His Life

A prolific producer

Bill was an amazing storyteller and a prolific and award-winning documentary producer. His work embodied the spirit of selfless social activism and camaraderie that began at the NFB during the days of Challenge for Change, where he worked on landmark projects including a number of films for the Fogo process, with Colin Low, and the recently re-discovered Loon Lake - the first Cree language film made by the first all-Indigenous production unit in Canada.

He worked for many years for US PBS stations in Canada and in London setting up international co-productions, and produced a number of award winning documentaries including The Hand of Stalin, The War of 1812, and most recently, Passage.


Jessie, Tito and I  each had unique and wonderful relationships with our Dad. 

We shared a few things, knowing he was always there if we needed him, that he was proud of us; we knew he loved us and felt loved back.  Dad had an amazing ability to listen, even when we needed to say tough stuff, we always felt heard.  He taught us how to be honest with our feelings, not to be afraid of being angry or wrong or saying we were sorry. We were loved through anger and hurt. This allowed our love to flow freely, unhindered by things unresolved or unsaid and made way for celebration and joy. We all shared the knowledge that we had not left anything unsaid.

For me, Dad was a champion and mentor.  Many of my memories are of being with him while he worked. As a child I grew up in the halls of the Vancouver Film board, hanging around at telethons or driving films down to Seatle when he was with KCTS (we always went through the truck border with the film cans in the trunk because he didn't want to do the paperwork).   I played with my dolls in the projection booth the summer he ran a movie theatre in Aggasiz.  
In 1994 I started working with him at his Documentary company in Toronto, he had moved to the UK, so I did his administrative stuff as I worked to establish my career.  

He taught me how to be a producer, what was important, and what wasn't. People were important, the content was important, the big picture mattered, the small stuff didn't.  It was a hard go, but he was always there.  We would meet at the markets in Banff or Cannes, New York, or Washington, I would look out at the intimidating crowds of broadcasters and buyers, and there among them would be my dad, with his amazing smile and a big hug. Always ready with encouragement, advice or a coveted introduction.  

Often when I told people my name they would ask "are you related to Bill? and then share an affectionate story of him helping them or an adventure they'd had together.  Being "Bill Nemtin's" daughter meant people wanted to help me because they admired and cared for him.  I learned from him how important relationships were, that the network of people who you liked and trusted was everything. 

He taught me how to think about things, to understand other people's perspectives and interests, how to be strategic, and the power of a good story. He loved complexity, he wasn't interested in black and white issues, but all of the shades of grey in between. I remember sitting alone in his office in Toronto watching the Hand of Stalin weeping. They had been the first film crew behind the iron curtain, allowed to explore the archives and tell the stories of the horrific year.  The films showed the pain on both sides, how everyone had been a victim in some way.    He was passionate about really good content and its ability to create change.
I can still hear his words from my first TV Market  "never believe your own bullshit Andrea".  He played it straight and wasn't afraid to tell me if I screwed up, but would then promptly suggest I forgive myself and move on.  He thought I was too hard on myself. 

Dad made me believe I could accomplish anything I wanted to, and he was the first person I'd call with a triumph,  he would glow with excitement and pride. 

I was so proud to be his daughter, to be like him. We understood each other, we had the same wiring, in so many ways I felt like an extension of him, with him gone I feel a bit untethered, a little adrift.

I hope that moving forward I will be able to see myself as he saw me, through his smiling loving eyes. 

Big brother Bill

Billy, Howard, Stevo and Stu, there aren't many places in Southern Ontario, or BC that you won't meet somebody who knows one of the Nemtin boys!  Johnathan Zifken's reflection on Bill as a big brother says it all: 
"Despite great distances and infrequent visits, every single interaction I’ve had with Bill has been filled with kindness and love.  He taught me something really valuable without knowing it. How to be a great brother. Growing up watching the Nemtin boys showed me that no distance or gap in time can stop the power of brotherhood. He will be deeply missed by everyone. You were lucky to have such an incredible man/father in your life. Cherish all the wonderful memories.