Born on Valentine’s Day in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Mark Lutz grew up the eldest of four children in a very close-knit family.
An athletic youth, participating in hockey, baseball, horseback riding and soccer, it was Lutz’s love of all things aquatic that lead him into competitive swimming. His natural affinity and talent in the water saw him breaking Canadian age group swimming records at an early age. While preparing to enter high school, Lutz’s father was transferred to Hong Kong and the family made the move. Lutz spent the majority of his high school years there, in what he describes as “an irreplaceable life experience.”
Rivaling his love for swimming was his passion for comedy and performing. Lutz explored his creative designs by writing, directing and acting in short films and radio plays. While Lutz knew that acting would ultimately be his career path, he chose to pursue a B.A. Honours degree in political science, specializing in international relations at the University of Guelph. According to Lutz, "Because I was lucky enough to grow up, in part, in such a cosmopolitan city as Hong Kong, I made friends from all over the world. That whole experience really opened my eyes to so many different cultures and points of view that my interest in international politics seemed like a natural progression...well, that and the fact that I was always really good at writing essays.” Lutz continued to pursue a swimming career while at university, being named MVP of the swim team and competing at the Canadian Olympic trials. His swimming career was cut short however, when his shoulder blew out, leading to a number of operations that left him with nothing more than a "dandy scar”. It was a tough break that he still seems wistful about today.
Upon graduation, Lutz began pursuing his acting career. He trained at Toronto’s famed Second City and enjoyed successful stints at some of Toronto’s local improv comedy venues. After making the move into film and television, Lutz was first introduced to Canadian audiences as the Finnish hockey superstar, Jukka “Brainiac” Branny-Acke, in CTV's Power Play. However, he is probably best known for his role as the hugely popular ‘Groosalugg’ or ‘Groo’, on the hit WB series Angel.
Additional credits include appearances in the hit television series and films, Friends, E.R., Twins, What About Brian, Dick, La Femme Nikita, Queer as Folk, The Facts of Life Reunion, as well as the BBC’s The Saturday Show.
Lutz recently began his first professional foray into writing screenplays penning the inspirational and yet tragic, true-life story of the late Canadian Olympic swimming champion, Victor Davis. A childhood swimming hero to Lutz, the result was the aptly titled – VICTOR.
Ron Lea was born in Montreal and did his classical training at The National Theatre School, in the same graduating class as Colm Feore and Ann Marie McDonald. Theatre credits at Montreal’s The Centaur Theatre alone include Extremities, Fire, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Caucasian Chalk Circle, The Chain and Observe The Sons of Ulster. Additional theatre credits include One Eyed Kings and True West at The Tarragon and George F. Walker’s Adult Entertainment at The Factory.
Lea relocated to Toronto from Montreal with his wife and twin daughters in 1988 and has since had an impressive film and television career working in French and English in both cities. Film credits include starring in Criminal opposite Gary Oldman and Kevin Bacon, with Kevin Costner in The Gunrunner and with Al Pacino in The Recruit and Colin Farell in Home at the End of the World, as well as Canadian classics such as Cherry Docs, Anonymous and Jésus de Montreal. Lea received his first Gemini nomination for Best Lead Actor in Mortimer and Shalinsky, in which he played opposite Paul Soles. Lea recently appeared in the 20th Century Fox feature The Sentinel with Michael Douglas and Kim Bassinger and in Bon Cop/Bad Cop with Colm Feore.
Lea’s prolific TV series credits include roles on The Practice and Diagnosis Murder, Wind At My Back, Catwalk, Live Through This and Doc as well appearing as a series regular on Street Legal and Omerta—receiving a Best Supporting Actor Gemini nomination for both. Lea recently had lead roles on CBC’s This Is Wonderland and the French series Casino.
A native of Kingston, Ontario, raised in Aylmer, Quebec, Polly Shannon began acting with the “Grimes Road Kids”, a small theatre group run by her mother, a scriptwriter for children’s television. When Shannon was 13, she ventured into modelling but soon turned her attention back to acting when she made her television debut on the popular children’s series Are You Afraid Of The Dark?.
