Genie Awards History

December of 1978, a small group of Canadian filmmakers gathered to address a growing concern: the lack of an organized recognition of achievement in Canadian cinema. These young filmmakers (Ron Cohen, Andra Sheffer, Robert Lantos, Paul Hoffert and George Appleby) joined together to support the formation of a professional organization to celebrate and promote filmmaking in Canada.

The first executive director, Andra Sheffer (now executive director of the Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund, the Independent Production Fund and the COGECO Program Development Fund) recalls how the fledgling film Academy came into being. Sheffer was then working for the Festival of Festivals, now the Toronto International Film Festival, responsible for organizing the Canadian Film Awards presentation. It became very clear to her that the jury system process "was not functioning to maximum effectiveness." There was also a strong desire from the industry to change the whole system led by a penchant for peer group voting. Sheffer was seconded to work with Bill Marshall, who in addition to being president of the festival was also conveniently head of the producers association at the time. With a mandate to assemble a committee of high profile industry figures, they initiated the spawning of an Academy modeled organization.

Representatives from the various professional craft organizations, which had previously come together to arrange the Canadian Film Awards, were invited to be on the committees. Garth Drabinsky represented the producers and musicians, Jonathan Welsh saw over the actors' concerns and Don Shebib stood for the directors. With the balance of Karen Bromley, Richard Leiterman, John Hunter, and Paul Coombe supporting their crafts, the Board set out to create an organization that would unify the growing number of production communities across Canada, increase awareness for our country's films and celebrate them with an annual awards event.

To be eligible to join the Academy as an active member, one would need at least one on-screen credit in a dramatic feature film. Each active member is then classified in one or more of the following branches: Actors, Art Directors, Cinematographers, Directors, Editors, Musicians, Producers, Screenwriters, and Sound. For the Genie nomination process, the actors can only select actors, directors select directors and similarly for all the other branches. Once the nominations are in, the entire Academy membership selects a winner for each category. Votes for Best Picture come from such non-active members as: Agents, Distributors, Executives, Exhibitors, Public Relations and Technicians with at least three dramatic feature film credits.

Timeline of key events


  • The Academy holds its first General Meeting of the founding members. The Academy is incorporated. A bilingual title is approved: Academy of Canadian Cinema – Academie du cinema canadien


  • The Academy of Canadian Cinema is launched, consisting of approximately 500 members
  • The Sorel Etrog trophy (sculpted in 1968 for the Canadian film Awards) is renamed "Genie" to symbolize "the magic of filmmaking and the hidden genie seeking expression in all creative people."
  • The first Annual Genie Awards is presented on March 20 from Toronto's Royal Alexandra Thetre. The event is sponsored by Air Canada and attracts 25 feature entries and 105 non features
  • New award categories are introduced to recognize: Theatrical Shorts, Animated shorts, Documentaries, Achievement in Makeup, and more.
  • The first Special Achievement Award is announced and presented to Micheline Lanctôt.
  • Prolific Canadian film and television producer Robert Lantos becomes the newly elected chair of the Academy
  • the Academy announces its first co-production with the CBC to televise the Genie Awards
  • the Awards travel to the Cinémathèque Québéoise in Montréal
  • Countdown to the Genies, a televised special airs on CBC on March 16, 1985
  • Eligibility for a Genie Award expands to include all participants in a "Canadian film" regardless of nationality
  • Chairman Robert Lantos announces Academy expansion into television in 1985 and the Academy of Canadian Cinema becomes the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television
  • The Genie Awards celebrates its 10th Anniversary in 1989
  • To accommodate a growing membership base, screenings of Best Picture nominated films are held in Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Halifax and Los Angeles


  • For the first time, the Genie Awards is independently produced by the Academy in 1990
  • Awards telecasts include musical performances to strengthen their entertainment appeal
  • Voting for all award categories becomes peer-selected
  • Genie Awards audience doubles from coast to coast
  • The Genies delve into fashion by teaming up with FLARE magazine to outfit Awards presenters in pieces designed by Canada's top fashion designers, including Alfred Sung, Lida Baday and Sunny Choi
  • The first Claude Jutra Award is established in 1993 and presented to John Pozer for his direction of The Grocer's Wife.
  • The Genie Awards celebrates its 15th anniversary in 1994
  • A special behind-the-scenes broadcast is produced, hosted by Canada's own Mary Walsh and aired on CBC(English) and SRC(French) in 1995
  • the Genie Awards is web-casted, making the event accessible to film enthusiasts world-wide
  • An unprecedented broadcast partnership of BBS, Bravo!, CBC Television, SuperEcran, and TMN/The Movie Network is established to promote the Genie Awards with feature specials and telecasts


  • The Awards show travels to Ottawa in 2009
  • The Genie Awards adapts to changing technologies by presenting live webcasts of the awards shows and nominee receptions
  • Voting process is simplified through a new video-on-demand online streaming service
  • Nominations grow to over 1,000 individuals
  • Awards show gains over 1.2 million viewers from coast-to-coast


  • The Genie Awards celebrates its 30th Anniversary!


  • 31st Genie Awards hosted by William Shatner - click here to view the nominees
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