Alumnus Don McKellar Honoured with 2016 CFC Award for Creative Excellence

By Cory Angeletti-Szasz ● March 24, 2016 16:55

When the Toronto Star reported on the news that the we would be presenting Don McKellar with our 2016 CFC Award for Creative Excellence, they said that “to call McKellar’s three-decade career prolific is almost an understatement” – and they’re right. McKellar has become such a ubiquitous and prominent force in Canada’s entertainment industry, that when you think of some of Canada’s most popular and important content, you’ll find that McKellar has likely been involved in it in some way.

You could say that McKellar has pretty much done it all in the business of entertainment – he’s written scripts, adapted books into scripts, directed movies, starred in movies, written, directed and appeared in short films, written for television, directed and produced television, worked in children’s television, written, directed and starred in plays, written and starred in musical, worked in animation – and the list goes on. With such a varied, influential, groundbreaking, expansive, and truly remarkable career and body of work to his name, it’s no wonder why Don McKellar is thought to be so deserving of the 2016 CFC Award for Creative Excellence – because his work truly embodies the meaning of creative excellence.

McKellar was presented with the third annual Award for Creative Excellence at CFC’s 2016 reception in L.A., which took place yesterday evening, March 23, 2016, at the Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills. A number of prominent industry executives, Canadian and international talent, CFC alumni, and McKellar’s friends came out to the event to show their support and celebrate such a remarkable Canadian talent, including James Villeneuve, Consul General of Canada in Los Angeles, who was delighted to welcome the Canadian Film Centre, and all of the Canadians at last evening’s event, to Los Angeles. But it was none other than Semi Chellas (Mad Men), the inaugural recipient of the CFC Award for Creative Excellence in 2014 and another truly incredible Canadian talent, and the incomparable Norman Jewison, founder of the CFC, who presented McKellar with his award.

Don McKellar poses with Sandra Oh, Semi Chellas, Lynne St. David-Jewison and Norman Jewison after being presented with the 2016 CFC Award for Creative Excellence.

Semi Chellas had the difficult, if not nearly impossible, task of introducing McKellar and trying to succinctly (and quickly!) sum up his vast and substantial career. Not surprisingly, Chellas did a magnificent job highlighting the breadth, depth and importance of his body of work with beautifully written words and remarks about McKellar that she had prepared. ”I can’t think of anyone, Canadian or otherwise, whose work has been so expansive, so varied and so constantly groundbreaking. Think of the lasting sway of the Augusta Theatre Company that he [McKellar] founded in the ‘80s with Tracy Wright and Daniel Brooks; the profound influence of Canadian cinema and his multiple collaborations with Bruce McDonald in the films Roadkill and Highway 61; the inimitable Twitch City; his stint at the [Canadian] Film Centre three years in, he leads a rebellion and creates a totally indelible short film Blue; and all the time he’s acting in these movies and Atom Egoyan films (Exotica), writing The Red Violin, Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, which is still unmatched in my opinion for its incredible, intricate structure, it’s passion – and it was parodied on The Simpsons!”

Chellas went on to explain, “Then he becomes a director, first stop: Last Night (Prix de la Jeunesse at Cannes, Claude Jutra Award); he gets the hilarious heartbreaking Childstar; comic turns in Slings and Arrows; drama Monkey Warfare; his animation; stars in Odd Job Jack. Then gets bored maybe, writes a musical with some friends for a friend’s wedding, takes it to Broadway, picks up a couple Tonys, tours it around the world. Did I say he adapts Blindness by José Saramago? Runs a couple shows, Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays, and his lovely latest Sensitive Skin, which is like a love letter to Toronto, his ever home. Somewhere in there, he directs a movie by Mike Dowse – I mean, come on! So many roles, so many more scripts that I haven’t mentioned. Not to mention teaching! He mentors – he mentors me, he mentors at the NSI, he goes to Africa to give workshops, he’s in Tokyo, he’s in San Paulo, he’s in Masada, he’s in Alhambra, but he’s totally up for doing a scene in my short film. And the weirdest part is, if you live in a certain neighbourhood of Toronto, you will see Don all the time and he’s never working! His influence is impossible to overstate. He has collaborated with so many of the best of the best; this is a completely incomplete list.”

We couldn’t agree more – McKellar’s influence is impossible to overstate. Which is why it seemed like such a natural and necessary choice to honour him with this award. Our beloved founder and esteemed filmmaker Norman Jewison took the podium following Chellas to make a few remarks, and hand the award to McKellar.

Semi Chellas, Don McKellar, Norman Jewison, Lynne St. David-Jewison at CFC's 2016 reception in L.A.

“I’m here tonight to honour a relatively young man. Yeah he’s young. […] The first thing about directing is that 25 per cent of the time, you gotta have a good story. And Don has that. He can even write it. And then you believe that 25 per cent of directing is also about casting – casting the part perfectly. Don has that – he can cast himself. If you believe that another 25 per cent of directing is about assembling a great team, and then letting them do their best work. Well, Don has that too. But the last 25 per cent of directing is what separates a good director from a great director, and that’s the hardest 25 per cent to find, because it’s a certain kind of alchemy – it can’t be taught or imitated. […] It’s about insatiable curiosity about people and ideas… It’s about being bold, and it’s about being out of the box. And in Don’s case, it includes a dash of irreverence and originality. […] There is no one more deserving of this award. He has accomplished so much with his life so far. I’m looking forward to seeing all of the rest of your work, it’s going to dazzle us for years to come.”

Norman Jewison and Christina Jennings with Don McKellar after he received the 2016 CFC Award for Creative Excellence.

McKellar was then presented with the 2016 CFC Award for Creative Excellence. His award is an original piece of artwork created by CFC alumna Ann Marie Fleming, which beautifully captured McKellar’s career to date through a graphic and somewhat animated collage of imagery representing his varied body of work.

After McKellar accepted the award, he remarked that Norman has created the type of cinema that inspired him to want to work in film, and acknowledged how proud he feels to be an alumnus of the CFC.

Don McKellar makes a few remarks to guests of the L.A. reception after receiving the 2016 CFC Award for Creative Excellence.

Following the award presentation and speeches, guests continued to mingle, network and brainstorm creative ideas throughout the remainder of the reception.

We were pleased to co-host this year’s annual reception in L.A. with our partners Shaw Media and Cast & Crew Entertainment Services. We’re so grateful for their support not only of this event, but also of their commitment to developing talent, to excellence and to investing in the future of our screen-based industries.

To see more photos from CFC’s 2016 reception in L.A., CLICK HERE.

CFC actors alumnus Giacomo Gianniotti with Sandra Oh at the 2016 L.A. reception.

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Cory Angeletti-Szasz

Director, Marketing & Communications