Since then, Shannon has amassed over 50 credits on the big and small screens. She earned a Canadian Comedy Award nomination for her performance in the successful feature film Men With Brooms, directed by and starring Paul Gross; and Gemini Award nominations for her outstanding performances in the television movies The Girl Next Door and The Sheldon Kennedy Story.
Also for television, Shannon played the pivotal role of ‘Margaret Sinclair’ opposite Colm Feore in Jerry Ciccoritti’s multi award-winning mini-series Trudeau. She played recurring roles on Street Time, Leap Years, Sue Thomas F.B. Eye, and Nikita; and has had guest turns on several popular series including Wild Card, Puppets Who Kill, Jeremiah, Doc, Twice In A Lifetime, PSI Factor, Code Name Eternity, The Hunger, The Outer Limits, Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict and Due South. Shannon recently starred opposite Tom Selleck in a series of MOWs for CBS based on Robert Parker’s novels.
Shannon’s big screen credits include the independent features Lie With Me, directed by Clement Virgo; Sidney J. Furie’s Direct Action; and Denys Arcand’s Love And Human Remains; Disney’s Frankenstein & Me; and Paul Lynch’s action thriller No Contest.
Chris Owens is a Toronto-born actor best known for his regular role as ‘Agent Jeffrey Spender’ on The X-Files, where he also appeared as the Young Cigarette-Smoking Man and the Great Mutato. His work on The X-Files garnered a Sag Award nomination for ‘Outstanding Drama Ensemble’. His wealth of television experience includes Blue Murder, The Associates, Mutant X, Stargate, Millennium, The Grid, Mayday and PSI Factor. Work for the CBC includes This Is Wonderland, Street Legal, Mayor of Odessa, Top Cops and 9 B.
In 2002, Owens received a Genie Award nomination for ‘Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role’ for his part in the Canadian Film Centre feature film The Uncles. In the film he portrays a first-generation Canadian-born son of an Italian family in Toronto’s College Street Italian community. Owens received a Dora Award nomination for ‘Outstanding Performance’ for his role in the John Patrick Shanley play, Italian American Reconcilliation.
Owens studied drama at the University of Toronto, the Herbert Berghof Studio in New York and Theatreworks in Toronto.
Peter MacNeill’s recent feature film credits include Cinderella Man with Russell Crowe and the David Cronenberg film A History of Violence opposite Viggo Mortensen. He appeared in Kevin Costner’s feature Open Range, with Costner, Robert Duvall and Annette Bening, and in John Smith’s Geraldine’s Fortune, opposite Jane Curtin. In 1997 MacNeill received a 1997 Genie Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as ‘Whiskey Mac’ in Thom Fitzgerald’s The Hanging Garden. Among his other big screen credits are Who Is Cletis Tout? with Christian Slater and Richard Dreyfuss; The Caveman’s Valentine, featuring Samuel L. Jackson; Violet opposite Mary Walsh; Frequency with Dennis Quaid; Simon Birch, based on a John Irving novel; and David Cronenberg’s Crash with Holly Hunter and James Spader. MacNeill appeared in the thriller The Marsh with Forest Whitaker and recently completed work on the upcoming feature film Talk To Me starring Don Cheadle.
On television, MacNeill has a recurring role on the new CW series Runaway starring Donnie Wahlberg as Wahlberg’s father. He recently completed The House Next Door for Lifetime and the six-part CBC series North/South. MacNeill appeared the CBC movie Heyday! written and directed by Gordon Pinsent as well as the CBC mini-series H2O, written by and starring Paul Gross. In 2003, he won a Gemini Award as Best Supporting Actor for his work on The Eleventh Hour. MacNeill earned a 1994 Gemini Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Gross Misconduct, a television movie directed by Atom Egoyan; and again, in 1998 for his role in Penelope Buitenhuis’ Giant Mine. His extensive list of television credits includes the popular series Queer as Folk, Framed with Rob Lowe and Sam Neill; Blue Moon; Sturla Gunnarson’s Dangerous Evidence: The Lori Jackson Story; Deep in My Heart with Gloria Reuben and Anne Bancroft; the fact-based Long Island Incident; and My Own Country with Marisa Tomei. He also appeared in Storm of the Century, a mini-series based on the book by Stephen King. Among his many episodic credits are recurring roles on the series Traders and PSI Factor
A graduate of Osgoode Law School, Bernard Zukerman spent ten years producing and directing documentaries that won numerous international awards.
