Everybody knows what happens on stage at a big show like this Sunday’s Canadian Screen Awards. A host sings, dances and/or tells jokes, glamorous presenters tear open envelopes and announce award winners who thank everyone from managers to spouses to Jesus. There’s the slapping of backs, bespoke tuxedos and flowing gowns and tears.
Add in some drama, a red carpet and you have the ingredients of a big awards show, but what happens backstage?
Lots, as it turns out. Every year at the Canadian Screen Awards there’s a whole other show that happens offstage in the pressroom. Located deep in the bowels of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts it’s my domain during the live broadcast. Every year I host the room, interviewing the winners as they come off stage in front of an “audience” made up of local and national reporters there for the free food and access to the celebs. I am the purveyor of sound bites, the compère to the press who take the interviews I do and turn them into stories for the next day’s papers and newscasts.
Over the years Elvis Costello, Tatiana Maslany, William Shatner and many others have passed through, tossing out bon mots like they were candy. Jay Baruchel let it slip he was engaged to Alison Pill on our small stage. Viggo Mortensen proudly waved the Montreal Canadiens flag in the face of a roomful of Leafs fans and Jill Hennessey gushed about the Canadian Screen Awards gift bag, thanking the Academy for the Norman Jewison Maple Syrup.
It’s an easy gig for me. Everyone who comes down from the main stage is a winner, automatically in a good mood and ready to have some fun.
When Lifetime Achievement Award winner David Cronenberg was asked where the inspiration for his movies came from he took a moment to examine the assembled crowd of journalists before deadpanning, “Just standing here is giving me all kinds of ideas for horror films.”
Call Me Fitz star Tracy Dawson picked up a CSA for Best Actress but later told me that awards don’t guarantee work. She won a Gemini in 2011 for playing Meghan Fitzpatrick on the show and thought she had it made. Then her phone didn’t ring for ten months. In the pressroom she joked that she wanted to be clear—she was looking for work. “I’m totally available,” she laughed.
It’s a different show downstairs, less glitzy and more relaxed.
This year Andrea Martin is taking over hosting duties from fellow-SCTVer Martin Short but I’ll never forget last year how Short tore up the pressroom, still jacked up from hosting the show. He was hilarious when I asked if he’d try and top his spectacular flying entrance next year. “I can only fly so many times,” he said. “That harness chafes.”