AFI Conservatory Celebrates 50th Anniversary at Greystone Mansion – American Film Institute

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AFI Conservatory Celebrates 50th Anniversary at Greystone Mansion

AFI Community Comes Together to Honor
The Conservatory’s Legacy of Training Trailblazing Storytellers

The American Film Institute celebrated the 50th year of the AFI Conservatory with an elegant, star-studded reception at Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, which served as the Conservatory’s original home during its formative years. Members of the AFI community, including nine of the 18 Fellows from the first class, attended the event to mark the milestone. Since it first opened its doors on September 23,1969, the AFI Conservatory has evolved into a fully accredited MFA program that is continuously ranked as one of the best film schools in the world.

John Klein (AFI Class of 1969), Jeremy Kagan (AFI Class of 1969), Oscar Williams (AFI Class of 1970), Caleb Deschanel (AFI Class of 1969), George Stevens, Jr., Ken Luber (AFI Class of 1969), Stanton Kaye (AFI Class of 1969) BOTTOW ROW: David Wyles (AFI Class of 1969), Jack Weinstein (AFI Class of 1969), Matthew Robbins (AFI Class of 1969), Paul Davids (AFI Class of 1969).

AFI Founding Director George Stevens, Jr., President Emerita Jean Picker Firstenberg and current AFI President & CEO Bob Gazzale honored the anniversary of the Conservatory. Recalling the early Fellows’ revolutionary spirit spurred by the political climate, Firstenberg said, “The Center was the heart and soul of the AFI, but you must remember that it was born at a turbulent time in our nation’s history — and its first decade reflected that. It was a creative crucible — brilliant minds seizing on cultural unrest to find inspiration in the spirit of rebellion.”

Filmmaker Edwick Zwick (AFI Class of 1975) stands in front of an archival image of himself from 1976.

Stevens, Jr. observed the wealth of talent that the Conservatory attracted even early on, with guests for the first week including, “writers, Ray Bradbury, Dalton Trumbo and Budd Schulberg; directors Sam Peckinpah, Rouben Mamoulian, Gene Kelly, Don Siegel and Robert Wise; and composer Henry Mancini. The tradition that began fifty years ago is to this day the heartbeat of our Conservatory.”

AFI alumni who gathered for the momentous occasion included inaugural class Fellow Caleb Deschanel (Class of 1969), Pieter Jan Brugge (Class of 1979), Jay Cassidy (Class of 1976), Susannah Grant (Class of 1991), Liz Hannah (Class of 2009), Marshall Herskovitz (Class of 1975), Mel Jones (Class of 2010), Matthew Libatique (Class of 1992), David Lynch (Class of 1970), Melina Matsoukas (Class of 2005), LaToya Morgan (Class of 2005), Rachel Morrison (Class of 2006), Wally Pfister (Class of 1988), Mark Waters (Class of 1992) and Ed Zwick (Class of 1975).

As the evening came to a close, Stevens, Jr. said, “In the audience tonight is the fruit of AFI’s existence. Accomplished filmmaking fellows from the past fifty years — I could recite your credits and awards ‘til the sun comes up, but — I will simply request that you stand, so we can all acknowledge your proud place in AFI’s legacy — and its future.”

This has been an extraordinary anniversary year of achievements for Conservatory Fellows and alumni including this month’s sweep of the Narrative Category at the Student Academy Awards®, as well as festival recognition and beyond.

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