The Leo Awards, celebrating excellence in British Columbia film and television, kicked off on Friday, May 30 and filled the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver with the province’s most talented, adventurous, and dedicated artists. The awards ended on a pure note of red carpet glamour at the gala awards on Sunday.
Friday’s celebration honoured design, editing, music, screenwriting and cinematography. Anxious Oswald Greene dominated the Short Drama category and walked away with 10 awards. Continuum, the science fiction TV series set in Vancouver future and present, also led its Dramatic Series category, winning four awards. Elysium, the Hollywood blockbuster starring Matt Damon, won Best Visual Effects in a Motion Picture.
Vivacious Beverley Elliott, who stars as Granny in the television series Once Upon a Time, hosted Saturday night. She kept the evening — which she called the “hump celebrations” — rolling, with cheeky jokes and a foot stomping song: “I’m Mad at Myself.” Kalyn Miles, 2013 Best Host Leo award winner, added her own brand of comedy via video clips of interviews with nominees. In one clip, Miles told Ryan Robbins, from Sanctuary, that he was good looking, then stripped to her underwear and hit on him for the rest of the interview. When Miles finally asked about his nomination, Robbins, almost speechless, recovered with a quick, “I deserve another one for holding myself together here.”
On Saturday, the Leos tipped its hat to British Columbia’s flourishing do-it-yourself production and distribution culture by adding two awards to Web Series, a new category introduced in 2013. Johannah Newmarch won Best Performance by a Female for Polaris, while Colin Cunningham won Best Performance by a Male for Fools For Hire. Best Web Series went to The True Heroines, a science fiction tale set in the 1950s about three housewives with superpowers.
The Vancouver Film Orchestra was on hand for the Sunday night gala with tight, punchy movie themes that brought a touch of dramatic tension to the winners’ arrivals on stage. Co-host Christopher Heyerdahl opened the awards with the comment “Our theme tonight is technical difficulties. We hope you enjoy our feedback.”
The theme this year was actually abundance, in reference to the 1,052 nominations received, plus a slew of new categories, leading to a decision to extend the celebrations to three nights. Fellow host Zak Santiago made reference to this theme, as well as to the Save BC Film campaign that pulled the industry out of lean times in 2013. “Last year it seemed like everyone I knew was talking about plan B,” he said. “Now we’re looking at our best year ever.”
Continuum won Best Dramatic Series and two more awards. Down River, written and directed by Ben Ratner, added Best Motion Picture and Best Supporting Actress to the Best Screenwriting award it took on Friday.
I spoke with Ratner and Jennifer Spence on the red carpet. Ratner wrote the role of Aki with Spence in mind for the part. When I asked Spence what about Aki she identified with most, she responded, “I like the nerd; I’m a nerd.” To see Spence poised elegantly on the red carpet, no one would think there was an ounce of nerd in her, but when she bounded onto the stage and clutched her Leo, saying “Holy sheeit,” I thought maybe, I saw a charming glimmer of it in her.
Michael Eklund, known for The Watchmen and 88 Minutes with Al Pacino, won Best Supporting Performance for his role as the serial killer Michael Foster in The Call, a Hollywood movie starring Halle Berry.
The Student Awards, presented by Gabrielle Rose, who took Best Performance by a Female in Short Drama for The Corpse and the Courier, were an important part of the evening. As Rose said, “It is vital that the Leos promote, support, and recognize student filmmakers. They are our future, and hopefully our future employers.”
One of the films nominated for Best Student Production, O Angel of God, was written, directed, and produced by David Manuel, a graduate of the Simon Fraser University film studies program.
And last, but by no means the least, Beverley Elliott delivered a saucy song to poke fun at the life of a British Columbia actor, “This Actor’s for Hire,” (cue Alicia Keys’ “This Girl is on Fire”). She brought the roof down and got a well-deserved standing ovation.