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Filmmaker Christopher Livingston: “Recognize the value of the gift you have been given with this beautiful planet; Educate yourself on how to protect it”

Be true to yourself. Educate yourself. Take nothing for granted. Recognize the importance of living life. Recognize the value of the gift you have been given with this beautiful planet. Educate yourself on how to protect it. Promote and use clean energy. I had the pleasure to interview award winning director, screenwriter, songwriter, Christopher Livingston. After […]


Be true to yourself. Educate yourself. Take nothing for granted. Recognize the importance of living life. Recognize the value of the gift you have been given with this beautiful planet. Educate yourself on how to protect it. Promote and use clean energy.


I had the pleasure to interview award winning director, screenwriter, songwriter, Christopher Livingston. After graduating from Beverly Hills High School, Chris earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Connecticut College and went on to complete his Masters of Fine Arts in Film Directing at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Chris’ critically acclaimed career spans throughout many areas of the entertainment industry including film, television and music. The Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine, LA Weekly, Billboard Magazine, WGN Radio, The Joan Rivers Show, Variety Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter and many others have featured Chris and his work over the years. He has a passion for bringing creativity to life and applies decades of personal experience to his projects. Chris just finished co-directing a feature film titled Be Like Trees scheduled for release in the Spring of 2019. He also directed the indie movie, Dumbbells, a comedy produced by Barry Katz (Good Luck Chuck, Last Comic Standing), featuring an ensemble cast including Tom Arnold, Jay Mohr, Carl Reiner, and Fabio. Dumbbells was released theatrically in 15 cities across the U.S as well as on VOD and DVD. The film won over 50 awards on the festival circuit, including 11 awards for Best Narrative Feature, 10 awards for Best Comedy, and 5 awards for Best Director. Chris debuted his professional film career by co-writing, directing, and producing the New York based indie comedy, Hit and Runway. The film stars Michael Parducci, Peter Jacobson and Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons and was released theatrically in over 20 cities across the United States. The movie aired on Showtime before becoming available on DVD/VOD. Prior to its release, Hit and Runway received a number of accolades including Best Screenplay at The Los Angeles Film Festival, Best Screenplay at the US Comedy Arts Festival, and was voted by critics Best Screenplay and Best Comedy at The Seattle International Film Festival. It was also nominated for The Starfish Award at The Hamptons International Film Festival and was voted by audience members as one of the top 3 favorites at Roger Ebert’s Floating Film Festival. The movie premiered internationally at The World Film Festival in Montreal. While attending NYU, Chris produced and directed his thesis film, Chicken Of The Sea, a fifty-five minute featurette. This earned him NYU’s Best Directing Award and a CINE’s Golden Eagle Award. The film was also a finalist at The New York Underground Film Festival. Chris has written numerous scripts for both film and television. Most recently, one of Chris’s scripts, Dining in the Dark, was top listed on The Black List and is going into production in 2019. Another script Mr. George a ghostly thriller based on a short story published by H.P. Lovecraft, has been optioned and is in development with the highly experienced creative team — Chad and Carey Hayes (The Conjuring, House of Wax). Chris has created scripts for television including Ask Roz which was packaged by the William Morris agency and an animated series Cliff Hanger, which aired internationally. For more information on Be Like Trees click here.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Chris! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My father, Alan Livingston, former president of Capitol Records and the man who signed the Beatles, wrote a novel back in the early eighties called, Ronnie Finkelhof Superstar. It was about a nerdy kid in high school who is a music prodigy. He plays guitar in his basement, but is too afraid to share his music with any of his classmates or friends. A down and out record producer discovers the young artist, and thinks he’s found the answer to his prayers, but quickly learns that his newfound music act has an extreme case of stage fright and literally can’t get up and perform in front of people. The record producer comes up with an idea to help his young protégé get over his fear. He changes the kids name, puts a mask on his face, and gets him up on stage without anyone knowing who he is. The anonymity helps the reticent performer overcome his fears, and it isn’t long before his inner rock star emerges, and of course, he becomes an overnight sensation. And it leads to the dilemma of attempting to lead a double life, nerdy high school student by day, masked rock star by night (this was long before Hannah Montana). The book was optioned by Zanuck and Brown at Warner Brothers to be made into a feature film. Zanuck and Brown were two of the biggest producers in Hollywood at the time and the prospect of that movie getting made and the possibility of writing songs for it, inspired me to go to film school and start songwriting.