After big-budget period drama The Borgias nabbed the top prize for best dramatic series at last year's Gemini Awards – shutting out homegrown shows such as Flashpoint and Endgame – the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television launched an aggressive review of their categories, hoping to find a new formula that would give Canadian creators a better shot at taking home the coveted TV awards.
Early next week, the academy plans to announce the results of that process: new rules and regulations governing the Gemini Awards, including a major shift that will see international co-productions – which showcase a minimum of Canadian talent – competing in a separate category.
That's good news for shows like Republic of Doyle and Rookie Blue. According to a veteran producer in Toronto, the aim is to "level the playing field" so that we're no longer comparing "apples and oranges."
"There was a lot of shock and dismay after the last Geminis that the shows that were picking up the big series awards were not even shot in Canada, had minority co-production status and were being made on budgets that were astronomical compared with more typical Canadian productions," he said.
The Borgias is a Canadian, Hungarian and Irish co-production about an Italian Renaissance crime family, starring Jeremy Irons. The other big winner at last summer's Geminis was the sweeping Pillars of the Earth, an American, Canadian and German co-production based on Ken Follett's best-selling book and shot in Budapest. And in 2010, Showtime and CBC's steamy costume drama The Tudors, with Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry the VIII, scored the best Canadian drama prize in 2010. Observers have to look back to 2009 to see the same award to go a Toronto-shot series (police drama Flashpoint).
On Wednesday, the academy's chairman, Marty Katz, kept a tight lid on details of the proposed adjustments, saying only: "We are always looking for ways to improve representation of all segments of our industry, and we have been studying the categories and will be able to make an announcement shortly."
A source close to the committee of industry players asked to participate in the overhaul, however, said it's widely acknowledged that concrete changes to the Geminis have been long overdue. The redefined categories, he adds, will give highly-rated Cancon shows – such as Republic of Doyle – a greater opportunity to shine on awards night.
"The Geminis have not been altered in years, and the membership wants to see changes. International co-productions are great for the industry, employing hundreds of people and raising our profile on an international stage. But they're just very different animals. The category was too broad for the activities going on. This industry has grown dramatically and the Geminis hadn't kept up."