Remembering AFI Alumnus and Producer Steve Golin – American Film Institute

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Remembering AFI Alumnus and Producer Steve Golin

Producer Steve Golin accepts the Franklin J. Shaffner Award onstage during the AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Michael Douglas on June 11, 2009.
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI)

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.

Laura Dern and Nicolas Cage in WILD AT HEART
directed by David Lynch (Class of 1970)

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.

Leonardo DiCaprio in THE REVENANT
directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu

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.”

Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey in ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
directed by Michel Gondry

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.

Comments (4)

Carole Markin

He was amazing



Joe Augustyn

Steve was not just a brilliant producer but an incredibly compassionate and selfless man. I was lucky to be assigned to the same producer group at AFI and we quickly bonded. When Steve found out I was subsisting on dollar store mac-n-cheese he made it part of his daily routine to pick me up and take me out for a nourishing lunch or dinner, humbly shrugging off any thanks. He remained a steadfast friend to the end, despite his busy schedule and physical distance when I moved back east. Like the mensch he was, he refused to complain about his illness, saying it was “the card he was dealt” – not even mentioning his pain in the last cheery email he sent me on the day before he passed. In an industry known for its ruthlessly self-interested powerbrokers, Steve was a beacon of honor, intelligence, and civility.



Joe Augustyn

Steve was not just a great producer but an incredibly generous and compassionate man. I was lucky to be assigned to the same producing fellow group and we bonded instantly. Later when Steve found out I was living on dollar store mac-n-cheese he made it part of his daily routine to take me out for a nourishing meal, humbly shrugging off any thanks. He remained a steadfast friend despite great distance, a true mensch who never complained about his agonizing illness, saying only “it’s the card I was dealt.” Although I’ve been told he was in pain at the end, he never mentioned it in the last email he sent, on the day before he passed. In an often cutthroat industry he was a beacon of honor, civility, intelligence and taste.



Sarah Elgart

Steve & Joni and I used to work in the trenches together on music videos when I was choreographing many of them in the early days at Propaganda. Steve was a human’s human, he had warmth, wit, tremendous intelligence, and an innate sense of compassion. He was also a visionary. I would run into him over the years and was always received with a great generosity of spirit, a trait I see present in so many of the people he surrounded himself and worked with. I think that along with his stellar films, that is part of his legacy. I feel so privileged to have known him.


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