American Film Institute (AFI)

General Information

The American Film Institute is an independent non-profit organization created by the National Endowment for the Arts, which was established in 1967 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act. The organization describes itself as "a national institute providing leadership in screen education and the recognition and celebration of excellence in the art of film, television and digital media."

The American Film Institute preserves film and video through its National Center for Film and Video Preservation. The AFI Conservatory focuses on training through hands-on experience with established figures. AFI also produces film education and appreciation materials for middle and high school students.

The American Film Institute re-opened the AFI Silver theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland, near Washington, D.C., in April 2003.

The American Film Institute was founded in 1967 as a national arts organization to preserve the legacy of America’s film heritage, educate the next generation of filmmakers and honor the artists and their work. The National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities recommended creating AFI “to enrich and nurture the art of film in America” with initial funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Motion Picture Association of America and the Ford Foundation. The original 22-member Board of Trustees included Chair Gregory Peck and Vice Chair Sidney Poitier as well as Francis Ford Coppola, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Jack Valenti and other representatives from the arts and academia.

George Stevens, Jr., was the founding director. Jean Picker Firstenberg was President and CEO from 1980 to 2007. Bob Gazzale was named President and CEO in 2007. As a national nonprofit organization, the institute funds its efforts through contributions and sponsorships from large corporations and small companies, donations from individuals and its AFI membership program.

The AFI Conservatory describes itself as a “world-renowned Conservatory where a dedicated group of working professionals from the film and television communities serve as mentors in a hands-on, production-based environment nurturing the talents of tomorrow's storytellers.” In a two-year program that emphasizes narrative storytelling and grants an MFA, Fellows specialize in one of six disciplines: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Production Design, Producing and Screenwriting.

In 1969, the institute established the Center for Advanced Film Studies at Greystone, the Doheny Mansion in Beverly Hills, CA. The first class included filmmakers Terrence Malick, David Lynch, Caleb Deschanel and Paul Schrader. That program grew into the AFI Conservatory, a fully accredited graduate film school, located in the hills above Hollywood, CA. In addition to the Conservatory, AFI has a tuition-free program called the AFI Directing Workshop for Women that operates each spring and summer from the Los Angeles campus.


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Film School Rating

American Film Institute (AFI) EXPOSED

I can't imagine a better experience

Was it worth it? (Overall)

It's a graduate only program structured as ...

Equipment & Facilities

They have a pretty good package for ...

Instruction & Professors

As a cinematography student I felt I had ...

Film Industry Connections

We had a slew of top level Hollywood ...

Hands-on Experience

It's very hands on. It's all about ...

Amazing experience!

Was it worth it? (Overall)

you should go

Equipment & Facilities


Instruction & Professors


Film Industry Connections

i cant get over how good it is

Hands-on Experience

you get to do stuff

Quick Review This School

Quick Reviews & Comments

It is tough to get into AFI.

It is tough to get into AFI. They accept 140 students each year, including 28 for the screenwiting program. I heard that they interview around 100 also each year.
Then, when you start, itsbasically a super super intense immersion into filming boot camp. You have to write around 2 scripts per week, and they have to be produced immediately by the rest of the class that comes in, according to whateer their program is- producing/ directing/ etc. And you basically keep writing scripts for them to use. The only problem is people don't realise the dedication and chance of burning right out. you have to come here wanting nothing more than to be a scriptwriter.
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American film institute is

American film institute is really doing its best for the better future of students. Everything should be changed according to the requirement of time and condition. Although the system of chalk, duster, blackboard and marker is still prevail in most of the schools in the world. The concept of film institute is really effective trend. Such kinds of trend should be assimilated and of course considered by the stakeholders.
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Its tough to survive in this

Its tough to survive in this school, you ahve to be coming in with some experience and some of the undergrad theory, etc. in producing and the technical stuff too. They have great equipment and facilities also. The directing program is especially good, mixing filmmaking theory and the skills to get things done the way you want. I recommend this school.

agreed- getting in is tough!

It is tough to get into AFI. They accept 140 students each year, including 28 for the screenwiting program. I heard that they interview around 100 also each year.
Then, when you start, itsbasically a super super intense immersion into filming boot camp. You have to write around 2 scripts per week, and they have to be produced immediately by the rest of the class that comes in, according to whateer their program is- producing/ directing/ etc. And you basically keep writing scripts for them to use. The only problem is people don't realise the dedication and chance of burning right out. you have to come here wanting nothing more than to be a scriptwriter.

