Canadian Screen Awards 2014Alberta productions received top honours from The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television at the announcement of the 2014 Canadian Screen Awards on January 13th.  Edmonton’s Tiny Plastic Men (airing on Super Channel) and  Blackstone (airing on APTN) both received nominations for Best Comedy Series and Best Dramatic Series, respectively.

Directed by the legendary Francis Damberger, Tiny Plastic Men, the eight-part series with 30-minute episodes was shot in and around Edmonton and is now in production for season three.

At this laugh fest are the three toy testers who work and play equally hard. There’s Crad (Chris Craddock), the pack leader, an anti-hero with anger management issues holding onto a dead-end job and precocious daughter. October (Mark Meer) is the hyper-intelligent, odd-duck goth with a taste for the macabre and living underground. Balancing the trio is Addison (Matt Alden), a sweet lovable guy who is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. He gets distracted easily, yet the ladies keep cozying up to him.

The idea for this sketch comedy flourished in part when Alden, a St. Albert Children’s Theatre alumnus, visited London, England to perform an improv show. He happened to catch The IT Crowd, a British comedy that revolves around staff of the IT department in the London offices of the fictional Reynholm Industries.

The idea was to take nerdy characters and make a world around them, and to make the guys loveable losers,” said Alden, also one of the lead writers.

For Alden, one of the coolest things about the show is that every episode reveals new and weird playthings – toys such as a smelly copter, gay-bots, a talking dog and a toy tram that goes to the moon where they fake a landing.

The creative founding genius behind the toy company is Mr. Gottfried, played by John D. Lowe, who was artistic director of the St. Albert Children’s Theatre from 1991-1995. Six years ago Lowe moved to Winnipeg to become artistic director of Prairie Theatre Exchange.

Describing his ultra-wealthy character, Lowe said,

He’s pompous and eccentric. He has memory issues and sometimes grasping reality is strenuous. He’s still worried about communism. In part of his brain, the Cold War is not over.

The billionaire’s daughter Alexandra (Belinda Cornish) runs the company behind his back. While the basement boys respect the inventor’s genius, they’re roguish enough to take advantage of his memory loss.

Blackstone is produced by Prairie Dog Film + Television, with Ron E. Scott as Executive Producer, Writer and Director, Jesse Szymanski as Producer, and Damon Vignale as Producer and Writer. Blackstone follows the lives of First Nations on the Blackstone Indian reserve.

The story is told from an Aboriginal point of view and according to Scott,

Blackstone is relevant and relational in an Aboriginal story world, with universal themes and conflicts that are not only relatable to some First Nations out there today, but also to the world of politics and power in general.

Calgary actors and filmmakers also received nominations. Michelle Thrush was again nominated for her performance in Blackstone. Two other Calgary shot projects — Horses of McBride and Borealis — are up for best miniseries, while the Alberta-shot CBC pilot Gavin Crawford’s Wild West picked up five nominations, including one for best comedy series. The largely Alberta-shot National Film Board documentary My Prairie Home, which is about singer-songwriter and Calgary native Rae Spoon, is up for best documentary.

Calgary expat filmmaker Michael Dowse’s newest comedy, The F-Word, picked up five nominations, including best film and a best actor nod for Daniel Radcliffe. Dowse, who began his career in Calgary with the film Fubar, also shares a nod with Ken Scott in the best adapted screenplay category for his work on The Grand Seduction.

The Canadian Screen Awards, hosted by Martin Short, airs Sunday, March 9th on CBC.