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'Representation matters,' says fans' choice winner Elise Bauman of 'Carmilla'

Last Updated Mar 12, 2018 at 4:00 pm EST

Elise Bauman, the winner of the 2018 Cogeco Audience Choice Award, poses backstage at the Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto on Sunday March 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power

TORONTO – Of all the nominees for the fans’ choice trophy at this year’s Canadian Screen Awards — a list that included prominent TV stars Yannick Bisson and Helene Joy of the CBC’s “Murdoch Mysteries,” and Daniel Levy of “Schitt’s Creek” — it was a web star who took the title for the second year in a row.

Elise Bauman of the Canadian web series “Carmilla” won the Cogeco Fund Audience Choice Award, a year after her co-star Natasha Negovanlis took the title.

With a fervent worldwide fanbase and over 71 million views on YouTube channel KindaTV, “Carmilla” stars Bauman as a university student and avid vlogger whose new dorm roommate turns out to be a lesbian vampire, played by Negovanlis.

The series, inspired by the classic gothic vampire novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, launched in August 2014 and has been extended into a “Carmilla” movie that was released last fall.

Bauman said part of the reason for the show’s success is that the story speaks to marginalized groups — in this case, a vampire who needs to hide in the dark and not fit into society and know her place in it.

“I think a lot of young, queer kids have felt like that in their lifetime,” she said.

In her acceptance speech on Sunday, Bauman credited fans for being “vocal about what positive queer representation meant to you.”

And she encouraged them to continue spreading the word about projects that have “inclusive representation” to their network of friends, “to prove that diverse stories will have a large and dedicated audience.”

“Representation matters, especially a show that I’m in, which caters to such a young audience,” Bauman said backstage Sunday after accepting her trophy. “Having them be able to see people that they look up to win something like this, and in the ranks with a lot of other wonderful Canadian stars here — it means a lot to them.”

Producer Shaftesbury says the series “boasts one of the most engaged fandoms in the world, particularly with the global queer community.” A primetime series is now in development.

“I think we’re starting to recognize the power of digital media,” Bauman said.

“With digital media, you’re able to create and tell the stories that you really want to be telling and people connect with that, and that’s what we should be working towards.”

“Carmilla” fans call themselves “Creampuffs,” in reference to a line in the series.

“Our web series was seen in … 193 countries worldwide, and (fans are) able make friends in other areas of the world,’ she said. “When we do fan events, a lot of the times we hear people who meet their best friend at an event or through watching the series, so I think there’s something in there.”

The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, which puts on the Canadian Screen Awards, said another web series star was in the top 3 for this year’s fans choice award — Jade Hassoune of “That’s My DJ.”

“He was a write-in (suggestion). He wasn’t even one of the people that was on our radar that we started out with 10 people,” said academy CEO Beth Janson.

“To me, that’s like a wake-up call for every media company in our country. These are the people that fans care about, that those millennials, those cord cutters that they’re trying to reach — these are the people they care about.

“They’re a force and our traditional industries would do well to embrace that force.”