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Making the movie Be Like Trees has been a fascinating experience. We had synchronicity in spades during production. One of many stories that occurred while we were shooting was at the site of my co-director (and co-star’s) mother’s grave in Florida. My co-director’s name is Brian Drolet, and we were doing a scene where Brian was bringing flowers to his deceased mother Diane at her grave. Everything up until this point in the production had been going uncannily smooth. On this day, however, we had our first glitch. We had saved a particular shot for last at the cemetery, because it involved me having to climb up on top of a trash can to include Brian’s mother’s epitaph in the foreground while Brian walked towards his mother in the distance. Diane Drolet’s grave is high up on a wall of tombs, and I couldn’t reach that high without help. We were afraid that me standing on a trash can would draw attention to us and we might get kicked out of the cemetery, so we saved the shot till the very end. Right as we went to do this last shot, the sun came out from behind a cloud and reflected off the white stone of Diane’s grave and made it all but impossible to read her name. Changing exposures didn’t help because it putBrian into pitch darkness. I realized the clouds were moving away from each other and there was no break in sight, but then I noticed a nearby building was casting shadow on the ground beneath the wall. The sun was setting in the right direction, and in time, the shadow would move up the wall and create the shade we needed to get the shot. All we had to do was wait about an hour. Brian went off to do some pick up shots around the grounds, and I sat on the bench in front of Diane’s grave and had a little talk with Brian’s mom. I thanked her for introducing me to Brian, and then I broached the subject that was on my mind. Everything had been going perfectly smooth until this point, for the entire shoot! This was literally the first time something had gone wrong. I couldn’t help but notice the blatant anomaly, and so I asked Diane, “why are you making us wait?” No answer came. About an hour later, the shadow crept up the wall into perfect position, and lo and behold, we got the shot and began to pack up. But the question was still lingering. Why did she make us wait? As we were driving out of the cemetery, I saw something out the window that made my jaw drop, and I yelled to Brian, “stop the car.” Brian saw what I was seeing and jumped out. I shoved the camera in his hand and I put the car into reverse and backed it out of the way. Then I jumped out, raced back to Brian, took the camera and yelled, “walk from your mom’s grave.” Brian did exactly that, and I followed him until he stopped, witnessing something in the sky and I panned the camera over to see what he was seeing. There, on a sunny day with patchy clouds and NO rain, was a rainbow extending from the cemetery to heaven. That shot wound up being the final nudge his character needed to understand what his mother wanted him to do in that scene in the movie, which also just so happened to be what he needed to hear in real life. Diane HAD made us wait! She made us wait for her!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’m sitting here thinking about the mistakes I’ve made, and none of them seem funny, just painful! The lesson I learned from all the mistakes I made was that mistakes are the best way to learn, as long as you pick yourself back up off the ground and keep going. But in the vein of a funny story, there is one story that is loosely related to filmmaking, worth sharing. I was living in New York and still finishing my thesis film at NYU Graduate Film School. I came home to my apartment one night with a girl I was dating at the time, and there were huge cranes with lights outside my window. We looked down on the roof of the building next door and a film production crew was filming what was clearly a BIG budget movie. I called down to the doorman and asked if he knew what they were shooting, and he said it was a film called Hudson Hawk and it starred Bruce Willis. So my girlfriend and I looked down again, and sure enough, on a balcony of the next building over, there was Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello facing our building looking at the cameras that were directly below my window and this crazy idea suddenly came over me, and I knew I shouldn’t say it out loud, because the girl I was dating would be all over it, but the idea was impossible to contain, and so out it came. I said, “you know what we should do, we should moon Bruce Willis” and of course she said, “YES!” She ran and got lipstick out of her purse and she proceeded to write “Bruce,” across my rear end, and I wrote, “Hi,” across hers. And we positioned ourselves in the right order, and waited until they were about to do a take. Just after the assistant director called for quiet, I yelled out, “hey Bruce!” and the whole film set jumped up startled, and looked up at our window. And then my girlfriend and I turned around and stuck our butts out the window spelling out, “Hi Bruce.” We started to wiggle and shake our booties and counted, “one one thousand, two one thousand …” Before we got to “three …” suddenly there was this eruption of applause and cheers from the crew. We finished the count up until 10, and we jumped down and hid. The rest of the night, we kept peeking down at the set, and everyone kept pointing up to our window and showing people who were coming from downstairs from where we had mooned Bruce Willis. What does this have to do with the question? Only this. If you want to make an impression on someone in the industry, this is probably NOT the best way to do it. Although, it could be a good be a good conversation starter if I ever run into Bruce Willis.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

Be Like Trees seems to be inspiring people to create their art and not give up on themselves. We have gotten so many comments from people who have said this film inspired them or even changed their lives. That feels wonderful to hear.

