The Board of the Alberta Media Production Industries Association (AMPIA) has nominated Shaun Johnston as the recipient of the 2011 David Billington Award. The media release announcing their decision points out that Shaun grew up in Ponoka, Alberta. “Having grown up on the prairies has had a great influence on my work as an actor.” Shaun explains, “I like to believe my approach is open and natural. I guess I’m a product of my environment.” After a few hard working years on the farm and in the oil patch, Shaun decided to return to college and study law. It was at the University of Alberta that a drama elective inspired him to change direction. Shaun was classically trained in theatre at the U of A, and from this beginning, he has built his career in Alberta.
Shaun won his first of several Rosie Award for his portrayal of Wes in Two Brothers a Girl and a Gun, and continued gathering accolades in a variety of roles. Today he has an impressive list of film and television credits, the most recent being Jack Bartlett, the patriarch on the CBC hit series Heartland, a role for which he has won the Best Actor Rosie for the past two years, and for which he has received a Gemini nomination.Other roles Shaun is known for are Rich Dearden in Destiny Ridge and Jake Trumper in the classic series Jake and the Kid. He’s guest starred on X-Files, Outer Limits, DaVinci’s Inquest, Blue Murder, Dead Man’s Gun, North of 60, The Dead Zone, Smallville and Traders. He also had roles as Capt. Alexander Fancher in September Dawn, as Col. Nelson Miles in HBO’s Emmy Award winning Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and as adventurer P.V. Scaturro in Touch the Top of the World. Features Shaun has acted in include Heart of the Sun, Tribe of Joseph, Super Volcano, Agent of Influence and Dinosaur Hunter.
He was a co-founder (along with John Hudson) of Shadow Theatre, a well respected, subscription based theatre company that is thriving today in Edmonton. Shaun will perform in their 20th anniversary production of Fool For Love in February, 2012.Shaun has been very active in charity work. He founded the Big Brothers Big Sisters Centre Ice Challenge, an annual celebrity hockey game that raises funds and awareness for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary. He is also responsible for the Doug Blackie Memorial Crew Challenge. This is an anytime event that creates an honourable competition of any kind between working film crews in Alberta and benefits the charity of their choice. The Doug Blackie Memorial Cup has been awarded 5 times and has raised over $40,000.00.
Shaun lives in Edmonton with Sue, his wife of 27 years and their two sons, Shea and Cael.
“We are very excited to have Shaun as our Billington Award Recipient this year,” says AMPIA Executive Director Bill Evans. “He is the embodiment of the true spirit of Alberta in his work as an actor and as a person dedicated to our industry.”
About David Billington
David Billington came to Alberta in 1975 with 2 national newspaper awards and a stint at Reuters behind him. He worked as a cowboy then joined the Calgary Herald in 1977. In 1978 he became entertainment editor and rodeo commentator for the newly established Edmonton Sun. David was the first print journalist to give serious attention to the arts and in particular, film and television in Alberta. In 1974, David covered Alberta’s first film festival, four years later he was a founding member of the Commonwealth Games Film Festival and was on the pre-selection committee for the first Banff Television Festival in 1979 – a role he played until his death in 1987. David believed that Alberta film should be held to the exacting standards of the global industry.
Since David’s death in 1987, the award has been presented each year to an individual who has made an invaluable contribution to Alberta’s production community, and celebrates those individuals who, like him, inspire us all with their vision, passion and dedication.
David Billington was given the very first Billington Award posthumously in 1988. It was accepted by his son Dai Billington. I had the pleasure of working with David Billington at the Edmonton Sun and can vouch for his vision, passion and dedication to journalism as well as film and television making in Alberta.
The following are past Billington Award recipients:
1989 – Thomas Peacocke
1990 – Fil Fraser
1991 – Albert Karvonen
1992 – Dr. Charles A. Allard (awarded posthumously) 1919-1991
1993 – Les Kimber
1994 – William Marsden
1995 – Carrie Hunter
1996 – Jan Miller
1997 – Arvi Liimatainen
1998 – Bruce Nelson
1999 – Anne Wheeler
2000 – Andy Thomson
2001 – John Scott
2002 – Nick Zubko (awarded posthumously) 1922 – 2000
2003 – Fred Keating
2004 – Tom Jackson
2005 – Douglas Munro
2006 – Jane Bisbee
2007 – Lorne MacPherson
2008 – Jean Merriman
2008 – Lance Mueller 1951 – 2010
2010 – Doug MacLeod
The Award will be presented at a gala lunch on Saturday, November 5th, 2011 at the Westin Hotel in Calgary. To see more about the David Billington and order tickets, see www.ampia.org.