Neal Livingston: Profile

Neal Livingston is an award winning independent filmmaker. He produces documentary films for television broadcast on a wide variety of topics, from the political to the personal to the humorous. He has been producing films for more than 35 years since the age of twelve, and lives on the west coast of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia.

His most recent film is Rudy Hasse completed in 2007 after 3 years in the making. It is a biography about Canada's great unknown environmentalist, Rudy Haase, who turns 85 in 2007. One Day (2002) a September 11th story. It is an experimental documentary dealing with the events of the tragedy in New York City. The filmmakers dialogue is about visiting New York City before and after the disaster-with footage taken years ago in the World Trade Centre, at the end of September 2001, and in January 2002. One Day received a Honourable Mention award at the Earthvision 2003 Festival in Santa Cruz, California. A recent endeavor is a new media project called Junky Old Stuff. Livingston is also a photographer whose art prints are available from where his photo biography is also available.

Since 1978 Neal Livingston has produced a collection of award winning, hard hitting political documentaries on environmental issues:

  • Rudy Haase (2002), a biography about Canada's great unknown environmental and social activist.

  • The Battle At Our Shores (2001), documenting the fight against the first inshore Oil and gas permits in Canada.

  • Toxic Partners (1999), narrated by David Suzuki, is a documentary about two communities, Sydney, Cape Breton and Fort Valley, Georgia, with toxic waste sites and the human suffering caused by this pollution.

  • Cape Breton Endangered Spaces (1990), a video shot from the air in Cape Breton documenting massive clear-cutting of old growth forests.

  • Herbicide Trials (1984), the famous and controversial film, about the social, political, legal, and environmental battle against the aerial spraying of herbicides on Cape Breton's forests.

  • Budworks (1978), a film against aerial spraying of insecticides in New Brunswick.

In addition to being a filmmaker, Livingston also has a distinguished career as an environmental activist. He is the chair of the Margaree Environmental Association which has fought successfully to preserve wilderness areas on Cape Breton. He is the former chair of both the National Conservation Committee and Nova Scotia Conservation Committee of the Sierra Club of Canada. This included the famous 1993-5 battle to re-protect the Jim Campbell's Barren, a political scandal Livingston assisted in bringing to national front page media attention. From his home province he has received a Nova Scotia Energy Award (1989) and the first Creative Arts/Cultural Nova Scotia Environmental Award (1993).

Neal Livingston's personal experiences in building a small hydro operation for his own use led him to produce two films Water Power (1981) and A Portrait of Small Hydro (1983). They examine the history and technology behind such small-scale operations. Since 1984 he owns Black River Hydro Ltd., a 220 kilowatt hydro-electric plant which was Nova Scotia's first new private company selling electricity to the grid. Starting in 2003 Livingston began to work on starting developing commercial sized wind power projects in Nova Scotia. In 2005 he formed Black River Wind Limited for the first 6 megawatts of these wind installations forecasted for installation in 2006. Neal also founded, and still runs, Black River Maple Products a maple syrup farm.

Neal Livingston was the first landowner on Cape Breton island to have his woodlot FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified, a international green certification system. This was done with a group of Nova Scotia small woodlot owners called Nagaya Forestry. These woodlots use closed canopy, non-clearcut, non-chemical methods of forestry in the Acadian forests of Eastern Canada. Livingston offers FSC certified lumber for sale from his woodlot.

Beginning in 1987 with the founding of Black River Productions Limited, Neal produced a series of film portraits which profile unconventional people and their passionate pursuits. These included John Nesbitt: Sculptor (1987), John Dunsworth: The Candidate (1989), The Disappearance of John Ashby (1990), The Paper Age and Ancient Flight (1992),which examines the ideas of amateur British Egyptologist William Deiches who believed the ancients knew how to fly, and has built hundreds of models of ancient aircraft. Mabou Fights Back (1992) is a look at this community's efforts to stop post office closures.

Both Sides of the Wire (1993) is a 47 minute film about what has become of a group of refugees from Nazi oppression who were imprisoned in Canada in 1940. TV broadcasts in Canada have been on CBC Newsworld and Vision TV, with international sales to BBC England and showings at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The Toronto Star has called it: "One of the most amazing films of the year."

As a member of the Atlantic Filmmaker's Co-op from 1975 to 1980 Neal produced a diverse album of experimental films including Aura-Gone, The Beach and the Ditch, Contact - Nature, Interim Sketches of a Year of Austerity, and One Side - Left Corner. Since then he has produced a sheaf of original and humorous films such as Off to Work (1988), Trees and Elevators (1991), Licking the Window (1995). Michel in a Suête (1998), Suêtes, (1999) and Snow on the Lake (2000).

Neal Livingston has sat on two national boards of directors representing Eastern Canadian documentary film producers, The Canadian Independent Film Caucus(CIFC), and the Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund. He was a founding member of the Atlantic Chapter of the CIFC.

Born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1955 he moved to Nova Scotia in 1975. He has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in film from York University and attended Dalhousie University and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. While still in high school his film Melonphelia's 6th Line won first prize at the 1971 WNED TV Film Contest and Blairage was the only high school film chosen as a finalist in the 1972 Montreal Student Film Festival.

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