Chuck Olin, multi-honored documentarian and corporate producer, succumbs to rare disease

Chuck Olin never expected to win an Emmy for his “Marc Chagall in Chicago” documentary. “He was thrilled when he won,” said his longtime friend Tom Weinberg. “Later he laughed and said for a year no one called him for work.”

Chuck Olin, 68, died Jan. 20 at his Stinson Beach, Calif. home of amyloidosis, a rare bone marrow disease. A memorial service will be held on Sunday, Feb. 6, at 1:30 p.m. in the Grand Salon, the Park Hyatt, 800 N. Michigan for the multi-honored filmmaker.

“Chuck was a lovely man. He never did anything that wasn’t righteous or magnanimous,” said Weinberg, who shared a small office with him at the seminal Chicago Editing Center as they both began their film careers. “He was a very talented artist and producer. He was a mentor, a friend and a wonderful teacher to young people.”

His Chuck Olin Associates, founded in 1974, shared space in Media Process Group’s former Hubbard St. offices. It produced corporate films, commercials, and films for prestigious educational and museum organizations.

Mr. Olin, a Harvard graduate, began his career in the late ?60s at a time of momentous change in both the film industry and a nation in the grip of social unrest. He and his partners at The Film Group, the edgy, definitive ?60s film company, produced award- winning documentaries about the social unrest of the times.

“Chuck sort of lived in that area,” commented Gordon Quinn of Kartemquin, who began working with Mr. Olin early on and was cameraman on the Chagall and U’Mista projects. “Chuck’s film on the Cicero march, ?8 Flags for 88 Cents,’ is a classic and is still used in educational settings on the history of civil rights.”

“Chuck had a deep sense of justice and history” that was exhibited in his films, said longtime associate Judy Hoffman. She was a young woman trying to start her career when Mr. Olin hired her as his camera assistant at a time when few women were hired for technical positions.

“He was witty, smart, giving, generous, one of the most decent people you will ever meet,” she said.

One of the memorable documentaries they made over a three-year span was the landmark “Box of Treasures,” produced for the U’Mista Cultural Center that helped Native Americans in Alert Bay, B.C. reclaim their culture.

Cultural programs were built around the artifacts, inspiring Mr. Olin and Hoffman to initiate a video production course that Hoffman taught in Alert Bay for 10 years.

Mr. Olin was especially proud of his two last documentaries, the award-winning “Is Jerusalem Burning?” that aired over national PBS in 2003, and “In Our Own Hands: The Secret History of the Jewish Brigade.”

For more about Mr. Olin’s work, see

He is survived by his wife, Nancy, two sons, Chris Olin and stepson, Peter Bensinger, and five grandchildren.