He turned his attention to drama and his first film, And Then You Die (1986), a realistic and gritty profile of underworld drug dealing, won five Gemini Awards and numerous prizes at international film festivals. His next film Skate (1987) won the Gemini for Best Canadian TV Movie as did his third film, The Squamish Five (1988),
These successes were followed by Love and Hate: The Story of Colin and Joann Thatcher (1990). It won five Gemini Awards, numerous international prizes and was the single most watched entertainment program of the year. Love and Hate was the first foreign program ever sold to an American network and when NBC telecast it in the summer of 1991, it topped the audience charts and finished number one for the week. His next mini-series, Conspiracy of Silence, was telecast on the CBC to much acclaim in the fall of 1991. It was purchased by CBS and when it was telecast in the United States in August 1992 it was yet another critical and commercial success. It finished as the highest-ranked movie and CBS’s number one program for both weeks it aired. Both these mini-series were also sold to every major network in the world.
Dieppe followed and is recognized as CBC Television’s most ambitious project to date. Dieppe aired in January 1994 on CBC and as both a commercial and critical success and was also sold around the world.
Million Dollar Babies premiered on CBC and CBS Television in November 1994, marking the first time CBS Television pre-licensed a Canadian production. It was the highest rated entertainment program of the season on CBC and helped CBS win the November sweeps. Prior to telecast, this four-hour mini-series had been virtually sold around the world.
Net Worth, a two-hour TV movie, aired in November 1995 to much acclaim. The Sleep Room a four-hour mini-series aired on CBC in January 1998. Both productions won Gemini Awards as movies of the year. These were followed by another mini-series called Revenge of the Land for CBC and CBS.
Heart: The Marilyn Bell Story was telecast by the CBC in February 2001and was the highest rated movie of the year. That was followed by Chasing Cain, which was also telecast by the CBC in April 2001.
Zukerman has since produced The Investigation for CTV, The Many Trials of One Jane Doe for CBC, Chasing Cain II: Face for CBC and Savage Messiah for Showcase, TMN & Series +. The latter network enjoyed the highest ratings ever in its history with the picture's broadcast. It also enjoyed a theatrical release within the province of Quebec and went on to win it's opening weekend.
Zukerman's most recent projects include Dangerous Acquaintances: The Life and Death of Nancy Eaton for CTV, and the first two seasons of the series This is Wonderland, for CBC; the third season is currently in production. The independent feature, Niagara Motel, starring Kevin Pollack and Craig Ferguson, will be released in theatres later this year.
Zukerman’s reputation for delivering quality movies and mini-series to both the American and International marketplace is unparalleled. His company, Indian Grove Production Limited, is currently developing and producing a number of movies and mini-series for the global market.
One of Canada’s most provocative directors, Jerry Ciccoritti has directed feature films, television movies and mini-series, and garnered accolades in all mediums over the course of his career. His features have consistently been invited to film festivals throughout the world and, in television, he has been awarded a Gemini for Best Film, seven Geminis for Best Director, three Directors Guild of Canada Awards and a Genie nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
A second-generation Italian-Canadian, Jerry has always made telling Canadian stories, particularly stories that reflect issues of the immigrant experience in Canada, a career priority. Ciccoritti has directed biographies of some of our most influential and inspiring citizens, including the critically acclaimed Trudeau mini-series. With Trudeau, Ciccoritti made exciting and dynamic television about a Canadian for Canadians, and changed the face of homegrown television in the process. In the recent past he directed the adaptation of the beloved novel Lives of the Saints, recounting the personal story of an Italian family that immigrated to Canada; the harrowing true story of a woman’s fight for justice in The Many Trials of One Jane Doe; a true account of the murder of Nancy Eaton; the emotional bio-pic Shania Twain: A Life in Eight Albums and the television movie Murder in the Hamptons, a film which broadcast to record numbers in the US. Ciccoritti recently completed work ..on Boys, a four-hour dramatic mini-series for the CBC dramatizing the real life conflict of Asian gang violence in the streets of Vancouver, again focusing his lens on the displacement of the immigrant experience, and solidifying his place as ‘Canada’s visual biographer.’ Dragon Boys features a cast of some of China and Canada’s most accomplished actors including Eric Tsang, Tzi Mah, Byron Mann and Jean Yoon. It will air on CBC in January 2007.
