Category Archives: #AFI

46th AFI Life Achievement Award to George Clooney

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Actor, director, writer and producer George Clooney will be the recipient of the 46th AFI Life Achievement Award, the highest honor for a career in film.  The award will be Screen Shot 2017-10-06 at 10.56.48 PMpresented to Clooney at a Gala Tribute on June 7, 2018, in Los Angeles, CA.  The AFI Life Achievement Award Tribute special will return for its sixth year with Turner Broadcasting to air on TNT, followed by encore presentations on sister network Turner Classic Movies (TCM). Audi and VIZIO return as Official Sponsors of the event.

George Clooney is one of Hollywood’s most dynamic multi-hyphenates, a presence bigger even than his movies.  With an instantly recognizable charm, he has captivated audiences in front of the camera, and defined a cinematic voice all his own behind it — all while using his global voice to shine light on issues of human rights, climate change and more.  Throughout a career spanning screens big and small, his work has earned him eight Academy Award® nominations and two wins — with nominations in the most categories ever.  He won an Oscar® for Best Supporting Actor for SYRIANA (2005), and went on to earn Best Actor nominations for MICHAEL CLAYTON (2007), UP IN THE AIR (2009) and THE DESCENDANTS (2011) — all films grounded by his signature charm, and his universal relatability.

Clooney is as accomplished a filmmaker as he is a performer, from his directorial debut CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND (2002) to his multiple-Oscar®-nominated GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK. (2005) and THE IDES OF MARCH (2011).  He earned a Best Picture Academy Award® for producing ARGO (2012).  On screen, he continues to deliver performances that are moving, humorous and human, with additional acting credits including: OUT OF SIGHT (1998), THREE KINGS (1999), O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? (2000), the OCEAN’S trilogy (2001, 2004, 2007), SOLARIS (2002), BURN AFTER READING (2008), FANTASTIC MR. FOX (2009), GRAVITY (2013), and HAIL, CAESAR! (2016).  His latest project is SUBURBICON (2017), which he directed, and also co-wrote alongside his frequent collaborators the Coen brothers.

About George Clooney

Born in Lexington, Kentucky, to a former beauty pageant queen and an anchorman, George Clooney spent much of his youth in Ohio and Kentucky.  He had dreams of becoming a professional baseball player, but did not make the cut for the Cincinnati Reds.  He was instead encouraged to pursue acting by his cousin, late actor Miguel Ferrer.

In 1984, Clooney landed his first major role on the TV sitcom E/R — not to be confused with the long-running hospital drama, ER, that would later make Clooney a household name.  Early TV credits included popular series such as THE FACTS OF LIFE and ROSEANNE, and bit parts on MURDER, SHE WROTE and THE GOLDEN GIRLS.  His breakout as Dr. Doug Ross on ER earned him two Primetime Emmy® nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor, and led to high-profile film roles in FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996), ONE FINE DAY (1996) and BATMAN & ROBIN (1997).  His starring role in the film OUT OF SIGHT marked the beginning of a long-lasting collaboration with one of our greatest filmmakers, Steven Soderbergh, on films including the OCEAN’S trilogy and THE GOOD GERMAN.  In 2000, he starred in the Coen brothers’ O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?, forging another iconic collaboration that continued with INTOLERABLE CRUELTY (2003), BURN AFTER READING and, most recently, HAIL, CAESAR!

In 2006, he established his reputation as a filmmaker with a distinctive vision when he was nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK. — the same year he received his Oscar® for SYRIANA.

In 2010, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences honored him with the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award in recognition of his humanitarian efforts.

For information about purchasing tickets to the Gala, please contact AFI Special Events at or 323.856.7676.  Ticket prices start at $3,000.



AFI FEST to Present Robert Altman Retrospective

Posted by Larry Gleeson

AFI has announced an inaugural, annual retrospective to spotlight one filmmaker of global significance, as part of AFI FEST 2017 presented by Audi, running November 9–16, 2017, in Hollywood, CA.

