(b. January 1, 1947 Toronto, Ontario)
Peter O’Brian, whose films have won nineteen Genie Awards, has built a reputation as a fiercely independent producer who is willing to take risks with first-time feature directors. His company, Independent Pictures Inc., has produced two classic Canadian films that have earned the Best Picture Genie: Phillip Borsos’s splendid The Grey Fox (1982) and Sandy Wilson’s sweetly nostalgic My American Cousin (1985).
After spending his early years in England, O’Brian moved back to Toronto at age twelve. He briefly attended the University of Toronto and, in the interest of attending a film school, went to Emerson College in Boston, from which he graduated in 1969 with a double major in mass communications and film. He returned to Toronto and began working as an assistant director and production manager for several years while developing scripts to produce.
O’Brian’s career as a producer began in 1975 with the Dan Aykroyd vehicle Love at First Sight. In 1977, he founded Independent Pictures Inc. and continued producing features, including Paul Lynch’s Blood & Guts (1978) and David Cronenberg’s Fast Company (1979). He was also the associate producer of Richard Benner’s cult hit Outrageous! (1978).
O’Brian – who has described his career as "a mission to help create a popular home cinema based on stories and characters which, without ambiguity, reflect our own aspirations and experiences, our own spirit and way of life"– took a sabbatical from producing in the early nineties to run the Canadian Film Centre for its first three years and then became a producer-in-residence there and later Executive Producer of the Feature Film Programme. Upon his return to filmmaking, he produced what turned out to be Borsos’s last film, Far from Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog (1995).
O’Brian made his directorial debut in 2003 with Hollywood North, a satire about a Canadian producer trying to make a movie during the tax shelter years. The film’s premier at the Toronto International Film Festival® garnered a boisterous response.
Film and video work includes
Me, 1974 (co-producer with Christopher Dalton)
Love at First Sight, 1976 (producer)
Blood & Guts, 1978 (producer)
Fast Company, 1979 (co-producer with Michael Lebowitz and Courtney Smith)
One Magic Christmas, 1985 (producer)
Milk and Honey, 1988 (producer)
Far from Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog, 1995 (producer)
The Art of Woo, 2001 (executive producer)
Hollywood North, 2003 (director; co-executive producer with Aniz Manji, Mark Thomas and Paul Weber)