AFI Member Spotlight: John Seelke – American Film Institute


AFI Member Spotlight: John Seelke

This month, AFI spoke with X Level Member John Seelke from Silver Spring, MD who has spent much of his career as a teacher and even won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science in 2007. John currently works as an Instructional Specialist for Secondary Mathematics Company in Montgomery County Public Schools. He and his wife Clare have been longstanding supporters and members of AFI since 2011, attending the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center for AFI DOCS and the Latin American Film Festival.

We talked to John about why he loves being an AFI member, the films that have made an impact on him and the series that inspired him this year that were recognized at the 73rd Emmy® Awards.

AFI: What is your first memory of a film or television show that made you fall in love with the art form? 

John: I can think of two of them. When I was in first grade, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK was in theaters. I was a huge STAR WARS fan, and my mom took me out of school early to see the movie along with one of my best friends. I remember even at the theater in Miami, Florida there were people dressed up as characters such as Darth Vader and Chewbacca. A second memory I have is seeing Philip Kaufman’s THE RIGHT STUFF in the theaters. The movie is SO long, but it captured my attention – and it is still one of my favorite movies to this day!

AFI: What part of the American Film Institute’s mission, programs or events interests you the most? 

John: One of my favorite programs of AFI’s is the AFI DOCS festival that happens every year here in Downtown Silver Spring, MD and in the surrounding Washington, DC community. Documentaries are such a powerful tool to share stories and AFI DOCS always has such a range of stories to tell. My wife and I also love different festivals such as the Latin American Film Festival [which is currently taking place from now through October 13.] We appreciate AFI’s mission not only to preserve and share stories of filmmakers, but also to inspire new filmmakers.

AFI: What was your favorite part of the Emmy Awards® this September? Which television programs or limited series resonated with you this past year?

John: One of the best parts of the 2021 Emmy® Awards was getting the chance to see our favorite series recognized. Two shows that my wife and I love to watch are TED LASSO and THE CROWN. I guess the one thing they have in common is being set in England – but, of course, one of them is a comedy and the other a historical drama. With THE CROWN, we typically have a phone nearby to look up more about the real-life situations that the show portrays. And with TED LASSO – it just always makes us think. One show not eligible for nomination this year but that we anticipate may win some awards next year is the remake of SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE, starring Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain.

AFI: What do you love most about being an AFI member?

John: The best thing that I love about being an AFI member is the chance to support films, and indirectly supporting the AFI Theater in Downtown Silver Spring. Bonuses, such as discounted tickets and free movie passes, are always a plus!

AFI: If you could have lunch with one filmmaker or artist alive or dead, who would it be? 

John: If I could sit down with one director, it would definitely be Steven Spielberg to talk about his inspiring body of work, from JAWS and the INDIANA JONES movies to SCHINDLER’S LIST and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. The range of movies that he has made is just so impressive, and I’d love to pick his brain on how he decides which stories to tell.

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