This year, AFI FEST will present the work of Robert Altman, with screenings and discussions of 12 films — historically the most programmed in the festival for one filmmaker. For the retrospective, legendary director/producer/writer Altman (1925–2006) will be honored with screenings and discussions of his classic  films, including: M*A*S*H (1970), MCCABE & MRS. MILLER (1971), THE LONG GOODBYE (1972), CALIFORNIA SPLIT (1973), NASHVILLE (1975), 3 WOMEN (1977), VINCENT & THEO (1990), THE PLAYER (1992), SHORT CUTS (1993), KANSAS CITY (1996), GOSFORD PARK (2001) and A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION (2006).

pictured above: NASHVILLE, #59 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies




Vote Now VIZIO + Dolby Vision Filmmaker Challenge

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Established to celebrate excellence in the art of storytelling and advancements in filmmaking, the second annual VIZIO + Dolby Vision Filmmaker Challenge inspires rising cinematographers to showcase their filmmaking prowess.

The contest invited second-year Fellows from the AFI Conservatory — the American Film Institute’s renowned film training program — to submit their films. From the pool of entries, a panel of judges selected the top five that best showcased striking visuals, a compelling narrative and creativity.

Watch clips of the AFI Conservatory thesis films from all five finalists, vote on your favorite and enter to win a 65″ VIZIO television with Dolby Vision™ High Dynamic Range — here!


INTERVIEW: AFI Conservatory Alumna Mimi Leder on Directing THE LEFTOVERS

Posted by Larry Gleeson

As an executive producer and director on HBO’s THE LEFTOVERS, Mimi Leder (AFI Class of 1973, Cinematography) brought her deft storytelling touch to the recent series finale. But her work has extended well beyond the prestige mystery series, with Primetime Emmy wins and nominations for ER, THE WEST WING and CHINA BEACH, and film-directing credits including DEEP IMPACT (1998), PAY IT FORWARD (2000) and the upcoming Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic ON THE BASIS OF SEX.

AFI spoke to Leder about THE LEFTOVERS finale, and her work as a director. Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen season three of THE LEFTOVERS.

Mimi Leder
Mimi Leder

AFI: In all three seasons of THE LEFTOVERS, there has been more conversation than ever this year — especially now that the series has ended.

ML: We’re all trying to wrap our heads around it. There are many endings. You film it, then you edit, then you’re done editing, you’re done mixing, then it airs and you’re done again. It’s been quite an extraordinary time.

There’s perhaps more rallying around this season because more people have found the show. In the beginning, it lost a lot of viewers because it was rather bleak, but still wonderful. Season two came around and we very much worked towards moving to a new town, and I changed the palette of the show, the color, and very much opened up the scope of the show. The show, in its second season, got quite a lot of recognition. And then in the third season, we continued on to Australia and journeyed with our characters there. The reaction to the third season has been absolutely stunning.

AFI: Reportedly, series co-creator Damon Lindelof said that he measures the show in “pre-Mimi” and “post-Mimi,” since you came onboard halfway into the first season. What do you make of that?

ML: They brought me onto the show and I directed it the way I felt it needed to be, and I felt the show needed to be opened up in order to get in there in an even more in an intimate way. It had to allow the audience to breathe a bit. It was a great partnership with Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta, and their writing really spoke to me. We had a very special time doing a show about grief and loss, and hope and love. We all had this life-changing experience; we as a group of people in the exploration of faith, and “what is the meaning of life?”

AFI: This also seems like a writers’ room in which no idea was too crazy.

ML: Oftentimes, it was like, “Can we do this? Well, why not? We enjoy it.” Doing a show on a ferry with a sex orgy going on was really an examination of faith in the background of madness. Nothing was too crazy, at least for us. And the response has verified that for sure.

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Carrie Coon in THE LEFTOVERS

AFI: You directed all three season finales. Was this the most challenging?

