We would like to discuss with our community the issue of registration deadlines and exceptions.
The Jessies board, committee members, and juries have all volunteered to do this work because we want to serve and support Vancouver theatre. It is important to us to ensure that the awards are sustainable and meaningful.
For the awards to be meaningful, they must be inclusive and represent our local professional industry. They must be held to a standard of excellence. They must be tabulated fairly. All applicants must have an equal chance.
To be sustainable they must not require “too much” time or effort from those involved: board, committee members, juries, or producers, otherwise we will quickly run out of people willing to do this work. We must also have financially sustainable budgets.
Because of this, we often find ourselves in positions where it feels as though we must pit one value against the other: do we make an exception for the sake of inclusivity, while violating equal treatment? Do we add demand to the juries or exclude a production?
In the past, the Jessies has done whatever it could to allow any production to be eligible, regardless of when it registered – so long as we could get the jury out, we would “make it work” as best we could.
While we loved the ability to celebrate as many productions as possible, there was a cost:
- Jury Load:
- Last minute shows are hard for juries to fit into their schedule.
- Just the request and attempt to fit in a last minute show has been cited as causing significant stress for jurors.
- Juries were burning out and it was growing more and more difficult to find and retain volunteers. (It was referred to as “torture” by more than one observer at various times in the past.)
- Integrity of Nominees/Awards
- While our accounting of nominees and winners takes attendance into account, the fact is that less-than-perfect attendance creates some unavoidable skewing in the tabulation. In order to make nominations and wins as meaningful as possible, we need to ensure as close to perfect attendance as possible.
Because of this, a few years ago, one JRC Co-Chair spearheaded a “no exceptions” rule for the registration deadline. We chose to implement this as a trial to see if it made a difference.
The 2015-2016 season, with its influx of new board and JRC members, as well as widely-attended Town Hall Meeting, reinforced this decision:
- Juries confirmed the theory that barring late registrations significantly lightened their load, both objectively and subjectively.
- Attendance improved.
- Equality of access was raised as a new reason, important to the integrity of the awards.
- Often, the companies that attempted late registrations or appeals were “known” to members of the JRC or board, showing a potential systemic bias in who would get to be considered for exceptions.
- It was pointed out that companies who aren’t “in the know” would likely just not apply if they saw they missed the deadline, creating another opportunity for systemic barrier to access.
- Concerns about equal access were reiterated, with the suggestion from new eyes (on the board and off) that the only way to remove this particular systemic bias was to treat all companies equally with deadlines.
This moved the board to maintain the strict policy with regards to the deadline, with the exception of allowing a “grace period” after the required lead time was significantly increased.
There have been a few recent instances of companies being turned down due to late registrations. While this has certainly catalyzed this discussion, we would like to look at it more broadly, for the community and the awards as a whole.
With the above-stated issues in mind, do you think the Jessies should allow for exceptions to late registrations?
If yes, what specific types of circumstances would you consider valid reasons for allowing late registrations?
If no, what factors should influence providing an exception?
Please consider the following factors, that have been frequently presented to us in appeals:
- Track record of nominations/awards
- Track record of professionalism in the community
- Track record of being an inclusive/diverse producer
- The importance of the story being told
- The fact that it is a collective and the individual artists’ resources are on the line
- They did not know about the deadline
- A major upheaval happened to the company (eg: loss of a staff member, loss of funding)
- Demonstrable community support for the company and/or production
- A “near miss” on the deadline
- An offer to pay a “late fee” in order to still be eligible
Please email the JRC at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know your thoughts on this. We are open to altering our policy on this, we simply want to ensure that all factors are considered in making this decision.