i agree, the school is super

i agree, the school is super well known, and has great equipment, we get to make movies early on, and there is quite a reputation. Personally, I do think that the tuition is pretty high, I have been working for a few years now and am going to blow all my savings on this school. I am pretty sure I got in because I made a great application. I have been doing some work with my friends for the last few years. Also, my letter was rewritten many times and proofread by a few people to get it as good as I could make it. Saying that its impossible just shows that your not willing to put in the effort that this industry requires for success. Personally, I would rather work with the best of the best.

impossible to get into


awesome school for film but i would not waste your time trying to get into it. the application process is near impossible but good luck!

application process not impossible

It's not impossible. It does take a certain amount of effort though. A major part of the application is a narrative letter telling them why you have a passion for film making. They judge this on how well you communicate. A friend of mine applied three times and didn't get in and I believe it was simply because of his letter. I tell people to write the letter as though you are writing an article for Vanity Fair. It should enlighten and entertain. It should not be a chore to read. I did twelve drafts and the final version had virtually no resemblance to the original.

hello I assume that you got


I assume that you got accepted?! May I ask what kind of work u did priorly? I just read the list with requierments and for someone who did not work in the industrie yet, there is no chance to get accepted to AFI, right?

take care

There's Good and Not-So-Good

Well, it's definitely NOT impossible to get in without prior industry experience. I just finished my First Year in the directing program, was 23 when I got in, and the only experience I had was from working on projects with friends over the past 12 years. This past year there have been several Directing students admitted that have little to no real industry experience, which seems to be a trend spread across the entire program - Directors and Screenwriters especially. There were a good number of Production Designers, Cinematographers, Editors, and even some Producers that have had some form of industry experience (one of my friends who is a Cinematography "Fellow" there [just won a grant from Kodak] worked for a Danish television station for about 10 years, though another friend who is ALSO a Cinematography student there has shot just a few films with her friends, and she got in too). So having a lack of industry experience should not discourage you from applying.

As for the school itself, we did have pretty good faculty, all of which have/are working in the industry in some capacity, and while their passion for teaching the art and craft is palpable, what ends up bogging most of the students down is the administration. If you want to go to a school where you feel like the institute actually cares about you and your education, you can do much better, and while I have several minors complaints about the administrative goings-on, the biggest source of anger for most students was the thesis Greenlight process. You submit your script to be greenlit, then it goes to a one of four different panels each with four to five readers - faculty members mainly - who read your script (your name is not listed, so if you're Red-lit no need to think they have some grudge against you) and decide if it should go on for production, needs a few revisions before making a final call, or Red light it, meaning it does not get a chance for Second Year thesis production. While all of that is pretty standard, you never get any information on what is actually going ON in the process, just updates now and again about when you might get to find out which scripts are Green-lit, and even THAT information was sketchy: the faculty didn't know, admin didn't care to tell us, and even some faculty members chose to feed into the "rumor mill" with flat-out lies regarding what we could expect for the process rather than giving real answers. And while most of that could STILL be seen as just protocol, the most insulting bit was, after spending months working on a script, taking a Thesis Development course with truly great and accomplished industry professionals, and going through the entire, tedious submission process, you find out that your script is Red-lit and the comments you get back on it is just one line, two if you're lucky. It's also read to you from someone in an office from across her desk. Some examples of a few thesis comments are: "Characters are too stupid." "We're not sure whether this story is supposed to be real, or fictional." What kind of feedback is THAT?? You're paying $35K a year in tuition, plus an additional $20K in living costs, you spend the whole year being told how great the AFI Conservatory is, how high standards are, how there's a very high level of quality you must meet (and it's true, you make quality narrative films, or have the potential to), are told that the thesis project is very important for you as a filmmaker to have a "calling card" for when you graduate and get out into the industry, yet when it comes down to being educational about why your work doesn't get picked, you're basically slapped in the face. MONTHS of your work, THOUSANDS of your dollars, and they can't give you more than a one-line comment? They say it's a microcosm of Hollywood, and in many many ways it definitely is, but they seem to forget that they are an EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION, one meant to find ways of teaching their students how better to perfect their craft. "Characters are too stupid" is the most ridiculous piece of feedback, and that's really just one example of SEVERAL that didn't get Greenlit.

Phew! Thesis process aside, there are many other ups and downs to the school. If anyone has any specific questions, feel free to ask, preferably regarding the Directing program, but I could also answer questions about the other disciplines as well, or the curriculum if you're interested.

Also, if you haven't read "Film School Confidential," I'd recommend taking a look. There's website for it here - - and a link there to the book on Amazon. It basically lists the different types of film schools and gives pretty accurate information on what you could expect from the admission process through the entire curriculum. I found some parts of the AFI segment to either be slightly inaccurate or just out-of-date, but it's more-or-less on the money.

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AFI Financial Aid

Is it true that AFI doesn't offer much in the way of financial aid? How can most people who go to this school afford that?

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