Ciccoritti, Jerry

Jerry Ciccoritti, director (b at Toronto 5 Aug 1956). Jerry Ciccoritti, the son of Italian immigrants, grew up in Toronto's Little Italy. He is one of Canada's most prolific directors, dividing his time between television and film work. While still a high-school student in 1979, he was one of three original founders of BUDDIES IN BAD TIMES Theatre.

Ciccoritti entered film studies at York University in the early 1980s but believed he would learn more about filmmaking by working in the industry. After working for Toronto-based PF Productions, he formed his own company with partner Robert Bergman. Inspired by the company's financial success and the video boom of the mid- to late 1980s, they jumped into feature film production with the ultra-low-budget horror film Psycho Girls (1985). The thriller deals in mistaken identities and psychotic killers running amok, but boasts an unconventional narrative - the film is narrated by a dead man - and a wry awareness of pop culture.

Before it was completed, Psycho Girls was sold to a production company that specialized in exploitation and genre cinema. In negotiating the sale, Ciccoritti relinquished creative control over the film. Creative freedom and control over projects would become an ongoing motif in his feature-filmmaking career. When one of English Canada's most prominent producers, Robert LANTOS, offered him a million-dollar budget to make Paris, France, Ciccoritti initially refused, explaining, "My fear is that once you give me more money, I'm going to have to be a good boy and I'll tame the material."

Ciccoritti's film work has included forays into a number of genres - from low-budget horror movies, to explorations of the sexual demimonde as in Paris, France (1993), to quasi-musicals/romances like Boy Meets Girl (1998). He has frequently explored forbidden or controversial terrain. The urban drama The Life Before This (1999) is a meditation on fate and desire and was inspired by an infamous shooting in the 1990s in Toronto. The film features some of Canada's most celebrated performers, including Sarah POLLEY and Catherine O'HARA, who won a GENIE AWARD for her performance in this fragmented tale about the lives of several people intersecting on one particularly eventful day.

A lower-budget project, Ciccoritti's feature-length film Blood (2004) was shot on digital video. An adaptation of Toronto writer Tom WALMSLEY's play, the character-driven film focuses on two siblings, both former addicts, engaged in a cat-and-mouse game. Featuring exceptional performances by Emily Hampshire and Jacob Tierney, Blood is one of Ciccoritti's most critically lauded works.

Ciccoritti began directing episodic television regularly in the early 1990s. He worked on long-running series like Forever Knight, Highlander and Due South, and he would later direct episodes of La Femme Nikita, Made in Canada and ReGenesis. He has won seven Gemini Awards for best director as well as critical praise for his television work, which is distinguished by a visual sophistication rare in the field.

Ciccoritti is best known for big-ticket mini-series and movies of the week like Net Worth (1995), Chasing Cain (2001) and Chasing Cain II (2002), Lives of the Saints (2004) and Shania: A Life in 8 Albums (2005). Many of his television movies and mini-series deal with seminal issues or figures in Canadian history, most notably Trudeau (2002), about one of the country's most influential prime ministers, and The Many Trials of One Jane Doe (2000), about a woman who successfully sued the Toronto police force for covering up the existence of a rapist in her neighbourhood. Ciccoritti has also developed several successful television series, including Cat Walk (1992) and Straight Up (1996).

Ciccoritti is known as an actors' director, evident in the manner in which he has worked with and helped develop young talent, most notably actors like Tierney and Hampshire.