You could easily say that Sam Slater, Boston philanthropist and co-founder of Burn Later Productions (with Paul Bernon), is a multi-faceted do-gooder. In his capacity as the Executive Director of The Slater Foundation, he has co-chaired The Lenny Zakim Fund’s Casino Night for the past eight years, will be the lead sponsor for the Jimmy Fund’s Unmask Cancer event for the second time this fall, and has helped bring notables like Bill & Giuliana Rancic, Sting, and Andy Cohen to town to raise money for local charities.
New England Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady with Jessica and Sam Slater at the 2015 5 for Ellie event.
Now, Slater will be honored at The Ellie Fund’s 5 for Ellie Fashion Show presented by The Slater Foundation on June 7 for his long-time commitment to the organization. We spoke with Slater about getting in front of the camera in his new movie Support the Girls and what it means to him to be honored by The Ellie Fund.
Tell me more about what drew you to Support the Girls. How do you pick your projects?
Sam Slater: After my last Andrew Bujalski film Results, I knew I had to work with him again. A year and a half ago Andrew began writing Support the Girls. This film is topically relevant, and really touches on many issues in our society today that are important to us all, in addition to be an entertaining with healthy doses of comedy and drama alike. I choose my projects by both reading scripts, with sometimes 20-30 submissions weekly, and also by identifying filmmakers that I want to collaborate with. I am always drawn to a compelling story and talented folks.
What is it like getting in front of the camera for this movie? Any fun moments on set you can share? SS: I play a character named Greg, who is an obnoxious and overly confident Hummer driving type of guy who is showing off at the car wash to the ladies. Apparently, that wasn't too difficult for me to pull off [laughs]. Let’s just say that I prefer to stay behind the camera, but when my director calls, I’m always there!
You’re shooting in Austin now but do you look for projects that could be shot in Boston? SS: Always! Eventually we will shoot in Boston. This summer we have other films that are shooting in New York City and Seattle, but I'll be home soon. Most of our stories are set in a particular place that happens to not be Boston, otherwise I'd be a regular shooting on Boylston Street! Should the tax credit remain, with a little luck and help from Governor Baker, we’ll see filmmakers other than Ben Affleck and David O. Russell shooting more regularly in our state.
Sam Slater, Bill Rancic, and Josh Zakim at The Lenny Zakim Fund's 20th Anniversary Celebration.
You're incredibly hands-on when it comes to local philanthropy. What led you to choose to support The Ellie Fund? SS: I have always been drawn to the Ellie Fund because sadly my family has been touched by breast cancer many times. Even more than this, I'm drawn to the Ellie Fund because of the direct impact their work has on people. It’s always nice to know that money and efforts are being made towards finding cures, but in the meantime, we also must focus on making the lives of people battling this horrible cancer and their families a little bit more livable. It is my mission to be to be able to directly and immediately help people
What does it mean to you to be honored by The Ellie Fund this year? SS: I am honestly overwhelmed to be receiving the Hope Award. I work on raising funds and awareness for the Ellie Fund based on the work they do and the quality of their organization, so for them to take a moment to recognize that is amazing and something I never expected. I'm humbled.
What do you love most about getting friends together to raise money for Boston charities? SS:This is part of what has allowed me to be successful in my Boston-based charitably fundraisers. I always focus on, even obsess on, the experience of our guests. I make sure that friends and strangers alike can come together for an enjoyable evening while at the same time learning about the organization we are raising funds and awareness for. This recipe, this balance, is what often gets lost with some folks and results in events that are just mediocre. I always strive for excellence in the experience of my guests and also our fundraising goals! Also, it’s no secret that people love the energy and experience that celebrities bring to events, so over the years we have seen success including friends like Bill and Giuliana Rancic, Andy Cohen, and Sting at events here in Boston that [my wife] Jessica and I have co-chaired over the years.