260 Fellows to Watch – American Film Institute


260 Fellows to Watch

This morning, Variety published its list of the “110 Students to Watch.” It’s an article full of promising talent that we at AFI celebrate enthusiastically. But you won’t see any current AFI Conservatory Fellows listed there because we chose not to nominate any of them for the article.


Because there is just too much talent walking the halls at AFI. We believe that all of our Fellows are ones to watch — all 260 of them.

AFI is an intimate program. Each year, only 28 Fellows or less are selected for each discipline: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design and Screenwriting.

Collaboration is crucial. Teamwork is how real movies are made and that concept is the core of AFI’s training.

Fellows learn by doing. AFI Fellows are filmmakers who make movies. They create four to 10 films in just two short years. At last week’s College Television Awards, the annual gala event by the Television Academy Foundation, AFI films took home five awards, more than any other school.

Each year, AFI sends about 200 artists into the work world. AFI alumni are creating groundbreaking television series (Brad Falchuk, AMERICAN HORROR STORY), directing movies that influence the cultural lexicon (Amy Heckerling, CLUELESS), winning the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL), weaving together the stories of various acclaimed movies (Jay Cassidy, AMERICAN HUSTLE) and are queued up to helm the next great superhero blockbuster (Patty Jenkins, WONDER WOMAN).

AFI alumni also include Darren Aronofsky, Susannah Grant, David Lynch, Terrence Malick and Robert Richardson — to name just a few more.

If you’re not familiar with the 260 AFI Conservatory Fellows today, you will be very soon. They’re the ones to watch.

 As seen in the April 28, 2015 issue of Variety.


Comments (8)

Jack Reacher

The sentiment behind this is nice, but I can’t help but think this was a step backward. It makes AFI look elitist, and now instead of a couple talented fellows (among many) getting some light shed on them, nobody does. It’s lose-lose. Furthermore, you undermine your own point in this very article by singling out Darren Aronofsky, Susannah Grant, David Lynch, Terrence Malick, Robert Richardson and several others as alumni of note. Sure, all AFI fellows are special, but some are, for lack of a better word, “special-er.” Almost everyone knows who they are, and they should be recognized for their achievement.

I hope that AFI selects some deserving fellows for recognition next year, if Variety even asks for them again. Selecting a notable few doesn’t hurt the reputation of the rest, and the fellows need every bit of attention they can get as they start their careers.

    Stop Reaching

    One of the amazing parts of AFI is that they minimize the politicking found in most high-level film schools. They create an even playing field and let the work of the fellows speak for itself.
    This letter/advert is certainly in that spirit- if you are craving recognition for your efforts, I would first purchase a thesaurus, and then apply yourself to creating work that stands out.

Joy Phillips

Appreciate this approach and perspective. Bravo.

Judy Chaikin

Bravo Jan Schutte and AFI! How good of you to acknowledge that film making is a collaborative art and not a competitive sport.

K. Reachen

Variety awards and publicity helps careers. By not submitting names, AFI deprives its fellows a chance at that publicity. Students at another school have a better chance of winning. And what’s on the AFI fellows’ resume, “not nominated.” “Thanks AFI” – USC

    AFI Alumnus

    Hmm…interesting perspective but I think you might be missing the whole point. As a recent graduate, I appreciate Mr. Schuette’s decision to celebrate the excellence of all the fellows. Even though publicity is important, in the end the work will speak for itself. Filmmaking is not about winning, it’s about telling compelling stories and the collaboration that is necessary to achieve that.

Peter J. Fox


SC, 94.

Current Fellow

As a current Fellow attending AFI, I applaud the dean’s decision. If you actually look at the article Variety published today (in print or online), you’ll see that it looked awful, like the classified ads in the back of a 90’s magazine minus the cool drawings. I can’t imagine any film school student actually being helped by this “exposure”, although to be fair, Variety shared an interesting detail or two about each student.

By publishing this letter, AFI shows it’s more interested in the work of its Fellows and its elite, yes elite reputation as possibly the best film school in America if not the world. That’s an area that AFI has neglected over the years, relying on the status of its most famous alumni while forgetting to remind the town that thousands more of its alumni are out there working on nearly every single TV show or movie you could watch this weekend. That’s why AFI needs more actions like this. Real awards and recognition like College Emmys and Student Oscars are fantastic, but I could care less about being on arbitrary lists of “who’s who”. What matters much more to me is that I’m graduating from AFI and that this still means something in this town, even if it means nothing to my mother and never will.

Related Posts