Lester Holt and Amazon's Roy Price Share Honors for Visual Storytelling

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Roy Price (left) and Lester Holt

Television and studio executives of the past and present gathered Tuesday in New York for a Museum of the Moving Image gala.

The winning anecdote last night at the Museum of the Moving Image’s 27th annual Industry Salute came from NBC News president Noah Oppenheim, on hand to introduce co-honoree and NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt. One late-September evening on Long Island, 15 minutes before the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, most of Oppenheim’s employees were “in a backstage conference room at Hofstra University, pacing, stress-eating, hand-wringing. And Lester, the guy who was about to moderate an event that was to be viewed by 80 million people, was sitting in an adjacent office watching an old Julia Roberts movie.”

Holt’s unflappability has been as asset beyond that widely praised debate performance: His newscast had led its ABC World News Tonight and CBS Evening News competitors for 23 weeks (the latter’s anchor, Scott Pelley, will complete his tenure next Friday; a replacement has not been announced). Last month, Holt interviewed President Trump at the White House about his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, who will deliver Senate Intelligence Committee testimony Thursday about Russia’s involvement in the election. Hours before Holt took the stage at the Park Hyatt Hotel Onyx Room in Midtown Manhattan — across the East River from MMI’s headquarters in Astoria, Queens — Quinnipiac University announced that it would give him yet another journalism accolade this month, the Fred Friendly First Amendment Award.

“Something remarkable has been happening over the last five months, something I haven’t encountered in 38 years in this business,” Holt said in his speech, addressing an audience that included vice president of Amazon Studios and co-honoree Roy Price, Weinstein Co. co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, Sony Pictures Classics co-president and MMI co-chair Michael Barker, reigning best documentary Oscar winner Caroline Waterlow (O.J.: Made in America), Jim Henson Foundation president Cheryl Henson, and former NBC president and MMI chairman emeritus Herb Schlosser, 91, who fainted at this event three years ago. “People are actually thanking journalists. … Now, as for why that’s all happening, I’ll let you discuss among yourselves.”

Daily Show contributor Michelle Wolf, however, had no qualms about skewering the president, or males in general. Returning to the Salute for the second year — her previous boss, Seth Meyers, was honored in 2016 alongside Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos — she provided 13 minutes of stand-up. “It’s a great time to be a woman, but men are done,” she explained. “There’s nothing new for you to do. Like even if you’re like, ‘I’m gonna win an Olympic medal and then turn into a lady,’ you’d be the second.”

Guests were also excited to celebrate Price, who oversees the convergence of television and tech. He likened his curatorial role to approaching “geniuses who are at the top of their game and have something interesting to say, and [my] job is to get them to come to [my] dinner party.” In addition, he stated, “I think it’s a great time to be a writer, to be a director, to be a creator of any kind. I think it’s a fantastic time to be an agent.”

Amazon took home trios of 2016 Emmys (Transparent) and Oscars (two for Manchester by the Sea, one for The Salesman). Prior to introducing Price as “my champion … my friend, my inspirer,” one of those individual recipients, Transparent star Jeffrey Tambor, told THR, “Roy Price and Amazon gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. … Roy and his team are changing things. They’re all about stories and commitment.” A fellow actor in the Jill Soloway-created Amazon series, Griffin Dunne of I Love Dick, joked, “We just want a second season, and coming to this I think helps. How’s [Price] gonna turn me down if I came to this? He’s gonna have a tough time saying, ‘We’re not going to do a second season.’”

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