Statues honouring Canada’s best in film and television produced in the County
Just a week after the glamour and drama of the Oscars, many in this country will to turn their attention to the best films and television produced in Canada. This Sunday, the first ever Canadian Screen Awards will be handed out in a live broadcast. And as each winner reaches the stage the award they will clutch and hold high in joyful celebration will have been made in Prince Edward County.
The Canadian Screen Awards will for the first time honour the best Canadian films and English language television together in a combined ceremony, in an event that replaces both the Gemini and Genie awards. Given the big change the producers decided they needed a brand new award to honour the achievement. They turned to Glen Wallis of Cherry Valley.
HOW IT CAME TO BE
Sixteen years ago Wallis was working in the display business, creating and crafting unique features for museums and interpretive centre environments. The designer of the distinctive Gemini award—the gold outline of a face— came to Wallis because mass producers were challenged to meet the exacting standards for quality and consistency.
So for more than a decade and a half, Wallis has developed, produced and overseen the creation of each of the distinctive Gemini awards and later the Genie awards that sit on the mantelpieces and display cases of Canada’s best actors, directors, producers, costume designers, sound artists, and screenwriters, the cream of the crop of the film and television industry.
Just under a year ago the decision was made to proceed with one combined show. With the creation of the Canadian Screen Awards, a new statue was needed. The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television naturally turned to Glen Wallis. Working from a design by Endeavour Marketing, Wallis was tasked with taking the concept from paper and bringing it to life in a three-dimensional statue—to be replicated 200 times.
“We worked closely with Endeavour and Wallis Awards to develop a statue that symbolizes two screens with the public at the core of it all,” said Helga Stephenson, Academy CEO. “The new Canadian Screen Awards statue celebrates Canadian talent and Canadian productions, now destined for multiple screens.”
The clock was ticking. Designs went back and forth for months. In September, Wallis had design approval and just under six months to figure out how to produce and deliver 200 rather complex pieces.
IN THE COUNTY
Wallis and his wife Susan moved to Cherry Valley about three years ago— spending much of that time lovingly restoring an East Lake home that had once belonged to United Empire Loyalist settler Alva Stephens, reputed to have given Cherry Valley its name. Now the couple have opened their home as a bed and breakfast with its walls graced with many of Susan’s highly prized and internationally collected paintings.
Glen has maintained sturdy relationships among the producers of the awards ceremony and his reputation is sterling. It is why the producers entrusted him with this new bold and complex design. For Wallis, it was critical to be part of the design development process given the quickly approaching deadline.
“I was able to ensure along the way that the design was doable and practical,” said Wallis. “This was huge because we all shared the view that it had to be a stunner—it had to be impressive.”
Wallis also made the bold decision to attempt to keep manufacturing and production of the awards in his new home of the County. He wanted the work to stay local, but he also wanted to stay close to the production. It was the kind of decision that could work well, but also had the potential to blow up in his face.
A brand new award and a short timeframe— there was plenty of pressure.
Glen Wallis wasn’t worried. Susan wasn’t quite as calm.
“They had a broadcast date for the award ceremony. They had Martin Short booked to host the event,” explained Susan. “But they didn’t have any awards yet to hand out.”
The design called for intricate metal shaping and fabrication. There are few straight lines that adorn these angelic figures. Glen wasn’t certain the capacity for this specialized assignment existed in the County; that is, until he met with Aaron Brough and Shane Anderson of RT Connor in Picton. They had the tools and the skills to do the job. But the thing that won him over was that Aaron and Shane had the interest, the curiosity and the time to give Wallis so that together they could work through the manufacturing challenges. And there were many. Not least of these is that each wing is a different size and curls forward. There was a great deal of trial and error before a method was perfected.
“They listened and wanted to talk about the project,” says Wallis of first meeting with Brough and Anderson. “It is certainly the value-added piece they brought to the table.”
Anderson says it is the benefit they offer as a small machine shop.
“We are the owners and we do the work,” explained Anderson. “We could afford to spend some time with the design and with Glen—we could try different things until the process was perfect.”
The manufactured pieces then went to Doug Stack in Carrying Place to be polished.
Stack works on projects as diverse as custom motorcycle parts to ensuring the Stanley Cup maintains its championship glow. His motto: “If its metal I’ll make it shine.”
It was the first time he has worked with RT Connor, but both expect it won’t be the last.
Back at RT Connor, Wallis collected each of the pieces and put each of the statues together by hand. He says he did this to ensure every piece met his exacting standard. But there is another more intangible reward for Wallis.
“I know that when I see someone proudly holding their award, I put it together,” said Wallis with a smile.