Karim Bensalah and Audrey Wells at the 2011 Screenwriters Lab. © Sundance Institute | Fred Hayes
Michelle Satter, Founding Director, Feature Film Program
We lost Audrey Wells, one of the greats this past week. Audrey was a beautiful, fierce, brilliant and spirited mother, wife, friend, writer, and devoted creative advisor at the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab.
I first met Audrey in 1999 at our Sundance Film Festival when we premiered her feature directorial debut Gueniviere, which won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. I immediately knew that I was in the presence of a remarkable talent, a writer committed to telling the emotional truth about complex relationships, unapologetic and fearless.
Soon after, I invited Audrey to our Screenwriters Lab and she was all in: generous, tough, and fully engaged with each writer, offering them a place to be brave and honest in their writing. She was especially interested in helping young female writers find the fullest illumination of their truths.
This was the beginning of a long-term commitment to the Sundance Institute Labs that lasted over 20 years. The writers who worked with Audrey always loved their sessions. They were deep, probing, and required the writers to ask the hardest questions of themselves and their work. The act of giving had significant meaning, but it was more than that. As a mentor, Audrey wanted her fellows to succeed and take the act of writing seriously as an art form and means of expression.
Wanting to keep her family close, Audrey often brought her daughter, Tatiana, and her husband, Brian, to the Lab, making her experience a family affair. Over the years, we all looked forward to an evening of great Italian wines hosted by Brian and Audrey and my husband, David, who made chocolates and winter snow cones.
Audrey was always up for an adventure and traveled with us to India for our Screenwriters Lab, bringing her love of writing to a wonderful group of writers, telling the stories that mattered most to them. We all enjoyed every moment of the trip, exploring Mumbai, sharing stories, music, food, and making new and long lasting friends.
Although Audrey shared that she was suffering, she still came to the Lab this past June and brought her full heart and passion to the process. Howard Rodman noted, “Audrey fought her illness with more grace and courage than any of us should be called upon to muster. And the more difficult her daily navigation became, the more open and generous she became in response. It was a stunning example of how to live.”
We will all miss Audrey in our hearts, and her legacy will live on at Sundance. Audrey will be remembered by a writing community who will never forget her generosity and all that they learned from their time with her talking about writing and life.