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AFI CONSERVATORY 2015 COMMENCEMENT CELEBRATES NEW FILMMAKERS

Angela Lansbury and Lawrence Kasdan Receive AFI Honorary Degrees by
Surprise Presenters Jeffrey Katzenberg and James Newton Howard

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — June 10, 2015, Los Angeles, CA — The American Film Institute (AFI) celebrated this year's 122 AFI Conservatory graduates — and the world's newest filmmakers — today at Hollywood's historic TCL Chinese Theatre. During commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2015, Doctorate of Fine Arts degrees honoris causa were conferred upon Angela Lansbury and Lawrence Kasdan for their "contribution of distinction to the art of the moving image." Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation and AFI's 2010 Honorary Degree recipient, presented the honor to actress Angela Lansbury, beloved for her film, television and theater roles including Mrs. Potts in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991) — produced during Katzenberg's tenure as chairman at The Walt Disney Studios. Composer James Newton Howard presented the honor to celebrated writer, director and producer Lawrence Kasdan. Howard scored six of Kasdan's films including GRAND CANYON (1991) and WYATT EARP (1994).

Words of wisdom were shared by presenters and Honorary Degree recipients to the class of 2015. Howard said about his long-time collaborator, Kasdan, "I was a film composer … he turned me into a filmmaker." Kasdan advised the graduates to make thoughtful movies and to stay focused on their art as they work toward commercial success. "It has never been easy to get challenging projects made … Get your movies made any way you can," said Kasdan.

As Katzenberg presented the honor to his friend and Hollywood icon Lansbury, he noted, "The American Film Institute is honoring an American institution." While observing the various mediums filmmakers have available to them today, Lansbury commented that the graduates are "about to set forth into the thrilling world of drama and storytelling. Whether it be way of film, television or the Internet … everything counts!"

Lansbury and Kasdan join an esteemed group of filmmakers who are previous recipients of an AFI Honorary Degree: Robert Altman, Maya Angelou, Kathryn Bigelow, Mel Brooks, Anne V. Coates, Clint Eastwood, Roger Ebert, Nora Ephron, James Earl Jones, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Kathleen Kennedy, John Lasseter, Spike Lee, David Lynch, Helen Mirren, Robert Towne, Cicely Tyson, Haskell Wexler and John Williams.

Downloadable photos are available here.

About the AFI Conservatory
The AFI Conservatory offers a two-year Master of Fine Arts degree in six filmmaking disciplines: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design and Screenwriting. Aspiring artists learn from the masters in a collaborative, hands-on production environment with an emphasis on storytelling. Esteemed director, producer and screenwriter James L. Brooks serves as Artistic Director of the AFI Conservatory where he provides creative leadership for the elite film program. Proud supporters of the AFI Conservatory are Sony and American Airlines, the official airline of AFI.

AFI Fellows make four to 10 films during their training. Many of their films earn prestigious recognition: the 2015 Cannes Film Festival's Cinéfondation First Prize and an Emerging Filmmaker Showcase Honorable Mention; five wins at the 36th College Television Awards; two wins at the 2015 DGA Student Film Awards and a bronze medal at the 2014 Student Academy Awards®.

Joining an elite group of just 4,716 alumni, the AFI Class of 2015 will enter the workforce comprised of award-winning artists from the Conservatory who have received a total of 133 Academy Award® nominations and 27 wins. Throughout the 2014-2015 academic year to date, AFI alumni have been nominated for 184 awards by 33 major guilds, academies and other professional associations — with 62 award wins.

About the American Film Institute
AFI is America's promise to preserve the heritage of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers. AFI programs include the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and the AFI Archive, which preserve film heritage for future generations; the AFI Life Achievement Award, the highest honor for a career in film; AFI AWARDS, honoring the most outstanding motion pictures and television programs of the year; AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies television events and movie reference lists, which have introduced and reintroduced classic American movies to millions of film lovers; year-round and special event exhibition through AFI FEST presented by Audi, AFI DOCS and the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center; and educating the next generation of storytellers at the world-renowned AFI Conservatory. For more information about AFI, visit AFI.com or connect with AFI at twitter.com/AmericanFilm, facebook.com/AmericanFilmInstitute and youtube.com/AFI.