Canadian Screen Awards Make Next Year’s Acting Categories Gender Neutral

Canada’s top film and television awards are becoming gender-neutral in an effort to better represent the country’s diverse creative community, including gender-nonconforming performers who may not identify as either male or female.

The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television announced a plan on Thursday to drop the separate Best Actor and Best Actress awards at the 2023 Canadian Screen Awards, but the change will result in fewer performance trophies and fewer nominations overall.

Instead of four movie categories that each feature five nominees for Best Lead Actor or Actress and Best Supporting Actor or Actress, two movie actor categories with eight nominees each will celebrate Best “Performance in a Leading Role” or “performance in a supporting role”.

Several genre-based television categories were similarly redesigned, with contests for Best Lead Actor or Actress in Comedy now simply “Best Lead Performer” in a Comedy.

The acting director of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, which organizes the annual all-star party, said organizers are trying to better support potential contestants who are non-binary and/or do not identify as one or exclusively one gender.

“We have a mandate to be inclusive and for many years there were large parts of the industry, or creators I should say, who weren’t really invited into the industry from different manners, and sometimes in subtle ways,” Louis Calabro said, acknowledging that the academy has recently faced complaints about representation.

“We’ve done a lot of great work to include different creators from underrepresented communities, but this is one of those spaces where we may not have done that work.”

The move follows a broader shift in the gender-specific awards industry, including the Toronto International Film Festival’s Tribute Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards, which recently announced gender-neutral acting categories for its 2023 edition.

The Junos, Grammys, British Independent Film Awards, and MTV Movie & TV Awards also feature gender-neutral categories.

It also follows an ASC party earlier this year in which the star of CBC’s slick millennial TV comedy-drama “Sort Of” was notably absent from the acting nominees, despite the show having landed 13 nominations.

‘Sort Of’ star and co-creator Bilal Baig and non-binary co-star Amanda Cordner opted out of submitting their performance for review due to ‘disappointing’ binary acting categories, executive producer Jennifer confirms. Kawaja earlier this year in an email to The Canadian Press.

Calabro said he thought the latest party featured “an extremely representative roster.”

“And I would say we’re so excited for this coming year, though, to include more people,” he said.

The new gender-neutral categories drew mixed reactions from non-binary actor and writer Jo Vannicola, founding chair of the ACTRA Toronto actors union’s LGBTQ committee, who applauded the academy’s “good intention”.

However, Vannicola — who uses the pronouns them and them — said they would prefer to see additional categories for various genders and different gender identities, fearing that without more specific categories nominees could skew white men.

“I think we need to go the other way — not shrink, just expand. More options, more opportunities, more categories,” said Vannicola, who played a non-binary character on ‘The Expanse.’ and a transgender character in “Slasher.”

“We live in a very oppressive, transphobic and homophobic world. And creating more opportunity is something we should embrace as an industry. If that means a trans woman wants to submit to both the woman and to transgender, all the power goes to them, I feel like we have to support that, because it’s very difficult to find work in an industry that has very few opportunities for queer, non-binary and transgender artists.

Calabro said organizers would monitor any imbalances and consider corrections if necessary, but noted that ASC’s digital media performance categories have been neutral since 2019 and he described them as “a pretty even field.”

Electronic music director and producer DW Waterson, who identifies as non-binary and fluid and uses the pronouns they and them, hailed the changes as “a very big step forward for the Canadian Academy.”

“It opens up so many doors and opportunities and really enhances the performance above all else, rather than the sex you were assigned at birth, which really shouldn’t dictate how good an actor or actress is. performance you can have,” Waterson, part of the TIFF Filmmaker Lab, said at next month’s Toronto International Film Festival, where they’ll be working on developing their first feature film, “Backspot.”

CSA’s changes announced Thursday were part of a series of changes that also added a category for Best Original Score in a Documentary Feature, and split the categories, including Best Sound, Non-Fiction Run, which is now the best sound of the documentary or factual genre. and the best sound in lifestyle, reality or entertainment.

The changes bring the number of CSA categories to 148, up from 145 in the last edition.

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