With the passing of Academy Award®-winning film and television producer Steve Golin (AFI Class of 1981) on April 21, Hollywood lost a visionary filmmaker who championed nuanced and deeply human storytelling. Golin served as a beacon of creative risk-taking, innovation and entrepreneurism in the entertainment industry.
In 1986, he founded Propaganda Films, a talent management, advertising and video production company with fellow AFI alumnus Joni Sighvatsson (Class of 1981). Recognizing the untapped potential in the commercial and music video scene, he recruited and nurtured then-unknown filmmakers David Fincher, Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry, among others, into his stable of artists. Propaganda not only gave filmmakers the creative space to hone their talent, but also the opportunity to push boundaries and experiment with style and technique.
Translating this flare for creative visuals to feature filmmaking, Golin produced much of the early work of fellow alumni John Dahl (Class of 1982) and David Lynch (Class of 1970), including WILD AT HEART, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
He also produced Spike Jonze’s debut feature, BEING JOHN MALKOVICH. Remembering how Propaganda Films was being sold at the time, Jonze said that incoming executives saw the project “as this weird script with some music-video director. The only reason that movie got made was because Steve pushed and pushed and, ultimately, really stuck his neck out.”
With the founding of his second production company, Anonymous Content, in 1999, Golin brought with him his impeccable taste and eye for talent and continued to produce projects many deemed too ambitious or challenging to ever get made. He oversaw production on BABEL, WINTER’S BONE and THE REVENANT, solidifying his reputation for supporting auteur directors, discovering new talent and creating thought-provoking, personal narratives.
Golin’s foray into television proved equally compelling, as he took chances on unknown artists and delivered hits, including the Emmy Award®-winning series TRUE DETECTIVE and Golden Globe-winning MR. ROBOT — guiding the vision of creator and AFI alumnus Sam Esmail (Class of 2004) in the process.
Jim Carrey remembered him fondly, saying, “Steve Golin was a brilliant producer who cared deeply for the quality of his craft. I will always appreciate his unflinching support of a bunch of wildlings who ran through the streets of New York while filming ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND — with and without permits.” According to Josh Singer, writer of SPOTLIGHT, which earned Golin a Best Picture Oscar®, one of the producer’s favorite sayings, always with a hint of mischief, was “ask for forgiveness, not permission.”
In 2009, Golin was awarded AFI’s Franklin J. Schaffner Alumni Medal — one of the only producers to ever receive the honor. “What an enormous loss to all of us who love stories well-told,” said AFI President and CEO Bob Gazzale. “Steve was a unique talent — and he had the ability to encourage and inspire talented people all around him. Steve never stopped giving back. His daughter, Anna, also graduated from the Conservatory just last year, and she shared her dad’s rare combination of talent and heart. Steve may be gone — but has left an indelible mark on the history of the American Film Institute.”
While Golin often lightheartedly compared himself to Willy Loman selling his wares, he will be remembered as more than a salesman. He will be treasured as a filmmaker whose bold commitment and creatively daring work have left a lasting impact onscreen.