ML: They were all challenging. Season three’s finale was, I would say, even more so, because it was the final episode of the series. It was a much quieter episode, and it had almost a comedic feel to it. It almost felt like a rom-com in some instances, and that was very freeing and liberating and really different for our show. In that way, it had to hit the tone just right with our characters, and always stay grounded, and always in the world of our “leftovers.” But I tried not to be too precious about it. There’s always the pressure you put on yourself, when something feels a little bit more important, and that’s where you can go wrong. I ignored those feelings, and always had the mantra in my head: “Keep it simple.”

AFI: You did that beautifully, particularly in the closing monologue. Can you explain the decision not to provide a visual representation of the story that Nora tells about her journey to “the other side”?

ML: We all felt that doing a visual representation of her story would make it feel less ambiguous, and we felt it was very important for her story to be told through Kevin listening to it, and him being our eyes, the audience’s eyes. Kevin had to believe her in order for there to be an opening for love, for them to be together. One of the big themes of this season was our examination of our belief systems, the stories we tell ourselves to get through life. Nora’s story is her story, her belief system. Whether you believe it’s true or not is really unimportant. It really doesn’t matter. All that matters is that she believes it, and that he believes it, and to leave it ambiguous was most important for the audience in order for them to make their decision.

AFI: As a viewer, if you choose to believe that Nora visited this other world, then you get that sort of closure you crave from a series finale.

ML: There really are no answers. There are many answers to the meaning of life, but then again, there are many questions that will never be answered. If we knew all the answers to life, and to the journey, it’d be so boring. Part of the process of living is the exploration, and the journey, and that’s what THE LEFTOVERS, in many ways, was saying. And ultimately, it was this mad love story.

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Carrie Coon and Justin Theroux in THE LEFTOVERS

AFI: Another scene in the finale that was so well-directed shows Nora entering the “LADR” (low amplitude Denzinger radiation) device. Talk about directing Carrie Coon in that scene.

ML: We come into the world naked, and we go out naked. The script said “naked,” and I didn’t want to shoot around her body. There’s nothing more beautiful than a human body, and I felt she was this little girl walking. She was completely vulnerable and fearless all at the same time, and I wanted to be with her, to always feel like she was walking towards us. I did a lot of shots that emphasized that, but I also wanted to be over her shoulder and behind her, and feel like we were absolutely with her. That was a scary scene. I just tried to keep it simple and powerful, with the big wides and the tights, and to stay with her emotionally.

AFI: You’ve gone back and forth between TV over the years.

ML: I’m in prep to direct a film called ON THE BASIS OF SEX, which is about the young years of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It’s an origin story, and also about the first federal precedent declaring sex-based discrimination unconstitutional.

AFI: What’s exciting to you about returning to film?

ML: I don’t really differentiate one from the other, honestly. My approach to storytelling is always the same, whether it’s on a big screen or a small screen. It’s all about the material. Films are projected big, but I really don’t approach it any differently [than a TV episode].

Prestige television has really evolved, and you see feature filmmakers going back and forth because there’s great work to be done, great stories to be told, in television. They’re making less films, but I would venture to say there are more important stories being told in prestige television, even though I’m making a very important — I think — story on film this year. There’s more opportunity in television to make these stories. Maybe there’s too much. You cannot possibly catch up to everything. It’s just overwhelming.


(Originally posted on

New Film Festival Debuts This November

Posted by Larry Gleeson

In a dramatic brand expansion, NBC News’ MEET THE PRESS WITH CHUCK TODD will hit the big screen for the first time this fall, joining forces with AFI for an innovative documentary film festival premiere featuring must-watch untold stories of American politics.

See the live news announcement here.

The first-ever Meet The Press Film Festival n Collaboration with the American Film Institute will be held this November in Washington, DC, featuring seven short-length documentary films produced with a diversity of perspectives. Submissions are now being accepted.