Ciccoritti first began working in film in his 20’s, writing and directing low-budget indie horror films including Psycho Girls and Graveyard Shift I and II establishing himself as a genre cult figure.
Ciccoritti turned his hand to television in the early 90’s, where he quickly earned critical acclaim and awards working on projects including The Hitchhiker, La Femme Nikita, Catwalk, Due South, and the groundbreaking mini-series Straight Up I and II. It was his work on television movies, however, that brought him the greatest degree of recognition. Ciccoritti was awarded Gemini Awards for Best Direction for Net Worth (1997), Chasing Cain I: Vows (2001), Trudeau (2002) and The Many Trials of One Jane Doe (2003).
While honing his distinctive style in television, Ciccoritti continued making feature films such as the controversial Paris, France (1993), a box-office hit and included in the collection “The 50 Most Erotic Films of All Time”. His 1999 feature The Life Before This was selected for the Toronto and Berlin film festivals and earned Catherine O’Hara a Genie Award as Best Supporting Actress. Boy Meets Girl (1998), which also premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, was named Best Film at the Cologne Film Festival.
In 2004 Ciccoritti brought a very personal film, Blood, adapted from the stage play of the same name, to the Toronto International Film Festival. A highly experimental work that challenges notions of singular perception and truth, Blood became a festival favourite, won him a Genie nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay and, most recently won him a Directors Guild of Canada award nomination for Best Achievement in Direction for a feature film.
Alongside his nomination for Blood, the Directors Guild also nominated Ciccoritti for Best Achievement in Direction in the TV movie/mini-series category, for Lives of the Saints. It was the first time Ciccoritti has been nominated for television and feature film simultaneously; a very fitting acknowledgement for a man who has worked so fluidly in both mediums.
Director of Photography Gerald Packer’s previous collaborations with director Jerry Ciccoritti include the feature film Blood as well as the CBC television movies Chasing Cain, Chasing Cain: Face and The Many Trials of One Jane Doe.
His many feature film credits include the 2003 Canadian feature Twist, Jacob Two Two Meets the Hooded Fang, Painted Angels, Swann, Willing Voyeur, Conquest, Reluctant Angel, H and the documentary Brakhage. He was also one of the cinematographers on the feature film Owning Mahowny starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Minnie Driver and John Hurt.
On the small screen, Packer’s credits include the television movies Terry, Getting Along Famously, Society’s Child, Hangman, The Ride, Vows, External Affairs, More Tears, Survivors, the mini-series I Was a Rat and the television series This Is Wonderland, The Atwood Stories and The Zack Files. Packer’s mark is also on the acclaimed documentary Carry Me Home: The Story and Music of the Nathaniel Dett Chorale, which won the Canada Award at the 2003 Gemini Awards for excellence in mainstream television programming that reflects the racial and cultural diversity of Canada. Packer, the DOP co-directed with Liam Romalis.
A graduate of Ryerson University, Packer says, “Part of our craft is to take responsibility not only for the images and look of the shows that we work on, but also for the types of projects that we select. I think it’s important for us to make stories for Canadians about Canadians.”
Production designer Peter Emmink has over 25 years of experience in various phases of design, drafting and construction in relation to the conceptual and creative design in film, television and theatre production. His credits as production designer include the award-winning CBC series This Is Wonderland and the made for television movie Deacons for Defense starring Forest Whitaker which won the Black Reel Award for Best Picture among several others.
As an art director, Emmink recently completed the feature films Fugitive Pieces directed by Jeremy Podeswa and the crime thriller One Way. Additional film credits include Snow Cake, Cake and Who Is Cletis Tout? among others. Emmink’s many television credits as art director include the mini-series The Grid, the movies Cradle Will Fall, Soldier’s Girl, On Hostile Ground and the series A Nero Wolfe Mystery and Leap Years.