stressed the importance of diversity, of people seeing themselves reflected on TV, the Baroness Von Sketch ladies paid homage to the women who paved the way for them and made the point that women were always a vital force in filmmaking and that the Baronesses got here by standing on the “shoulders of all the great women who paved the way”. Aisling Walsh gave props to her largely female team and talked about the necessity of hearing female voices. Peter Mansbridge made an incredible speech for his Lifetime Achievement award about how important truth is to journalism and that we can’t let bullies try to tell us otherwise.
Margaret Atwood also gave a speech that sadly I missed when I went to grab my charged phone. You only get 30 seconds to leave the auditorium when they are taping or they lock you out until the next break and they won’t let you back in for anything. Not even if you are Aisling Walsh winning the Best Director Award!
Other highlights for me were getting a great tip on funding from another filmmaker and getting to see and hug some of the folks I hope to work with in the future. I was super inspired by Maudie’s award sweep. I was also happy to see the very important documentary Rumble, which closed SJIWFF last year, get the recognition it deserves. It should be required viewing in high schools.
Dani didn’t end up winning. We didn’t expect them to. They were up against a jaugernaught of The Breadwinner, which was nominated for an Oscar and is based on a beloved book that is required reading in schools. The disappointment of not winning is real. As filmmakers we hope for all the perks that come with winning an award like that, the exposure…the recognition… bringing a national award home to NL, and everything I don’t have an idea about because we didn’t win…
Then host Jonny Harris did a hilarious bit where he read acceptance speeches from some of the brilliant CSA “losers”, which put it all into perspective. Of course all nominees are winners. We were nominated for the Canadian Oscars! Dani is one of the most talented professionals working in Canada today! As friends we had an incredible experience, are inspired and planning our next project together. The one that will land us on the red carpet next time!
Just to take our inaugural CSA experience full circle, we ran into one of the ACTRA reps, who offered us a ride, my friend’s neighbour. We shared a cab ride back and the world felt small and cozy.