The commanding journalism of “Meet the Press” is a natural fit with AFI, an institute established in 1967 after President Johnson’s mandate — to bring “together leading artists of the film industry, outstanding educators and young men and women who wish to pursue the 20th-century art form as their life’s work.” AFI is also known for its acclaimed Washington, DC-area documentary festival. The innovative collaboration not only combines NBC News’ benchmark political reporting with AFI’s dedication to connecting audiences, filmmakers and policy leaders — it celebrates the 70th and 50th anniversaries, respectively, of both historical institutions.

With politics-themed and issue-oriented documentaries more popular now than ever before, the groundbreaking November film festival is a consequential expansion for the longest-running show on television. By pairing gold standard reporting with long-form storytelling, MEET THE PRESS and AFI are redefining the gravity and scope of a Sunday public affairs program in 21st century political journalism.

More information on the first-ever film festival will be announced in the coming weeks.




The AFI FEST Interview: Wevr’s James Kaelan on Virtual Reality Storytelling

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 4.02.32 PMEach year, AFI FEST presented by Audi highlights cutting-edge virtual reality (VR) storytelling with the State of the Art Technology Showcase. I attended last year and heard Keynote Speaker, Anthony Blatt, Co-Founder of Wevr, at the AFI FEST 2016 State of the Art Technology Showcase. Like it or not VR is here to stay. Moreover, VR offers some substantial benefits.

AFI spoke with James Kaelan, current Director of Development + Acquisitions at VR creative studio and production company Wevr, about his work in VR and the future of the medium. Formerly Creative Director at Seed&Spark, Kaelan brought his immersive short-film horror experience THE VISITOR to AFI FEST last year for the Showcase.

AFI: What got you interested in creating VR work in the first place?

JK: I’m as surprised as anyone to find myself working in VR. I’ve always considered myself something of a Luddite — skeptical, generally, of the advance of technology. But back at the end of 2014, Anthony Batt, who’s a co-founder of Wevr, was advising at Seed&Spark (which I helped co-found), and invited our team to visit their offices and watch some of the preliminary 360 video and CGI work they were producing. I remember sitting in the conference room and putting on the prototype of the Samsung Gear VR, and being immediately shocked by the potential of the technology. This wasn’t some shiny new feature grafted onto cinema — like 3D or a rumble pack in your theater chair. This was a new medium, requiring a brand new language.

James KaelanJames Kaelan

AFI: What misconceptions do you think are out there among audiences when they first encounter VR work?

JK: I think audiences, rightfully, expect a lot from the medium. Most people who’ve had any direct contact with the very broad array of experiences that we broadly group together as “VR” have still only seen monoscopic 360 video, either on a Google Cardboard or a Gear. And with such work, after you’ve gotten over the initial thrill of discovering that you can look around, essentially, the inside of a sphere, your expectations accelerate. Two years ago we were still at the Lumière brothers stage of VR. Workers leaving a factory? Awesome. Train pulling into a station? Super awesome. But unlike with cinema in its early years, the audience for VR has extremely high expectations about narrative complexity and image fidelity gleaned from the last 130 years of film. They won’t tolerate inferior quality for very long. So those of us on the creative — and technical — side of the medium have to find a way to meet those assumptions. Some creators, in a rush to find a viable language in VR, have resorted to jamming it into the paradigm of framed storytelling, force-mediating the viewer’s perspective through edits, and teaching the audience to remain passive. And I don’t want to dismiss those techniques out of hand. But I think it’s our job to actually forget the rules we apply to other media, and continue striving to invent a brand new way of telling stories. When we begin to master that new language, audiences will come in droves.

AFI: What’s the biggest challenge documentary filmmakers encounter when creating something for the VR space?

