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The American Film Institute is an independent non-profit organization created by the National Endowment for the Arts, which was established in 1967 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act. The organization describes itself as "a national institute providing leadership in screen education and the recognition and celebration of excellence in the art of film, television and digital media."

The American Film Institute preserves film and video through its National Center for Film and Video Preservation. The AFI Conservatory focuses on training through hands-on experience with established figures. AFI also produces film education and appreciation materials for middle and high school students.

The American Film Institute re-opened the AFI Silver theatre in Silver Spring, Marylandmarker, near Washington, D.C.marker, in April 2003.


The American Film Institute was founded in 1967 as a national arts organization to preserve the legacy of America’s film heritage, educate the next generation of filmmakers and honor the artists and their work. The National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities recommended creating AFI “to enrich and nurture the art of film in America” with initial funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Motion Picture Association of America and the Ford Foundation. The original 22-member Board of Trustees included Chair Gregory Peck and Vice Chair Sidney Poitier as well as Francis Ford Coppola, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Jack Valenti and other representatives from the arts and academia.

George Stevens, Jr., was the founding director. Jean Picker Firstenberg was President and CEO from 1980 to 2007. Bob Gazzale was named President and CEO in 2007. As a national nonprofit organization, the institute funds its efforts through contributions and sponsorships from large corporations and small companies, donations from individuals and its AFI membership program.

AFI Conservatory

The AFI Conservatory describes itself as a “world-renowned Conservatory where a dedicated group of working professionals from the film and television communities serve as mentors in a hands-on, production-based environment nurturing the talents of tomorrow's storytellers.” In a two-year program that emphasizes narrative storytelling and grants an MFA, Fellows specialize in one of six disciplines: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Production Design, Producing and Screenwriting.

In 1969, the institute established the Center for Advanced Film Studies at Greystone, the Doheny Mansion in Beverly Hills, CA. The first class included filmmakers Terrence Malick, David Lynch, Caleb Deschanel and Paul Schrader. That program grew into the AFI Conservatory, a fully accredited graduate film school, located in the hills above Hollywood, CA. In addition to the Conservatory, AFI has a tuition-free program called the AFI Directing Workshop for Women that operates each spring and summer from the Los Angeles campus.

Notable Alumni

Several AFI Alums have received both national and international recognition. Among the notable alumni of AFI are: Darren Aronofsky, Jon Avnet, Stuart Cornfeld, Bill Duke, Edward James Olmos, Todd Field, Rodrigo Garcia, Anne Garefino, Steve Golin, Amy Heckerling, Marshall Herskovitz, Janusz Kaminski, Mimi Leder, David Lynch, Terrence Malick, John McTiernan, Paul Schrader, Frank Spotnitz, Mark Waters, Gary Winick, and Ed Zwick.

AFI Programs

AFI Catalog Of Feature Films

The AFI Catalog of Feature Films, started in 1968, is an online database that preserves the history of American film in authoritative, encyclopedic detail. A prime research tool for film historians, the catalog consists of entries on more than 50,000 films, from 1893 to the mid-1970s, documenting casts, crews, synopses and production notes. New catalog entries of the remaining 15,000 American feature films produced between 1974 and present day are incorporated every year.

AFI Life Achievement Award

AFI Awards

The annual AFI AWARDS honors the creative ensembles of the 10 outstanding movies and television shows of the year. Two 13-person juries composed of artists, academics, critics and AFI Trustees deliberate, discuss and determine the honored ensembles, who are then feted at a private event in January. In addition, Ten Moments of Significance, documenting the year’s media milestones, are entered into an ongoing almanac.

AFI 100 Years… Television Shows

The popular AFI 100 Years… series, which ran from 1998 to 2008, and created jury-selected lists of America’s best movies in categories including Musicals, Laughs and Thrills, drove new generations to experience classic American films. The juries consisted of over 1,500 artists, scholars, critics and historians, with movies selected based on the film’s popularity over time, historical significance and cultural impact. Citizen Kane was voted the greatest American film.

AFI Film Festivals

AFI operates two film festivals: AFI FEST in Los Angeles, CA, and AFI-Discovery Channel SILVERDOCS documentary festival in Silver Spring, MD. AFI FEST is the only film festival in the US to hold FIAPF (Fédération Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films) accreditation.

AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center

As the largest nonprofit exhibitor in the United States, AFI screens films regularly at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, MD, and the ArcLight Cinemas and Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, CA. Programming at the AFI Silver Theatre consists of an eclectic mix of retrospectives, festivals and first-run features as well as community events and educational activities.

AFI Project 20/20

AFI Project: 20/20 is a global exchange program that promotes cultural understanding through film. The program sends filmmakers to festivals and cultural institutions around the world to screen their films and engage audiences in discussions that challenge stereotypes and encourage mutual respect. The program is a collaboration between AFI and America’s four government cultural agencies—the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

AFI Digital Content Lab

The AFI Digital Content Lab is a research and development facility for digital media located on the LA campus. The lab explores and creates digital entertainment prototypes for film, television, video games, broadband and mobile phones.

AFI ScreenNation

AFI ScreenNation is a Web site featuring AFI-produced educational materials and tips for new filmmakers to share work, receive recognition and compete for prizes.


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