People/Biz

Producer, History Makers organizer Bill Nemtin passes away

Bill Nemtin, filmmaker and executive producer of Achilles Media’s History Makers conference, has passed away at the age of 77. As an award-winning documentary producer, Nemtin’s career first took flight at ...
January 13, 2021

Bill Nemtin, filmmaker and executive producer of Achilles Media’s History Makers conference, has passed away at the age of 77.

As an award-winning documentary producer, Nemtin’s career first took flight at the National Film Board of Canada, where he began as a coordinator of its Challenge for Change program in the late 1960s. The program gave communities access to film and video to promote social change and featured nine films directed by IMAX co-founder and Canadian documentarian Colin Low.

Nemtin went on to work with many PBS stations in the U.S. while in Canada and in the UK, putting together international coproductions. Among the award-winning documentaries he produced and created are the Gemini-winning The Hand of Stalin, produced with John Walker Productions, PTV Productions and October Films for the BBC in 1990; The War of 1812, produced for the NFB by PTV Productions and Galafilm; and 2008′s Passage, produced once more by John Walker Productions and PTV Productions, and shortlisted for a Grierson Award for best historical documentary.

In 2008, Nemtin worked with Canadian events company Achilles Media as executive producer for the History Makers conference, which brought together producers and network executives from around the world working in the history, current affairs and documentary genres. The event was rebranded as the Impact Media Summit in 2013.

“Bill made History Makers the vibrant ‘must attend’ gathering for producers during the ‘golden age’ when cable channels offered history-packed schedules and before they switched their focus to reality series,” recalled consultant and publisher Peter Hamilton of documentarybusiness.com in a statement to Realscreen.

Over the past two decades, Nemtin lived in the UK, and after retiring from active production work in 2013, worked as an executive consultant. At the age of 70 he returned to his love of performance and launched a stand-up comedy routine under the stage name Buzz Newman. At 75, he began writing about his mentor and the founder of the National Film Board, John Grierson.

Nemtin passed away on Friday, January 8 in the United Kingdom.

In a statement provided to Realscreen, Claude Joli-Coeur, government film commissioner and chairperson of the NFB, said the film body was “greatly saddened” by the news of Nemtin’s passing.

“The NFB’s 80th anniversary in 2019 gave us a chance to work with Bill again when he presented the illustrated talk ‘My Grierson’ in collaboration with Hot Docs, and we’re grateful that we could reconnect with him on a very special event,” he said.

“His commitment to Challenge for Change helped to transform how the NFB worked with communities — and continues to do so to this day. Our current engagement with Canadian communities in participatory media, our use of new digital technologies to put creation into the hands of citizens, all this and more is part of Bill’s living legacy.”

Nemtin is survived by his wife Jane Drabble; his children, Andrea Nemtin, Jessica Martin and Tito Martin Nemtin; grandchildren James and Charlie, and brothers Howard, Steve and Stuart.

His daughter, Andrea, also worked on several of the above projects via PTV Productions, where she was president and CEO. Currently the executive director for Social Innovation Canada, she supplied a statement to Realscreen in remembrance of her father.

“My father taught me a lot about being in the world, and everything I know about producing, what was important and what wasn’t: people are important, content is important, the big picture matters, the small stuff doesn’t. On behalf of the family, we will miss him terribly, but carry the warmth of his smile and the sound of his laugh with us.”

The family has set up a fund to honor his legacy. Donations can be made in his name to C4C Canada via Canada Helps or 44 Alcina Avenue, Toronto, M6G2E8.

(Photo supplied by Andrea Nemtin)

About The Author
Jillian Morgan is the Associate Editor at Realscreen with a background in journalism and digital marketing. She joined the publication in 2019 after serving as the assistant editor to trade publications HPAC and On-Site. With a bachelor of journalism from the University of King's College in Halifax, she also works as a freelance writer and fact-checker.

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