Michelle Satter pays tribute to independent film promoter Jane Alsobrook


Beloved for her warmth and generosity, Alsobrook used her marketing savvy to support early Sundances and the independent films she loved.

The independent film community lost one of its own last month, Jane Alsobrook. Her close friend, Michelle Satter, founding director of artist programs at the Sundance Institute, sent us a tribute, with contributions from Alsobrook’s husband, actor-writer Gerard Maguire and IndieWire contributor Sydney Levine.

Jane Alsobrook, pioneering film director, producer, mentor and breast cancer activist, died at her home in Sedona, Arizona on Monday, December 13, 2021, mourned by family, friends and industry colleagues, who recognize his significant contributions to the world of independent cinema.

For Sundance, Jane was there at the start. In early February 1981, she met Larry Jackson, Jeff Dowd, and several others for brunch in Los Angeles, the advisory committee responsible for planning a weekend conference, when the first Sundance Institute Filmmakers Lab was launched. At the conference, titled “The Distribution, Marketing, and Exhibition of Specialty Films in the 1980s,” film marketers, distributors, and exhibitors shared critical information about the state of the field and sought collaboration opportunities.

After that brunch, Jeff called me and said, “Are you free in June to come join us at Robert Redford’s ranch in Utah to support the filmmakers and help us organize this conference?” I was living in Boston with a job and a boyfriend, but my immediate response was, “Yeah, I wouldn’t miss it!” With this call, I began my lasting commitment to the Sundance Institute, supporting Redford in the design of the labs and the many ways we have advanced the development of independent voices and visionary filmmakers.

Several months later, I flew to Utah, joined by Jane two weeks later. And when I moved to LA after the first June Filmmakers Lab, Jane welcomed me as a friend and mentor, with generosity and kindness, and made me feel at home. We shared long lunches at Mustache Cafe in Westwood, dreaming big, talking, laughing and planning for a future inspired by Redford’s vision and commitment. Jane continued her work on the advisory board to follow up on ideas from the conference, including the publication of David Rosen and Peter Hamilton’s seminal book, “Off Hollywood: The Making and Marketing of Specialty Films.”

Directors Lab Creative Advisors – From left to right, Catherine Hardwicke, Glenn Close, Randa Haines, Michelle Satter, Robert Redford, Stephen Goldblatt, Barbara Tulliver, Gyula Gazdag, Lee Percy, Joan Darling, Joan Tewkesbury.

© 2016 Sundance Institute, Photography by Carlos Garza

Ever humbled by her accomplishments as a marketing executive, Jane was a pioneer in independent film marketing. She wanted the films she promoted to bring audiences the joy of the cinematic experience. Many of the films Jane worked on exceeded box office expectations; Jane’s strategies and tactics have been key for others in the development of the independent film industry.

For years, Jane enthusiastically participated in the Sundance Film Festival. I cherish the times when we sat together in the halls of the Festival and discovered exciting films from up-and-coming filmmakers. For Jane, Sundance was a time to be part of the growing artist and industry community. Over these years Jane introduced many artists to the industry and was always on the lookout for opportunities to bring people together.

Jane’s involvement in film began in 1971 while in graduate school at USC. A college career lost its appeal when she was recruited to help organize the Los Angeles Film Exposition, known as Filmex. She quickly became an important creative member of what became known as “New Hollywood”, a group that included Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Robert Altman and George Lucas.


Sundance Film Festival

Michael Buckner/Variety

While working for independent maverick Roger Corman, Jane did marketing for Spike Lee’s “School Daze” and oversaw the 1975 Oscar campaign for Fellini’s “Amarcord” which resulted in four nominations and the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. In 1975 Jane moved into music at ABC Records as National Publicity Manager promoting such legends as Crosby, Stills and Nash, The Pointer Sisters, Steely Dan and Chaka Khan.

Jane entered the studio world in the 1980s when she ran Twentieth Century Fox Classics, which acquired ‘Eating Raoul’, ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy’, ‘Reuben, Reuben’ and ‘Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”. When Fox shut down that division, it partnered with close friend Charles Lippincott in a marketing company. It was a productive time for Jane: she was the unit publicist on “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “The Black Stallion Returns,” and “Creepshow,” where she shared an office with Steven King. Her connections to the music industry proved invaluable when she was tasked with bringing in the Ramones for “Rock and Roll High School.”

She returned to major studios when she was recruited by David Puttnam at Columbia Pictures as senior vice president of marketing and distribution, where she led the successful Oscar campaign for “The Last Emperor.” nine Oscars, including Best Picture. After Columbia ousted Puttnam, Jane joined Greg Coote as president of marketing at Island Pictures.

Sadly, her long battle with breast cancer began in 1992. During her recovery, she helped found LABC, the Los Angeles activist group dedicated to educating, supporting and empowering women. women, public awareness and funding for breast cancer research. In 1994, she led a delegation of women from the alliance that met with Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta at the White House, which raised more than $200 million for women’s cancer research. , taken from the military budget.

Blair Witch Project

The original “Blair Witch Project”.

Craft entertainment

Jane completed her treatments and returned to her still active life. In 1994 she moved with her husband Gerard Maguire to her native Australia, falling in love with the beauty of wildlife and the natural world. She quickly accepted an offer to manage distribution, marketing and acquisitions for the Becker Group. His ability to select quality commercial films from the highly competitive world of independent acquisitions resulted in the acquisition of “Emma”, “Brassed Off”, “Scream”, and Cate Blanchett’s seminal film “Thank God HE Met Lizzie”. . At the Sundance Film Festival, she overheard young women talking on the street about a documentary that terrified them. Without having seen the film, she brought a DVD back to Australia to find out. Against the advice of some at Becker, she acquired “The Blair Witch Project”.

During her six years in Australia, Jane honed her business acumen. She encouraged talent, enthusiastically shared her marketing knowledge and stressed the importance of honesty and loyalty, something her businessman father had taught her.

The events of 9/11 triggered her return to the United States in late 2001. She wanted to be near her aging mother in Sedona and watch her niece and nephew grow up. Film veteran Ira Deutchman introduced Jane to filmmaker Amy Waddell, who hired her as a co-producer on the movie “Brothel,” filmed in the nearby ghost town of Jerome.

Unfortunately, the threat of cancer was never far away. In 2020, the cancer returned. Like a seasoned boxer, she rose to the challenge of several rounds of tough treatments with energy and focus. But on December 13, 2021, cancer overwhelmed her and she died in her husband’s arms, with brother Allen, niece Isabella and nephew Forrest at her bedside. She was 78 years old.

“As impressive as Jane’s film career was,” Maguire wrote, “it was her warmth and wisdom that endeared her to everyone she met. As news of her passing spread, a common theme of the tributes is her radiance of the light that seemed to emanate from her. She was very much loved and we miss her terribly. »

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