Filmmaker Ryan Coogler and Actress Kerry Washington at the ‘Celebrate Sundance Institute’ benefit.
Jessica Buzzard, Director of Marketing
On June 6 in Los Angeles, the Sundance community came out in force to celebrate two of its own at the third annual ‘Celebrate Sundance Institute’ benefit. Ryan Coogler, the first-time writer/director of the Sundance and Cannes Award-winning film Fruitvale Station, and Roger Ebert, the legendary advocate for authentic storytelling in film who passed away in April of this year, were honored with this year’s Vanguard Awards. Additionally, Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam announced the creation of the Roger Ebert Scholarship for Film Criticism, in memory of the revered journalist.
“Roger Ebert was, without question, one of the greatest champions of independent filmmaking talent the world has ever known,” said Putnam. The scholarship will provide grants to six to eight young critics, allowing them to attend and cover the 2014 Sundance Film Festival as part of the Indiewire Critics Academy. Contributions to the fund may be made by visiting http://bit.ly/EbertScholars.
Robert Redford presented Chaz Ebert with the Vanguard Leadership Award in Memoriam to Roger Ebert, and cited Roger’s early belief in the Sundance mission to provide a home and support-base for independent filmmakers. “The thing I came to appreciate about him was his voice. He had an amazing ability to speak to the people about the people themselves,” said Redford.
Accepting the Award on behalf of her late husband, Chaz said, “Storytelling is what Roger loved about Sundance. It is there you see films about kindness and empathy and begin to understand what makes people tick.” Citing Roger’s own words, she continued, “We think creativity is a gift, but truly it is imagination’s life and breath.”
Actress and Sundance alum Kerry Washington presented the Vanguard Award, Presented by Tiffany & Co., to Coogler, who offered his gratitude to the Institute for the varied and steadfast assistance provided throughout the development and production of his first feature film, Fruitvale Station.
“Sundance really is like a family. Michelle is like my film mom, and then you got Uncle Bob,” he said, referring to Feature Film Program Director Michelle Satter and Robert Redford, respectively. The Vanguard Award, Presented by Tiffany & Co., honors emerging independent artists and comes with a cash grant and mentorship from industry professionals and the Institute’s Feature Film Program staff.
Articulating the theme that defined the evening, Coogler said, “Storytelling is the tool that human beings have to trigger empathy.”
Co-chaired by Institute Trustees Lyn Lear and her husband Norman, and Cindy Horn with her husband Alan, the benefit event was sponsored by Tiffany & Co. Funds raised will support the year-round work of the Institute to discover and develop independent artists and audiences in film and theatre.
Guests in attendance included Institute Trustees Wally Weisman, Lyn Lear, Cindy Horn, Jeanne Donovan Fischer, Jack Ferraro, Bob Frankenberg, and others. Sundance alumni in attendance included Kerry Washington, Steve James, Drake Doremus, Gregg Araki, Miguel Arteta, Barbara Kopple, Zal Batmanglij, Heather Rae, Billy Luther, Gingger Shankar, Catherine Hardwicke, Kimberly Peirce, Rory Kennedy, and many more.
Photos from the event are posted in the 2013 Sundance Institute Events gallery.