And so here we stand upon a mountain — looking forward to 2017 and the 50th Anniversary of the American Film Institute.
It is a moment to be marked across many moments — and a celebration to continue through 2019, when we will herald the 50th Anniversary of the opening of the AFI Conservatory.
This information is not intended to tire you before we begin — but to thank you for your role in the great legacy of the organization and the great pride we have in its future.
So before you raise a glass tonight to the new year…consider these fine folks who also deserve our cheers…
George Stevens, Jr. — AFI’s Founding Director
…who was among those in the White House Rose Garden when AFI was announced by President Lyndon Johnson, and then created the organization across its first thirteen years. When considering today’s responsibilities in relation to George’s, think of it this way — “It’s one thing to turn on the lights as you arrive each day. It’s quite another to invent the lightbulb.”
Jean Picker Firstenberg — President Emerita
…who ran the Institute for a peerless 28 years. She secured the AFI Campus on year one of this journey — and never looked back in an epic tenure marked by the strength of her conviction that movies matter. It must also be said that her true embrace of change across those decades — both to the art form and to the world of non-profits — is one for the history books when it is written not only how to survive, but to thrive.
There are our Chairmen — Bob Daly and Sir Howard Stringer — whose daily commitment is to be heralded high and low. And you know I’d single you all out if I could, but if I did, this note would end as AFI began to celebrate its 60th Anniversary. Simply know that we know — your leadership lights the way.
In a year of great change at AFI — we salute the men and women who have devoted their lives to sharing what they’ve lived and learned. From Dean Jan Schuette — whose decision to move on to new challenges at the end of the academic year is a symbol for the change we embrace at AFI. His presence to pass the torch to a new leader is essential to ensuring the educational environment remains strong — and we are grateful. As we are to the Discipline Heads — including Anna Thomas and Matt Chessé, who stepped in to lead their talented teams through this year.
And let it be said that our gratitude to those who are no longer at AFI remains solid and true. We continue to hold Bob Mandel in the highest regard. He began his journey at AFI as an award-winning Fellow and, after a distinguished career in film and television, carried the torch as Dean for a celebrated tenure of nine years before returning to the field and remaining on as a member of the Directing faculty. His impact as Dean was of such significance that a scholarship was created in his name to mark the length of his contributions — a goal for all future Fellows!
And Marie Cantin, who this February will receive the Directors Guild Frank Capra Achievement Award, in recognition of career achievement in the industry and service to the Directors Guild of America. And Kevin Jones — who is now inspiring young storytellers at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. And Andy Wolk — who continues to outwork us all – shooting films and television programs across the continent. These are distinguished artists — men and women who deserve our gratitude and admiration for all they have contributed to the AFI Conservatory across the years.
I often say in regards to the alumni, “We take no credit, but we take great pride.” Never could that be more true than now — with unheralded peer recognition — and dare I say it aloud — employment numbers. Stay in touch with each other — stay in touch with us! — and we’ll look forward to celebrating you and your stories in the years ahead.
To my colleagues — who arrive early and depart late — thank you for your devotion to AFI and its ideals. From film preservation to film festivals. From events to education — it is a gift to work as a team with such talented types.
And we end to those for whom we are most devoted — the young men and women who walk the halls in this exciting year ahead. Our collective glass is raised to you…for inspiring us with each new story told.
Thank you again — and thank you all.
I look forward to celebrating the year ahead — and should I be as lucky to live as long as Kirk Douglas — the next 50 years too.
Happy New Year.