Screen Nova Scotia hosted its ninth annual awards gala on Saturday, May 13th, in the Schooner Ballroom at Casino Nova Scotia in front of a sold-out crowd of industry members and supporters. The event celebrates the incredible talent, creativity, and passion that are the trademarks of Nova Scotia’s screen industry. Awards included the ACTRA Maritimes Awards for Outstanding Performances, the Groundbreaking Performance Award, the Film Crew Excellence Award, the Women in Film & Television – Atlantic Best Nova Scotia Director Award, and the Community Recognition Award, along with the Screen Nova Scotia Awards for Best Scripted and Unscripted Television Series, Best Feature, Documentary and Short films, Best Animated Series and Outstanding Achievement in Editing.
The night’s finale was the Screen Nova Scotia Award for Best Feature Film, presented by Tim Halman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change as well as Chair of Treasury Board and Policy Board with the Province of Nova Scotia, which went to Queens of the Qing Dynasty, the sophomore film from Cape Breton filmmaker Ashley McKenzie (Hi-Vis Films). Inspired by two teenagers McKenzie befriended during the casting of her debut Werewolf (2016), the film follows Star (Sarah Walker), a neurodiverse teen recovering from a suicide attempt in a Nova Scotia hospital, and the friendship she develops with An (Ziyin Zheng), a genderqueer volunteer assigned to watch her.
The second season of the Bell Fibe TV1 series Vollies from Canadian Content Studios was crowned the winner of the Best Television Series – Scripted Award. Jonathan Torrens (Trailer Park Boys, Letterkenny, Mr. D) leads a cast of quirky newcomers in this fresh, funny comedy series that follows the Essex-West-Essex Fire Department, a small town volunteer fire department that never has any actual fires to fight.
The Best Documentary Film Award went to On the Fringe, from producer Nancy Kenny (Broken Turtle Productions) and director Cory Thibert. The roadtrip doc follows a ragtag crew of performing artists as they journey across the country to perform their work on the Canadian Fringe Festival circuit. The Best Nova Scotia Director Award from Women in Film & Television – Atlantic went to director Jackie Torrens (Peep Media) for the critically-acclaimed feature documentary Bernie Langille Wants To Know What Happened to Bernie Langille.
Two new awards were handed out at the show, including the award for Best Television Series – Unscripted, sponsored by the Directors Guild of Canada. The winner was Living in Flow, produced by Britney Canzi and Walter Forsyth of Gorgeous Mistake Productions and directed by Meaghan Wright. The VICE Canada docuseries follows six Atlantic Canadian youth facing different mental health challenges.
The new award for Outstanding Achievement in Editing went to veteran editor Kimberlee McTaggart, who was also nominated this year for a Canadian Screen Award for her work on the TV series Moonshine. An editor in the film and television industry for over 25 years, she works in both drama, documentary, and comedy. Series credits include Diggstown, Pure, SEED, Call Me Fitz, and This Hour has 22 Minutes.
“Congratulations to all the nominees and award winners,” said Laura Mackenzie, Executive Director, Screen Nova Scotia. “Tonight we celebrate our industry and all those who contributed to bringing authentic and compelling Nova Scotian stories to life.”
Koumbie’s feature film directorial debut Bystanders proved to be a showcase for local talent, with both Taylor Olson and Marlee Sansom taking home trophies from ACTRA Maritimes for Outstanding Performances for their roles in the film. Bystanders (Picture Plant Ltd.) tells the story of six childhood best friends who gather for their annual weekend away, only to discover that one of them is guilty of sexual assault.
The Groundbreaking Performance Award, which celebrates a performer who identifies as diverse and does not yet meet the eligibility criteria for the ACTRA awards for their work in a film or television/web series, went to Greg Vardy in Tracy and Martina: Dirty Deeds. The award recipient is determined by an online voting process, to better engage the wider community outside of the screen industry.
Seven-year-old Briar Mosher took home an ACTRA Maritimes Award for Outstanding Performances for her role in Leah Johnston’s short film Mother’s Skin. Phoebe Rex also won an Outstanding Performances award for playing the teenage Samantha in Jason Eisener’s sci-fi horror feature Kids vs. Aliens, which is now streaming on Shudder.
Keeper from writer/director Tori Fleming and producer Morgan Salter was the winner of the Best Short Film Award, while season three of The Casagrandes took home the award for Best Animated Series. Produced by Jam Filled Entertainment, the comedy series airs on Nickelodeon and showcases the work of Nova Scotian animators.
This year’s Film Crew Excellence Award went to makeup artist Betty Belmore. A member of IATSE Local 849 – and a previous BAFTA award-winner – Belmore has worked in the Nova Scotia film and television industry for over 35 years and has been a mentor to many. Her Head of Department credits include large-budget US service productions, as well as local features, TV series, and short films, including Mr. D, The Healer, Jesse Stone, and Haven.
The 2023 Community Recognition Award went to local entertainment lawyer Rob Aske, Partner at Stewart McKelvey. Rob was nominated by several producers for his work in the industry, helping both emerging and established filmmakers navigate the film business, regardless of project budget. For over 25 years, Aske has also generously volunteered his time and expertise while working with industry organizations/associations, including his countless hours dedicated to the Screen Nova Scotia Board of Directors, since 2015.
The Screen Nova Scotia Awards were made possible this year due to the generous support of many sponsors, including Platinum Partners at the Directors Guild of Canada, Support4Culture, the Canadian Media Producers Association, IATSE Local 849, and William F. White International Inc. Special thanks to 902 Post and The Hideout Studios for their continued work to ensure another successful event in 2023.
I. Screen Nova Scotia Awards:
Best Feature Film: Queens of the Qing Dynasty (Hi-Vis Films)
Best Television Series – Scripted: Vollies S2 (Canadian Content Studios)
Best Television Series – Unscripted: Living in Flow (Gorgeous Mistake Productions)
Best Documentary Film: On the Fringe (Broken Turtle Productions)
Best Short Film: Keeper (Tori Fleming, Morgan Salter)
Best Animated Series: The Casagrandes S3 (Jam Filled Entertainment)
Outstanding Achievement in Editing: Kimberlee McTaggart
Groundbreaking Performance: Greg Vardy
II. ACTRA Maritimes Awards for Outstanding Performances:
Briar Mosher in Mother’s Skin
Taylor Olson in Bystanders
Phoebe Rex in Kids vs. Aliens
Marlee Sansom in Bystanders
III. ADDITIONAL AWARDS
WIFT-AT Award for Best Director: Jackie Torrens (Bernie Langille Wants to Know What Happened to Bernie Langille)
Film Crew Excellence Award: Betty Belmore, Make-up Artist
Community Recognition Award: Rob Aske, Partner, Stewart McKelvey
Please click HERE to see the full list of 2023 award nominees.