With a title like “Over 9 Billion Dead Served,” documentarian Peter Livingston isn’t shooting for subtlety in his examination of Hollywood’s attitude toward onscreen carnage.
And when the studios threatened to sue over his unauthorized use of their clips, Livingston returned the gesture.
In February, the soft-spoken computer consultant filed suit in San Francisco’s U.S. Federal Court vs. all the majors plus Lucasfilm and StudioCanal for permission under fair-use doctrines to use three-minute clips from their top 25 films.
So far, he’s settled out of court with Disney, Columbia Pictures and Lucasfilm, but Fox, MGM, Warners and Universal Pictures continue to hold out.
Livingston, who worked in f/x on pics like “Jurassic Park,” began the film as a post-doctoral thesis in 1995 after earning a Ph.D. in psychology from San Francisco’s Saybrook Institute.
Thanks to what he calls “unencrypted, beautiful laserdiscs,” he strung together clips supporting his assertion that Hollywood presents a terrifyingly casual approach to death.
Although Livingston calls his film “a contribution to society,” it’s easy to see why studios don’t want this charity to begin at home.
There’s “Star Wars” with 6 billion dead (remember the destruction of Alderaan?), “Terminator 2” (3 billion dead) and “Independence Day” (427 million dead), along with ostensibly mild-mannered titles like “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” “Forrest Gump,” “The Lion King,” and “Dances With Wolves.”
There are some pics Livingston singles out for redeeming depictions, however.
” ‘Gone With the Wind’ is the most realistic,” he says. “If you die, you stay dead and you will be mourned.”