Wow! Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

Actually, the most direct answer is me! I have been writing songs my whole life and I had never put out an album. In the movie, my character arc is to put out my first album. After we finished production, I thought to myself, how can I do this in the movie and not do this in real life? So, during post production, I started recording my first album, “Chris Livingston Thirty Years Unplugged,” (the same title I use for my album in the movie) and I finished it in time to release along with the film. The album is currently available on iTunes and Spotify or pretty much anywhere on line you get music, if anyone is interested in checking it out. Vibe is Carole King/Don Henley, with a little Billy Joel, John Mayer, and maybe Joni Mitchell thrown in.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Not sure community/society/politicians are the right resource to solve the problems we want to solve. I think the film speaks to the individual to find their purpose in life and believe in themselves and never give up bringing into the universe what lies within. With that said, there’s a million things I’d like to see the community/society/politicians do to help our country and the world. I think the thing I’m most passionate about is the environment and developing clean energy sources to stop global warming.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is a complicated thing. I think leadership starts with discovering self value, and then communicating that value to the world by doing, not talking. My father was a great leader. He did some incredible things in his career, but he never talked about it. He created Bozo the Clown, produced the pilot for Bonanza, was president of Capitol Records in the 60’s, signed the Beatles, The Beach Boys and Frank Sinatra. These are just a few of his accomplishments. I was very young when he was in his hey day so I didn’t understand any of this, but the thing that is interesting to me is that I learned every single one of the above facts from OTHER people, kids at school, their parents, strangers. I had to go home and ask my father if any of it was true, and he would shyly nod and say, yes. “Walk the walk,” don’t “talk the talk.”

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I wish somebody had told me that just because you are good at something, it doesn’t mean you will naturally have success at it. I wish somebody had told me that success was one part talent and 9 parts perseverance. I wish somebody had told me that five times!!! What I have learned the hard way, is that the recipe for success is multifaceted and unique to each individual and it can only be learned through one thing, the act of failing. You will need to use your creativity to do many things, including pick yourself up off ground, and sometimes navigate your way through shark infested waters. I was incredibly naïve when I started writing scripts and songs. I just thought if I created a good product everyone would instantly want to make money off it and I’d have a career. It’s not quite that simple. Watch Be Like Trees, the movie for five examples of setbacks and examples of the perseverance it takes to move forward. Hopefully it will be uplifting and funny and inspire you to keep going with whatever it is you are doing.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Be true to yourself. Educate yourself. Take nothing for granted. Recognize the importance of living life. Recognize the value of the gift you have been given with this beautiful planet. Educate yourself on how to protect it. Promote and use clean energy.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote is from Einstein: “For an idea that does not first seem insane, there is no hope.” Thinking out of the box is how we will move into the future, save the planet, create great works of art, and create heaven on Earth. In our case, we did something small. We made a movie with a good message on an iPhone with no crew, no lights and no budget. If nothing else it can inspire people to bring what’s inside of them out into the world without somebody else telling them they can’t. That’s a good place to start that can lead to other things.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I once had a dream about Steven Spielberg. In real life, my mother is academy award nominated actress, Nancy Olson. She was the ingenue in Billy Wilder’s classic movie, Sunset Boulevard. My mom has actually spoken to Steven Spielberg several times in real life and he knows who she is. In my dream, my mother had given me Steven Spielberg’s office number and the name of his assistant, a woman. In my dream, I called Steven’s office to see if I could send him a script but when I called, a man answered the phone instead of a woman, and when I asked for the woman whose name my mother had given me, the man said she had stepped out. I started to explain who I was, and after a moment, it dawned on me that I was actually talking to Steven Spielberg himself and I had just happened to call at the right moment and he had picked up his own office phone. So without letting on anything, I began to tell Steven EVERYTHING about me, all that I had done with my career, my dreams, my passions, my struggles. The more I talked, the more Steven was engaging and becoming interested. Then suddenly, I heard the phone ring on his end, and Steven asked, “can you excuse me a second?” I said, “sure” and with that, Steven got off the phone. I sat there waiting in my dream…for a long time… then, the horrible thought crept into my head. What if he didn’t pick back up? I had actually gotten Steven Spielberg on the line, I had told him EVERYTHING about me and he was interested! But now I was terrified that my luck had run out. Just as I was losing faith that I had been dropped from the call, Steven picked back up the phone, and said to me words I will never forget. He said, “OK, let’s get this party started” and then I woke up. So I’ll just throw it out there. I’d like to have breakfast or lunch with, Steven Spielberg!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My Instagram and Twitter handle is: chrisliv13

I’m on Facebook as Chris Livingston

You can also look up more info at: www.beliketrees.com

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