Born to a family of filmmaking professionals in 1964, Livnev studied at the Moscow Film School, graduating in 1987 at the height of perestroika. That same year, he wrote the screenplay for Sergei Solovyov’s cult classic Assa. He directed two feature films in the early ‘90s, Kiks and Hammer and Sickle, before taking up a position as head of the Gorky Studio in 1995. His attempt to turn the studio into a genre powerhouse failed, and he emigrated to America in 1999, having declared Russian film dead. He returned in 2006, and in 2018 made his return to feature directing with Van Goghs.