PRODUCED, WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY NEAL LIVINGSTON, 2019
UNDERSTANDING WINTER GREENS
A FILM BY NEAL LIVINGSTON
Can you garden in the winter ? Is this the start of the Snow food movement ?
This hilarious short film, placed amidst food culture and the slow food movement, mocks self help, social media,
and the do it yourself ethic, ranging through various humour types from who’s fooling who to self deprecation.
Award winning Cape Breton Nova Scotia documentary maker Neal Livingston, for the first time in 50 years of filmmaking,
makes himself the subject of his new film.
"Well geez, it did cheer me up. You’re a genius."
– Ralph Surette - Canadian Journalist, Nova Scotian Columnist
"Just showed your film (nice and loud) to an audience of over 40 folks here in Indian Brook – there was a lot of loud laughter!!"
– Aube Giroux - Filmmaker of award winning film MODIFIED
"Classic. It should be titled 'Farming in Canada'." – Glen Estill
Maria and Niki both said the same thing “You’re a bear !
Although at first viewing WINTER GREENS seems straightforward and rather simplistic, underlying this the film has multiple layers of complexity, which I think are worth explaining.
I had never been the 100% subject of one my films before, though in LICKING THE WINDOW and 100 SHORT STORIES, I’ve been partly the subject. So after making films for 50 years portraying other people, it interested me do a film sort of about me.
WINTER GREENS is a “mock” instructional video, with the potential to fool the audience in a theatrical screening, and in a home-based screening.
WINTER GREENS starts out with me, the subject of the video, telling the audience that; “This is important instructional video about how to harvest lettuce under the snow.“ In the theatrical screenings this statement divided the audience between those who understood that they are watching a comic film, versus the other part of the audience, who have bought into thinking that they’re watching a instructional video.
The on-line description of WINTER GREENS is; This hilarious short film, placed amidst food culture and the slow food movement, mocks self help, social media, and the do it yourself ethic, ranging through various humour types from who's fooling who to self deprecation.
What particularly interested me when I thought of making WINTER GREENS, was to try in the shortest time possible, to be able to utilize as many different forms of humor as possible. In performing this piece as a mock documentary, I wanted to have slapstick, physical comedy, irony, self mocking humour, pathos, and animal like behavior. The film succeeds to engage at all these levels.
To finish WINTER GREENS, I went into the most sophisticated post-production studio in eastern Canada, where I was able to have them enhance the both the audio and visuals of the film. Greens were colorized enough to stand out clearly, and more heavily near the end as the snow when disturbed starts to turn green. The sound score, was heavily enhanced, so that as the film goes on, every time I move the snow, or kick or punch it, the sound gets louder with more reverb, and echo, and more intense.
WINTER GREENS was premiered in March 2019, as a short before the feature film MODIFIED in public screenings in Cape Breton. It was also viewed and approved by the programming committee at my distributor Videographer in Montreal. There was much laughter at all these screenings, and similar reactions came in from social media contacts who watched the film online.
After screening for friends in Montréal, one colleague commented that film is actually quite violent, as I am repeatedly punching and kicking the snow.
100% Festival Rejections:
I thought the film was going to be a slam dunk success to get into food film festivals, but as I racked up an impressive series of rejections to these festivals, I became aware that the film was making fun of food culture and of food film festivals. One colleague told me, did you really think they would show your film if you were making fun of them. Here I was advertising the film as; IS THIS THE START OF THE SNOW FOOD MOVEMENT (not the slow food movement). I thought hmmm, are they really that precious.
As the film also racked up rejections at other film festivals, I hired the DOC Festival Concierge expert. He advised me that the junior film festival programmers, who have to watch as many as 40 shorts a day, were rejecting WINTER GREENS because they were not understanding the cinematic devices I used and the sophistication of WINTER GREENS. They didn’t get it.
WINTER GREENS is as much a sound piece as a visual piece. It may be more of a art video for gallery-type showings, than a short film competing against thousands of other short films to be shown at film festivals.
This experience with film festivals has motivated me to write this little blog about WINTER GREENS, which is something I have not done before with my other films.
A year after finishing the film, I still really enjoy watching WINTER GREENS. It’s a successful visual and sound piece . I hope you enjoy watching it as well.