A 1984 graduate of Tufts University, Gary Winick quickly moved into filmmaking as a full-time vocation, placing a stronger emphasis on producing than on directing. He earned M.F.A. degrees from both the American Film Institute and the University of Texas at Austin, then jump-started his career by helming and producing low-budget, direct-to-video efforts for such houses as Roger Corman's New World Pictures and Concrete -- including the 1998 Curfew and the 1990 Out of the Rain. These projects drew little attention, but Winick's fortunes started to shift with the 1996 Sweet Nothing -- an appropriately grueling parable about drug addiction that featured an early Michael Imperioli and Mira Sorvino, which netted favorable remarks from such respected critics as Roger Ebert and Barbara Shulgasser. Winick unveiled his genre versatility by teaming up with writer/star Polly Draper (thirtysomething) and Gregory Hines to direct the family-themed ensemble drama The Tic Code, starring Gregory Hines; while the film was produced in 1998, it wasn't released until two years later.
Alongside his directing career, Winick also made impressive advances on a business end, founding an all-digital production company in 1999, InDigEnt. With the digital format substantially driving the cost of filmmaking down, Winick was able to turn out offbeat, profitable indie films right and left with a who's who of stars -- such an extensive list of films, in fact, that his resumé over the following decade reads like a laundry list of important American independent features. Personal Velocity: Three Portraits (2001), Eric Bogosian: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee (2001), Pieces of April (2003), and Starting Out in the Evening (2007), to name only a few, all bore Winick's producing credit.
As a director, Winick made a much bigger splash in the indie film world in 2002 with his drama Tadpole, about a 15-year-old intellectual prep-school student (Aaron Stanford) who sets out to seduce his stepmother (Sigourney Weaver) but winds up attracting the attention of her best friend (Bebe Neuwirth). Winick won the directing award for the film that year at the Sundance Film Festival. For his next movie, he entered the mainstream Hollywood market with 13 Going on 30 (2004), starring Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo, about a 13-year-old who wakes up one day in a 30-year-old body after wishing she could just skip the trials of adolescence and move straight to adulthood. Winick next continued with Hollywood moviemaking, but switched to family films with the star-studded live-action adaptation Charlotte's Web (2006) for Paramount, Nickelodeon, and Walden Media.
He then tried his hand at television work, directing a 2007 episode of the popular comedy drama Ugly Betty and the 2008 pilot of Candace Bushnell's Lipstick Jungle, starring Brooke Shields. The next year witnessed Winick helming the romantic comedy Bride Wars. With a cast featuring Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway, and a script co-authored by SNL contributor Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael, the movie concerns best friends who enter crisis mode when they discover that they've both accidentally scheduled their weddings for the same day.
This all seemed to suggest that years of additional success lay ahead for Winick, but tragically, that was not to be. He died of brain cancer at the relatively young age of 49, in late February 2011 - just prior to his 50th birthday.