photo by Al Seib / @A.M.P.A.S
Last night at the Governors Awards ceremony, Michelle Satter was honored by the Academy with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. She was part of an exceptional group of four including Mel Brooks, Angela Bassett, and Carol Littleton. We have all felt the power and impact of working alongside Satter, but it was especially special to have Ryan Coogler and Chloe Zhao present the honorary award to our Founding Senior Director of Artist Programs.
Below watch clips of Coogler and Zhao introduce Satter as well as her acceptance speech. Read her remarks in their entirety as well.
Thank you Ryan and Chloe for your beautiful introductions. It was such a privilege to support both of you on your unforgettable first features.
For over four decades, the Sundance Labs and Festival have provided unwavering support for a next generation of artists. At the same time, we’ve worked with many others in this room to build an industry and audience for groundbreaking independent film.
My path to Sundance began in Boston. In 1981, very unexpectedly, a close friend Lyn Benjamin asked me a question that would change my life.
Would I consider coming to Sundance, Utah for the first month-long Filmmakers Lab that Robert Redford was starting up? Lyn also introduced me to my husband, but that’s another story.
I arrived at Sundance on a beautiful blue sky day. I still remember the whispering music of the quaking aspens and the sight of majestic Mount Timpanogos. In that magical setting, Redford laid out his radical vision.
Well-established screenwriters, directors and actors would mentor bold, independent filmmakers early in their careers. Redford wanted to build a community that honored creative freedom and risk taking, a culture of generosity, and storytellers from underrepresented communities. For me, this was love at first sight.
My journey might have ended at that first visit to Sundance, but I wanted more and asked for five minutes with Bob before leaving the mountain. With all the confidence I could muster, I told him he needed ME to open an LA Office and help him fulfill the vision that he had created. He looked at me for a moment and then said, “Sure, call me when you get there.” And right then and there, I learned quickly that when someone says yes, stop talking.
I returned to Boston and thought that maybe I had imagined the conversation. Nervously, I called his assistant the next day, told her what Bob had said. She laughed and said she would check with him and let me know. The next day I got the call that forever changed my life.
So today with immense gratitude, I’m honored to accept the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in recognition of my life long work supporting independent visionary filmmakers as a Founding Director of the Sundance Institute.
I want to congratulate the extraordinary artists who are also being honored here tonight – Angela Bassett, Mel Brooks and Carol Littleton.
And, my huge thanks to Janet Yang and Bill Kramer at the Academy, Marina Zenovich for making such a moving short and all the Governors for this incredible honor.
The journey that brought me to this moment was not taken alone. It was shared every step and every mile with my brilliant colleagues over four decades. I want to acknowledge Joana Vicente our CEO, Ebs Burnough, chair of our board, Ilyse McKimmie, the Deputy Director of our Feature Film Program, Tammie Rosen, our head of communications along with our extraordinary Board members, Funders, Partners, Actors, Crews and everyone who’s been part of this incredible community and journey.
I want to extend my deepest gratitude to the filmmakers I’ve had the privilege of working with, whose storytelling has ignited profound change. Through their creative brilliance and courage to spark vital conversations, their stories have become a powerful force for empathy, understanding, advocacy and yes, entertainment. And, over the past three years, the filmmakers who’ve been celebrated with Academy Awards for Best Picture have all been supported early in their careers by the Sundance Labs and Festival.
The Labs wouldn’t exist without the artists who participate as Creative Advisors. Many are in this room tonight including Angela Bassett. Their generosity and wisdom shared with the next generation has forever helped to shape the visionary work and lives of thousands of filmmakers from all over the world.
I am also most deeply grateful for the inspiration provided by my family.
I grew up in a house surrounded by my father’s art, and was immersed in a world where creativity knew no bounds. Warren Satter’s work was everywhere, serving as a constant reminder of how art can bring beauty and truth into the world.
Equally impactful was the influence of my mother, Helen Satter, a resilient Holocaust survivor who recently celebrated her 100th birthday. Her unwavering spirit, determination and compassionate heart taught me that true fulfillment comes from using our privileges and talents to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
My incredible husband David Latt, has been a constant source of inspiration, compassion and love. As a writer and producer, he helped me understand what artists need to fulfill their creative lives. And, David has always been there for me, sharing our mutual love of family and giving back.
We have experienced profound inspiration and joy with our son Franklin Latt who has carried on the legacy of supporting artists and creatives as his ongoing work and purpose. Through his role as Co-head of Motion Picture Talent at CAA, he has worked hard to ensure that artists can thrive in our industry and find the opportunities to do great work.
I know that many of you are aware that we lost our younger son Michael Latt just a month ago to a tragic act of violence. Michael devoted his career to supporting artists, championing organizations that elevated artists of color, creating inclusive communities and leveraging storytelling for enduring social change.
Tonight I share this honor with Michael. He will be forever remembered, living in our hearts as someone who led with love, always showing up with hope, compassion and kindness.
Nine years ago, the icon Harry Belafonte, who was also celebrated with this honor, shared these beautiful words. “Each and everyone of you has the power, the will and the capacity to make a difference in the world in which you live in. Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s anchor. We are the compass for humanity’s conscience. Art in its highest form is art that serves and instructs society and human development.“
Let us take this moment to celebrate the collective impact we can have when we come together as an inclusive community.
Let’s stand side by side to support the artists who shape our world now and in the future.
I hope you’ll join me in this essential work, and find your special way to give back and tell your stories.