Charles Officer – Biography
(December 3, 2023 – Toronto, ON) Growing up, Toronto-born Charles Officer wanted to be an architect. He focused on sculpting during his foundation year at the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD), but he had always been active in sports and left OCAD to play professional hockey in the UK. Upon being picked in the draft by the Calgary Flames, Officer moved from England to Salt Lake City to play for a Flames’ farm team. While there he developed tendinitis in his wrist, and after a brief stay with a minor league team in Canada he concluded that the NHL was not in his future and he quit the game altogether. He returned to OCAD to complete his studies and had a brief career as a designer and creative director for a major Toronto ad agency.
During his second stint at OCAD, Officer saw an ad for acting classes on a school bulletin board. Intrigued but lacking confidence, he waited two years before he went to study at New York City’s Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre. It was there he wrote his first dramatic short, When Morning Comes, about a drug-addicted father and his young son. He applied for a grant from the Ontario Arts Council, and with $5,000 he produced, directed and starred in the film, which premiered at TIFF 2000.
His film training continued at the Canadian Film Centre where he completed the Directors Lab in 2002. His second short, Short Hymn_Silent War, which he directed and co-wrote, received a special jury citation at TIFF 2002 and a Genie Award nomination for best live-action short in 2004. Critic Tom McSorley wrote in Take One: Film in Canada that Short Hymn_Silent War “is a work of considerable accomplishment and originality.”
The shorts Pop Song and Urda/Bone, a music video for K’naan and the pilot for the British series Hotel Babylon followed. He also directed episodes of ‘Da Kink In My Hair. As an actor, he appeared in Clement Virgo’s Love Come Down, Anais Granofsky’s On Their Knees and The Limb Salesman and he had a recurring role in the American crime drama The Eleventh Hour. Officer’s first feature, Nurse.Fighter.Boy, was inspired by his sister’s battle with sickle cell anemia. The film stars Clark Johnson as a disenchanted boxer and street brawler. He plays opposite Karen LeBlanc as the nurse, and 12-year-old Daniel J. Gordon as the boy, a minor hockey player. It was shot over 23 days with a hand-held camera in Toronto and released theatrically in 2009. It garnered 10 Genie nominations, including best director and best original screenplay by Officer and producer Ingrid Veninger, and won the best song award.
In 2009, Officer began production on a NFB feature documentary on Harry Jerome. Premiering at the Vancouver International Film Festival in 2010, Mighty Jerome: The Greatest Comeback in Track & Field History explores the rise, fall and redemption of the Saskatchewan-born sprinter, the first North American to equal the 10-second mark in the 100-metre dash. Officer was given a honourary mention at the 2011 Hot Docs festival and Mighty Jerome won the 2012 Northwest Regional Emmy Award.
Officer directed two short films for the cross-platform project City Sonic. He, along with six other directors, including Peter Lynch and Bruce McDonald, shot 20 short films about Toronto musicians and the places where their musical lives were transformed. He completed Fuelled by Passion: The Return of the Jets, a 2011 one-hour documentary produced by the CBC about the Winnipeg Jets return to the NHL. Charles also directed the one-hour TSN documentary The Stone Thrower, commissioned by CTV to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the CFL. It tells the story of how Chuck Ealey went from the projects of Portsmouth, Ohio, to becoming the first African-American quarterback to win the CFL Grey Cup for the Hamilton Ti-Cats.
Charles Officer was an award-winning director, producer, writer and performer and a creative force behind Canadian films and series including Akilla’s Escape, The Porter, Coroner, and many more. He was 48 when he died in Toronto on December 1, 2023.
Also see: Charles Officer’s filmography.