Lots to do leading up to the Leo Awards

The Wedding Belles on board to host first night of the ceremonies

SARAH Groundwater-Law laughs when she reveals she's getting her nails done.

Reached Tuesday afternoon via cell phone, she explains that in addition to the priority of preparing her material of course, her salon stop is among the many essential glam-related steps (hair, spray tan, makeup and dresses included) on her to-do list in the lead-up to hosting this weekend's Leo Awards, a red carpet, two-night affair at the Westin Bayshore Vancouver, honouring the artistry of those involved in B.C.'s film and television industry.

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Groundwater-Law and her partner-in-crime, Aubrey Arnason, co-hosts and co-producers of Shaw TV's The Wedding Belles and The Proposal, are serving as hosts of this evening's Celebration Awards Ceremony.

"Our biggest focus is honestly to elevate the crowd and have them excited and enthusiastic to be there," says Groundwater-Law.

"It's really flattering to be asked because they put a lot of trust in us and so I really hope we do them proud," she adds.

Groundwater-Law is pleased to be involved in the Leos, which she says play an important role in honouring the hard work and passion of her local industry peers.

"I think they just deserve a night out in recognition, so it's definitely important for our industry and I think to recognize Canadian stuff too. We always have a tendency to appreciate what our neighbours are bringing up but I think it's much more important to focus on what Canadians are capable of, and, in this case, what British Columbians are capable of," she says.

Tomorrow evening, Saturday, June 8, the red carpet will be unfurled for the Gala Awards Ceremony, also at the Westin, hosted by local couple Nancy Robertson and Brent Butt of Hiccups and Corner Gas fame.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Leo Awards, an annual awards program presented by the Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Foundation of B.C., a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to celebrate and promote the achievements of the B.C. film and television industry.

"The idea behind the Leos was really to celebrate the artistic excellence within our community," says North Vancouver resident Walter Daroshin, a founding member of the foundation, and current president, as well as president of Troika Productions. "Celebration is healthy I think in any social structure. Our industry lacked that opportunity."

While those involved would very much pound their chests over aspects like the size of the industry, its economic prowess, number of local people it employs and the fact that it's one of the largest production centres in North America, Daroshin was part of a group of people who felt there needed to also be some place within the calendar year to stop and to acknowledge the actual work, the artistic excellence and the craft of making film.

"The Leos were born out of that impulse and continue to this day to do nothing more than celebrate people's work," he says.

Daroshin is extremely pleased to have The Wedding Belles on board as hosts this year.

"They're just hilarious and entertaining," he says. "They presented for us last year and I immediately, before they even got off the stage, I made a mental note to call and ask them if they'd be interested in hosting our Friday night show. They just resonated so well with the audience. Their humour is so raw and natural and fun and so we're looking forward to having them on our stage."

While both admitted to being wracked with nerves in the lead-up, Groundwater-Law and Arnason, both Vancouver-based (Groundwater-Law goes back and forth between the Lower Mainland and Toronto, Ont.) are no strangers to the Leos. The Wedding Belles has received six nominations and one win for cinematography. In addition, Arnason received a nomination for web series For Your Security.

When asked for anecdotes from previous Leo Awards they've attended, they offer up the following.

Groundwater-Law recalls her paranoia last year related to presenting, scared she would fall due to her choice of shoe. When it was their time to take the stage, she got up from the table and tripped.

"I fell flat on my face. . . ." she says. "I did it in the dark and only a few tables saw but it was quite hilarious. And then I felt better, I was like 'OK, I can go on stage now because I clearly can't fall twice in one evening.'"

Arnason recalls a first-year rookie hair don't, having coiffed her locks into what she thought was a sleek pony, but in retrospect looked a little too casual for her liking.

"I've learned over the years to glam it up a bit," she says.

To prepare as hosts, they've been seeking advice from comedian friends and drawing on their own personal experiences. "It's almost like MCing a wedding at the end of the day, that's kind of what it's like. We have a little bit of experience with that one," says Groundwater-Law.

Arnason leaks they're planning a little audience participation. "We're counting on our fellow film folk to bust out of their shells a bit," she says.

While as of Tuesday, the co-hosts still had some wardrobe decisions to make, one thing's for sure, wedding gowns (from North Vancouver's Isabelle's Bridal no less) will most definitely make an appearance at some point in the evening.

With the third season of The Wedding Belles currently airing and the first season of The Proposal under their belts, the women are continuing to look to the future and in the madness related to preparing their material for tonight's Leos, Arnason has also been preparing pitches for new shows, which she'll present at the Banff World Media Festival being held June 9-12.

One, Chasing Harry, would follow she and Groundwater-Law's comedic overseas escapades as they try to track down and marry the young prince, complicated by the small matter of Royal Family security and the fact that Groundwater-Law has already tied the knot.

The other is Wedding 911, which will see the duo ambush and pull off weddings for couples that should have gotten married years ago but keep putting it off.

This year's Leos will see two special presentations at the Saturday gala, says Daroshin. One is a tribute to The Beachcombers, Canada's longest-running dramatic TV production, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, having aired on CBC TV from 1972 to 1990. Jackson Davies (Const. John Constable) will take the stage as part of the tribute.

The second special presentation is an initiative the foundation is launching in association with the Directors Guild of Canada, entitled the Stephen J. Cannell Friend of B.C. Award.

"The suggestion here is that this individual may not otherwise have been eligible for a Leo Award because our criteria is based on residency, but there are a number of people who have come in and out of our jurisdiction over time and have been very supportive and helped to propel the industry to the point where it is today," says Daroshin.

The inaugural Stephen J. Cannell Friend of B.C. Award is being awarded to David Nutter, whose directing credits include Game of Thrones, Band of Brothers, Entourage and The Sopranos.

"He is a world-class television director. . . ." says Daroshin. "Here, he has piloted many of the shows that have gone on to sustain a tremendous amount of activity, not the least of which is the pilot episode of Smallville, which went on a 10year run here and became a bit of an industry in itself."

Tonight's Celebration Awards Ceremony, which will see the distribution of craft and technical awards, will get underway with a reception at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. and the awards presentation at 8 p.m.

Saturday's Gala Awards Ceremony will get underway at 4: 30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6: 30 p.m. and the program and performance awards presentation at 8 p.m.

Tickets are still available for both Leo Award evenings. For more information, visit leoawards.com.

For airtimes and more information on The Wedding Belles, visit shaw.ca/shawtv/vancouver/theweddingbelles, and The Proposal, visit shaw.ca/theproposal.


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