The Canadian Screen Awards (CSAs) are presented by the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television to honour distinguished achievement in Canada’s film, English-language television and digital media industries. They were first held in 2013 following the merger of the now defunct Genie Awards and Gemini Awards. The CSAs are mirrored by their French-language counterparts, the Jutra Awards (film) and Prix Gémeaux (television and digital media).
In April 2012, following “extensive industry consultation and outreach,” the Academy announced that it would merge the Gemini and Genie Awards into the Canadian Screen Awards, which were first held in Toronto on 3 March 2013. The ceremony was hosted by Martin Short and broadcast on CBC Television. Academy CEO Helga Stephenson explained that merging the awards for television and film was part of an effort “to put a much bigger spotlight on those industries.” The Canadian Screen Awards’ name, logo and trophy statue were developed by Barry Avrich’s Endeavour Marketing and BT/A Advertising.
There are three separate branches of voting membership within the Academy: Cinema, Television, and Digital Media. These branches are further divided into divisions based upon industry roles (e.g., art department, cinematography, editor, performers, etc.). There are also five governance committees, each of which oversees a particular cross-section of the Canadian Screen Awards: Film, Television, Documentary, Digital Media, and News and Sports.
There are slight variations in the nomination criteria and processes across the film, television and digital media branches of the awards. Generally speaking, however, a film/program is only eligible if it qualifies as a Canadian production or co-production (as defined by CAVCO and/or CRTC criteria) and was theatrically released/broadcast in Canada between 1 January and 31 December of the previous year.
For the film awards, one committee made up of directors, writers, performers, producers and critics review all submissions to determine the nominees for the direction, writing and performance categories. Another nominating committee comprised of professionals from the respective crafts selects nominees in all of the craft categories (e.g., cinematography, editing, production design/art direction, sound editing). Both nominating committees together select the nominees for Best Motion Picture. Films are evaluated based on specific criteria developed by the Academy’s Governance Committee and Board of Directors in consultation with branch members. For instance, members of the music branch developed the criteria used to assess the nominees for Original Music Score and Original Song.
There is a separate nominating committee for Theatrical Shorts, which selects the nominees in the categories of Animated Short Film and Live Action Short Drama, and a separate nominating committee for Documentaries, which selects the nominees for Feature Length and Short Documentary, as well as Best Editing and Cinematography in a Feature Length Documentary. Entries receiving the highest number of points in their respective categories become the nominees for final balloting in that category.
For the television and digital media awards, nominees in each category are judged by a jury comprised of members with expertise in that category, as well as members from other areas of television production. Juries are made up of between five and seven members and select between two and five nominees (depending on the number of submissions). Jurors are required to come to a consensus on the five nominees and then cast their final vote by ranking them from one to five by secret ballot.
All voting members of each division (cinema, television, digital media) are permitted to vote in all categories within their division. Voting is conducted online, with results tabulated by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Academy's official ballot auditors. For all television awards, the final vote is divided 50–50 between jury votes and member votes. For all digital media awards, the final vote is weighted 70 percent to jury votes, 30 per cent to member votes.
There are 128 competitive categories in total — 24 for film, 97 for television and 7 for digital media — as well as 14 special awards, which are not necessarily presented annually (e.g., 12 special awards were presented in 2014, 9 in 2015).
A number of special awards were transferred from both the Genies and Geminis to the Canadian Screen Awards and continue to be presented, including the Earle Grey Award for lifetime achievement in Canadian television, the Claude Jutra Award for best direction of a first-time feature film, and the Golden Reel Award (rebranded by the CSAs as the Cineplex Golden Reel Award), for the film with the highest annual domestic box-office gross. Other special awards include the Gordon Sinclair Award for Broadcast Journalism, the Margaret Collier Award for a writer’s significant contribution to Canadian television, the Outstanding Technical Achievement Award and the Digital Media Trailblazing Award. A special award may be recommended by Academy members to the board of directors, which then has the discretion of selecting a recipient.
Canadian Screen Week
The two-hour televised awards ceremony is the culmination of Canadian Screen Week, modelled after the Juno Awards’ Juno Week. The mix of industry and public events during the week include: a nominees reception; a pitch series; various panel discussions; a showcase for members of the Canadian Film Centre’s actors' conservatory; a FanZone where fans can meet the stars of their favourite shows; and two separate ceremonies where most of the television and digital media awards are presented.