Jennie Livingston is a groundbreaking filmmaker, known for her lively storytelling, nuanced character portraits, and thoughtful explorations of identity, class, race, death, sex, and gender. She works in both fiction and nonfiction.
In addition to directing and producing her own films, she's a writer, photographer, draftsperson, educator, and director for hire.
Jennie's film Paris is Burning depicts an African American and Latino gay and transgender subculture, examining the intersections of race, class, and gender in an image-conscious, wealth-obsessed society. The film's many awards and long-term influence come not only from the wisdom and charisma of the people in it, but from the extent to which the subculture itself elegantly reflects American anxieties about fitting in and measuring up.
Paris Is Burning won a Sundance Grand Jury Prize, as well as Best Documentary from the New York, LA, and National Film Critics' Association, and a Teddy Bear from the Berlinale. It's one of the top-performing documentaries in the history of the medium, was the Sundance Collection screening at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, and in 2016 it was included in the Film Registry at the Library of Congress. In the US and Canada, it’s distributed by The Criterion Collection. New York Times cultural critic Wesley Morris named it one of 12 films to see before you turn 13.
At their core, Jennie Livingston's films are about what sustains us in the face of the structures and obstacles that limit and confine us.
The dramatic short Who's the Top translates a topic that frequently makes people uncomfortable (kinky sex) into a form that's all about joy and ease (Broadway musicals). Who's the Top? premiered at the Berlinale and has made its way around the world, including extended runs at Boston's MFA and London's ICA.
The digital short Through the Ice commissioned by WNET-TV for the 10th anniversary of Reel New York, focuses on a group of dog-walkers who tried to save a man who fell through the ice on the lake in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. It was broadcast on WNET and screened at Sundance in 2006.
Livingston's current work-in-progress Earth Camp One is a memoir/essay film that tells the story of how the filmmaker lost four family members in five years. It also recalls a hippie summer camp in the 1970s, the connection being that when we're young, we often want to break away from our families. What happens when they leave us? Earth Camp One unifies first-person storytelling, queer politics, humor, and animation to explore how it is to live in a world where family histories and first-person journeys inevitably mirror the larger upheavals and losses we experience collectively.
Future projects include the dramatic script Prenzlauer Berg set in the art worlds of East Berlin and New York in 1989.
Commercial project include a video for Elton John's stage show The Million Dollar Piano.
Jennie was a consulting producer and director on the FX series Pose. They have taught at Yale, Connecticut College, and Brooklyn College, lectured widely, written for national magazines, and appeared as a subject or speaker in a number of documentaries and cultural programs. Livingston has been a recipient of grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the German Academic Exchange, the MacDowell Colony, The Newhouse Foundation, the Rosenthal Family Foundation, The Getty Center, and others.
Livingston was born in Texas, raised in Los Angeles, educated at Yale, and lives in New York City.