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American Film Institute

Discover how the American Film Institute nurtures future filmmakers.

The American Film Institute has been training filmmakers since 1976. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
The American Film Institute has been training filmmakers since 1976.

The American Film Institute (AFI) was founded in 1976 with the mission is to train filmmakers and preserve America's film heritage. The AFI was recommended by the National Foundation of the Arts but came into being when President Lyndon Johnson signed the appropriate legislation. The AFI brings together leaders in the film industry, film educators and young people who dream of becoming filmmakers.

Education and Training

The AFI focuses on educating and training future filmmakers. It has three educational programs that each serve different purposes. The first is the AFI Conservatory, which is located in Griffith Park in Los Angeles, California. This program offers master's degrees in film-video making and cinematography. With an average enrollment of only 298, the institute offers future filmmakers a chance to work in small teams with some of the best and brightest in today's filmmaking community. The institute touts an impressive faculty with a wide array of experiences and expertise in filmmaking and a long history of major awards captured by alumni.

The AFI Digital Content Lab fosters research and development in new digital entertainment media. This research culminates in AFI DigiFest, an annual event in which this new media makes its debut to the world.

AFI's K-12 Screen Education Program provides classroom teachers with filmmaking and media production tools to capture children's attention while they learn traditional subjects. The nationwide program gives thousands of children the chance to learn how to use digital cameras and computer editing systems.

Film Heritage

In addition to its educational efforts, the AFI sponsors the Catalog of Feature Films, which is available to members online or via books sold in major book stores. The goal of the catalog, according to AFI, is to provide authenticated online information on every feature-length film produced in America or financed by American production companies. Details on cast, crew, plot summaries, subjects, genres and historical notes are included for each film. The catalog provides filmmakers with a comprehensive list of American films made since the late 1800s.

Awards and Recognition

In addition to its educational efforts and in conjunction with its preservation efforts, the AFI also recognizes excellence in filmmaking with its annual AFI Awards. These awards provide a yearly record of evolution within the film and television industries. Among the 2008 recipients of the AFI Movies of the Year award were the Dark Knight, Iron Man and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Lost, The Office, and The Wire captured the 2008 AFI TV Programs of the Year.

How to Support the AFI

Individuals can support the AFI in several ways. Those who opt to become members enjoy special privileges such as access to movie databases and screenings and discussion with famous filmmakers. Individuals can also donate money directly to a particular AFI program, such as the Directing Workshop for Women or the AFI Television Programs & Events. The AFI Development Department assists organizations and foundations who wish to form philanthropic alliances and create scholarships.

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