Just 6 years ago my two brothers (Chris and Steve) and I didn’t know anything about producing television; we didn’t even own TV’s. But we got the crazy idea that we wanted to produce our own travel documentary for television and that was the beginning of the journey that found us at the Gemini Awards in Toronto two weeks ago. Our very first attempt at making TV garnered us a nomination for Best Information/Lifestyle Documentary Award and presenters of 5 TV awards at the 2009 Geminis.
Tickets aren’t cheap — $300 a piece. Luckily, our good friend, the director of the network that airs our travel series, OLN, was kind enough to get us free tickets. That helped subsidize some of the cost I incurred from flying from Tokyo to Toronto, and my brother Steve from London to Toronto for the awards. I live part time in Tokyo, Steve lives part time in London and Chris lives part time in Sydney, Australia but we figured for the good of our TV futures it was important for us to be at the Geminis and schmooze with the producers and directors of the Canadian TV networks who always attend the awards. If there is one Canadian TV event to be seen at each year, the Geminis is the one; it’s the gala TV ball of the year. So the boys and I felt we needed to show up and needed to get as much face time as we could. Presenting 5 awards was incredible face time that our producer was able to wrangle for us from one of his contacts in the Academy.
The day started early with a rehearsal for the presenters. Getting used to using a teleprompter and how and when to approach the stage was the drill. Part of the rehearsal also included practicing the speech that the Academy writers had written for us (and the stupid joke that we had to tell!). There were about 10 presenters for the evening and we were all there to go over the procedure so that everything went smooth later that night.
After the rehearsal, we had our own personal TV meetings we needed to attend before heading back to our apartment to get dressed, rehearse our acceptance speech, in case we won, and then head to the Sound Academy, the old Docks Bar in the Beaches area of downtown Toronto, which was the venue for the awards.
The awards started at 7:30 pm and the view of the Toronto skyline from the venue was superb; that famous brochure shot of the colored skyscrapers and CN Tower from across the water. To mix things up a bit I wore a black suit and thin black tie while Steve wore a kilt (Chris didn’t attend because the flight from Australia toToronto was just too much for one night). Steve got lots of attention being the only one in tartan.
At the venue there was a blue carpet leading up to the door, the Canadian equivalent of the red carpet I guess! At the door Steve and I were met by our handler for the night—a Gemini appointed assistant whose job was to make sure we didn’t drink too much or miss our cue to get to backstage in time to present. Along with Steve and myself and our handler, our posse included our wives, our producer, our lawyer, our publicist, the director of the OLN network, and our cameraman. All together this was our gang that made up the Which Way To… crew taking part inthe 2009 Gemini Awards.
The evening was divided into two parts: the first hour and a half was drinks, food and mingling upstairs, and the second half was the presentation of the awards on the ground floor. About 1000 people attended, everyone looking sexy and dapper.
The first thing Steve and I did was head upstairs for a beer. The bartender that served me was abeautiful Israeli girl that had seen our show, so I was stoked! Between drinking, schmoozing and being dragged around by our publicist for photo ops, we introduced ourselves to some people we were particularly interested in meeting – Survivorman, Les Stroud, who we think is pretty interesting, our direct Gemini category nomination competition – Mike Holmes, the host of the show Holmes on Homes, Jian Ghomeshi, the host of the awards and number 1 radio show in Canada, the camera man for a competing OLN travel show, Andre Dupris, Linden MacIntyre, the great Canadian investigative journalist, and a bunch of other “celebrities”. Between threatening Mike Holmes (jokingly?) that he better let us win the category because he was also nominated for two others, convincing Jian Ghomeshi to get us on his #1 syndicated radio show, and trying to bribe our network for a season 3 we drank loads of Steamwhistle and wine, and enjoyed the vibe of attending our first Canadian television awards.
Then, it was time for everyone to go downstairs for the presentation of the awards. It started out with a funny monologue from Jian Ghomeshi, the host, followed by the presentation of the first awards. After the first awards, Steve and I left our seats and headed back stage to get mic’d to present. We hung out backstage for 10 minutes with Ziya Tong from Daily Planet and Mike Holmes from Holmes on Homes. Then, we were announced and it was our turn to present. We spent about 10 minutes on stage and presented 5 awards before exiting stage and heading back to our seats. From there the tension mounted until the very end of the show when our category was to be announced. We were totally confident in the quality of our series but because Which Way To… was our first TV production and we are new names in Canadian television we stood a slim chance of winning against a veteran like Mike Holmes and his emotional series on rebuilding homes for hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans.
Finally, it was time and I tensed up in my seat. The ballot was handed to the presenter and they opened it … “And the winner is … Mike Holmes!” I let out my breath and clapped weakly formy competition. I turned to my brother sitting beside me “We’ll get’m next year.” He nodded and we got up and headed back upstairs to the bar to toast the end of a good season and great awards night.