Holly Carinci’s goal is to create the equivalent of the Oscars for video games, animation, and visual effects. The Saskatoon-born former publicist is the founder and producer of the Elan Awards, whose third annual show will take place on April 25 at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. This year’s ceremony could mark the last time the awards are handed out in the city. Carinci may move the event to Los Angeles next year.
In 2006, the first Elans recognized the achievements of the Canadian video-game and animation industries. Last year, the second annual Elan Awards introduced four international categories. Now, the awards have expanded to include visual effects and are “100-percent international”, according to Carinci.
Tom Kenny, the voice of the title character in the animated television series SpongeBob SquarePants, will host the show. Fable II, Fallout 3, Gears of War 2, and Left 4 Dead are nominated for video game of the year. For the first time, the public can buy tickets ($225) to attend the event, which will include a champagne reception, dinner, and an after-party.
Carinci spoke to the Georgia Straight by cellphone from West Vancouver.
Why did you found the Elan Awards?
Having been a personal publicist, I had a background in video games and animation through my voiceover clients, and I saw the need for a show—period. Didn’t want to do just video games; didn’t think that was wise. I could already see convergence coming.
Why have you added visual-effects categories to the awards?
Again, because of the growth in the three industries, I really, really want to stay ahead and bring the best that I can together. Those three...they’re starting to dish out to each other, where they used to do it all in-house....My idea was, well, this is how they’re doing—and it’s really almost becoming a whole, another new industry—so I wanted to bring the three of them together underneath the same roof. They’re tied in so closely together now, and nobody was doing that.
How are the winners chosen?
I’m very proud of that. I put out a call for judges, and there’s a list of qualifications. Number one is they must be professionals; they must be industry professionals. We put together panels of judges depending on their areas of expertise. If they are video-game directors, then they will judge best video game director. There are five judges, and—it’s a little complicated, so I’m trying to make this easier for you—they come from all around the world. They do not sit in a room together. It’s done remotely, and by jury. In other words, the four final nominees must be unanimous by all five, so that we do not get one big powerful company, with a lot of judges out there, getting nominated. It cannot happen. So, I’m pretty pleased with that. Then the five jurors—now that they have their decision on their four nominees—individually, privately, and secretly send in their individual ballots for the winner out of their panel’s four nominees to the auditor.
Why is there a chance the show might move to another city next year?
What I need to take the show to the next level doesn’t exist here. We don’t have the infrastructure in place here at all. Every year, really it’s been important—on behalf of the industry too—that the show keeps up with them. They grow so fast. Next year has to be another big move, and I wouldn’t be able to pull it off here.
Where do you see the show in five years?
Oh, definitely the new Oscars. No joke. I’m determined. Trust me—it better be. It’s been a lot of sacrifice. I’ll just expand on that a tiny little bit. The Academy Awards and the Oscars—I’m feeling sad—there’s a loss of interest in them, et cetera. I think that they’re imperative; I think they’re really important; and I really hope to see them grow. There is a new dominant entertainment industry now—it’s going to be twice the size of music next year—and that’s video games. So, with movies as the third industry, and video games twice as big as the second industry, they’ve got to be Oscars—have to be. So, we’ve got three years plus shaping it that way.
How does the show make money?
It doesn’t. Honest to God, it doesn’t. Every dime we bring in through sponsorship, submissions’ fees—every thing goes right back into the company and pays its expenses. That’s how it works.
What’s your favourite video game?
I don’t have one. Are you ready for this? I don’t play video games. All my video-game friends and CEOs and GMs just can’t believe that. But, no, I know their industry. I understand it. I do not play video games. I just don’t. I think it’s helped a lot, because I’m so unbiased. I just have such a kind of more pure admiration for their art but don’t have a clue which button to push to make what jump or go sideways—not a clue.
Every Friday, Geek Speak catches up with someone in Vancouver’s technology sector, video-game industry, or social-media scene. Who should we interview next? Tell Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.