The winter solstice is upon us, signaling the middle of the darkest season. This year, I’ve taken a unique comfort in the warm lights and holiday decorations adorning front lawns and lamp posts across Toronto. The flickering candles and glimmering bulbs seem to convey a certain resilience: a willingness to go on. Together celebrating our respective winter traditions despite our physical distance.
Looking back on 2020, this resilience has been mirrored in the Canadian film and television industry’s determination to carry on despite a year that has brought momentous challenges to a workforce that relies largely on in-person labour and events to sustain itself. Nevertheless, with creativity at its core, screen arts professionals have found exceedingly clever ways to create art and engage audience participation in 2020.
For the Canadian Academy, the first major recalibration occurred a fortnight away from the organization’s largest event. As is difficult to forget, the March 2020 Canadian Screen Awards were cancelled in light of the first COVID-19 lockdown measure. In place of the usual award show, came a wave of dynamic virtual programming. To celebrate excellence and achievement in film, television, and the digital media and music video industries, the Canadian Screen Awards and Prism Prize were presented virtually. These events made room for more at-home professional programming from the Academy, such as virtual Academy Talks and sessions with the charming online film club, ScreenShare. While these events lacked the traditional in-person contact that we are all craving, they allowed greater access to industry programming and bridged a communication gap for creatives across the country.
The suffering this year has certainly been immense. The medical crisis brought on by the pandemic precipitated global financial emergencies and became the landscape through which education and understanding of racial injustice unfolded on an international level. The traction of the Black Lives Matter social movement in mainstream consciousness this year relies on the work that racial activists have been pursuing for decades. As a response, in 2020 we’ve seen more entities in the arts and culture industries pushed to actively contribute to the fight against racial inequalities.
The Academy fortified its commitment to racial parity through the conception of its Equity & Inclusion Fund. This fund capitalizes on what it identifies as its “unique opportunity to make sure diverse voices are heard” and an understanding that “change must happen from both the bottom up and the top down.” Backed by major organizations including Bell Media and Boat Rocker Media, and with the support of their board of directors, the Academy devotes itself to increasing visibility, accessibility, and recognition for screen arts professionals who identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of colour.
2020 has been a year of reprioritization. A global pandemic and a global social movement have laid plain the inequalities racking our society. The result has been the creation of new initiatives to combat discrimination in our industry. Changes in our work spaces and the style through which we interact have demonstrated the importance of connection and mental health. These events have gifted us an understanding that we are growing: a new insight into our resilience as individuals and as a community. Each initiative towards equality, each virtual filmmaking seminar, each Academy Talk, and each team zoom meeting demonstrate a fighter’s spirit. Look at how during the past year we’ve chosen to respond to devastation with determination, to courageously adapt to the new normal with grit, gusto, and (dare I say) guts. Give yourself some credit. The new year, and every twinkling light that ushers it in, awaits.