JK: I would actually say that documentary filmmakers are better equipped, naturally, to transition into VR — or at least the 360 video element of it. And I say this because, without painting “nonfiction” storytellers with too broad a brush (and without sinking into the mire of the objectivity versus subjectivity debate), documentary filmmakers engage with existing subjects, rather than inventing new ones from scratch. Certainly when you look to the vérité side of documentary film, where the goal is observation rather than participation or investigation, 360 should feel quite natural to those artists — because it’s actually closer (I say with great trepidation) to a purer strain of objectivity: because you’ve gotten rid of the frame. You’ve chosen where to place the camera and when, but you’re capturing the entirety of the environment simultaneously. Fiction filmmakers are probably less likely to encounter — or invent — story-worlds that unfold in both halves of the sphere simultaneously. All of that is to say, I literally wish I’d spent more time making long-take docs before moving into VR!

AFI: What types of artists are you looking to work with at Wevr?

JK: Wevr is in this unique place where we’ve made a name for ourselves making some of the most phenomenal, intricate, interactive, CG, room-scale VR — like theBlu and Gnomes & Goblins — while simultaneously making, and being recognized on the international film festival circuit, for 360 monoscopic video work that has cost less than $10,000 to produce. So I don’t want to pigeonhole Wevr. We make simulations with Jon Favreau on one end, and on the other, we work with college students who are interning with us during the summer. What unites those two groups is that both maximize, or exceed, what’s capable within the constraints of their given budgets. Within reason, you give any artist enough time and money and she’ll make something incredible. More impressive — and more attractive to us — is the artist who can innovate in times of scarcity and abundance. At this moment in the history of VR, if you can tell stories dynamically without having to hire a team of engineers to execute your vision, you’ll get more work done. You’ll actually get to practice your craft. Later you can have a team of 100, and a budget of a million times that.

AFI: What’s a common mistake you see new artists making when they first start creating work for the VR space?

JK: Artists working in VR try to replicate what’s already familiar to them. And ironically, it’s the filmmakers who have the toughest time transitioning — myself included. We miss the frame. We miss the authorial hand that mediates perspective and attention. We miss the freedom to juxtapose through editing. And because we miss those things, our first inclination is to figure out how to port them into VR. The best — and least possible — approach is to forget everything you know, like Pierre Menard trying to write the Quixote. Whereas artists from theater, from the gallery and museum installation world, come to VR almost naturally. They think about physical navigation and multi-sensory experience. They think about how things feel to the touch. They think about how things smell. They think about how the viewer moves, most importantly. That’s an invaluable perspective to have at this still-early stage in VR.

AFI: What was your experience like showcasing VR work at AFI FEST?

JK: For me — and for my collaborators on the project, Blessing Yen and Eve Cohen — showing THE VISITOR at AFI FEST last year was an honor. In order to earn a living while being a filmmaker, I’ve done a lot of different jobs. In the beginning I bussed tables. Later I got to write about film for living. Now I get to create, and help others create, VR. But during that entire time, from clearing dishes at Mohawk Bend in Echo Park six years ago to working at Wevr now, AFI FEST has been the same: a free festival, stocked with the most discerning slate of films (and now VR) from around the world. And I’ve gone every year since I’ve lived in LA. So, it meant a lot to me to be included last year. On top of that, the presentation of the VR experiences themselves, spread around multiple dedicated spaces that never felt oppressively crowded or loud, made AFI one of my favorite stops on the circuit last year.

Interactive and virtual reality entries for AFI FEST 2017 presented by Audi are now being accepted for the State of the Art Technology Showcase, which highlights one-of-a-kind projects and events at the intersection of technology, cinema and innovation. The deadline to submit your projects is August 31, 2017. Submit today at or



AFI FEST 2017 Final call for Submissions

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Send AFI your films! The final deadline for submitting feature, documentary, experimental and short films to AFI FEST 2017 presented by Audi is July 14, 2017.

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AFI FEST 2017 is open for submissions via Withoutabox. Please be advised of the  deadlines below.

Early Deadline: March 31, 2017
Short Films (under 30 minutes) – $35
Feature Films (over 30 minutes) – $55

Official Deadline: May 5, 2017
Short Films – $45
Feature Films – $65

Final Deadline: July 14, 2017
Short Films – $55
Feature Films – $75


Submit your films here via Withoutabox


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