AFI Sets Directing Workshop For Women Showcase

By | Thursday March 27, 2014 @ 10:00am PDT

afilogo1The American Film Institute‘s Directing Workshop for Women showcase will be held at 7 PM April 29 at DGA headquarters in Los Angeles, with Boys Don’t Cry director Kimberly Peirce set to deliver the keynote. The invitation-only event will … Read More »

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Fox & Nat Geo To Preview ‘Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey’ At Inaugural White House Film Festival

CosmosSeth MacFarlane’s passion project will get an unprecedented global launch next month, but first it has a date in D.C. Fox and National Geographic Channel said today they will screen a preview of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey Read More »

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AFI Awards Lunch Brings Out Hollywood’s Heavy Hitters And Contenders For Season’s Ultra-Cool Event

By | Friday January 10, 2014 @ 5:14pm PST
Pete Hammond

AFI Awards 2013“Storytellers, welcome,”  said AFI president and CEO Bob Gazzale as he opened the AFI Awards 2013 luncheon today. “We open each AFI gathering with a single word: ‘Relax’. You have won. Each of you, and more importantly, all of you, because here you are one community of artists gathered in this room for what we hope to be a bit of respite from your job, but not from your work. Gone from this moment are the ratings, and red carpets and box office and all that you have to endure to sell art. Our goal is nothing short of epiphany, that you feel proud when you consider the compendium and see your place in it”. Gazzale’s welcome came before what appeared to be all of the heavy hitters currently running Hollywood as well as 20 tables full of artists repping AFI’s choices for the year’s Top Ten movies (12 Years A Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Fruitvale Station, Gravity, Her, Inside Llewyn Davis,  Nebraska, Saving Mr. Banks, The Wolf Of Wall Street) and Top Ten TV programs (The Americans, Breaking Bad, Game Of Thrones, The Good 14th Annual AFI Awards - Cocktail ReceptionWife, House Of Cards,  Mad Men, Masters Of Sex, Orange Is The New Black, Scandal, Veep).

For my money , this is the most relaxing and fun  awards event of the year. There are no losers, no acceptance speeches, only good vibes. And if you want to network, this is the A-list networking opportunity of the season. Where else are you going to find just about every studio head in the same room including Sony’s Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton, Warner Bros’ Kevin Tsujihara, Fox’s Jim Gianopulos, Disney’s Alan Horn, Paramount’s Brad Grey, and Fox Searchlight’s Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula? They were mixing it it up with the TV side including CBS’ Les Moonves (who also was there for CBS Films’ Inside Llewyn Davis), Fox’s Peter Rice and FX’s John Landgraf, and AMC’s Charlie Collier among many others including new kid on the block Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, who had two shows among the Top Ten, House Of Cards and Orange Is The New Black. It was his first time to this party and he was impressed. Oh, and did I mention both directing icons Martin Scorsese (with Wolf Of Wall Street) and Steven Spielberg (repping FX’s The Americans) were there, but quite14th Annual AFI Awards - Cocktail Reception frankly just about everyone in this room at the Four Seasons Hotel was someone. Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs was also taking it all in and told me how she’s suddenly getting lots of calls after it was announced earlier today she would be delivering news of Oscar nominations next Thursday with Thor aka Chris Hemsworth. She’s excited to say the least. Read More »

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Robert Mandel Stepping Down As AFI Dean To Return To Directing

By | Monday December 2, 2013 @ 12:01am PST

AFIEmmy-winning director Robert Mandel is stepping down as Dean of the AFI Conservatory after nine years with the graduate level film school. Mandel, who directed Independence Day (1983), F/X (1986), Touch and Go (1986), Big Shots (1987), … Read More »

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Jane Fonda To Receive AFI Life Achievement Award

By | Friday October 4, 2013 @ 1:00am PDT
Pete Hammond

Continuing their tradition of turning the AFI‘s signature awards event into a real family affair, the American Film Institute announced today that Jane Fonda will become the 42nd recipient of the prestigious AFI Life Achievement Award on June 5, 2014. The organization said the event will take place in Los Angeles but has not yet disclosed the venue. It will be taped for later airing that month on TNT, followed by encores on Turner Classic Movies.

Henry Fonda was the 6th recipient of the honor in  1978 making the Fondas the first father/daughter to win the prize. In other familial pairings AFI has similarly honored both Kirk (1991) and Michael Douglas (2009) as the only father/son combo and Warren Beatty (2008) and Shirley MacLaine (2012) as the only brother/sister to be named in the history of the award.

For my money Jane Fonda is an inspired choice. A two-time Oscar winner (Klute, Coming Home) and 7-time nominee, she has proven she can do it all, and even after a self-imposed 15-year retirement has come back with a vengeance most recently earning an Emmy nomination for her recurring role in HBO’s The Newsroom. But following in the footsteps of her iconic father and matching him as not only a major film star but adding producer to her credits too, Fonda’s varied — and sometimes controversial — career has truly met the AFI benchmark of “standing the test of time”. The award would be deserved if only for one of her signature achievements in producing and co-starring in the film version of On Golden Pond, the vehicle for which her father won a long overdue Best Actor Oscar (along with Best Actress Katharine Hepburn) shortly before he died. But she also has a great string of classics in addition to her Oscar winners including Cat Ballou, They Shoot Horses Don’t They?, Julia and The China Syndrome. Her most recent Oscar nomination in 1986 was for the wildly underrated Sidney Lumet film The Morning After, one of my favorite Fonda performances. She’s also equally great in comedy, something many people forget, but consider Barefoot In The Park opposite Robert Redford in 1967, 1980′s Nine To Five and even her comeback role opposite Jennifer Lopez in 2005′s Monster-In-Law which turned into a sizable hit.

And don’t even get me started on Barbarella. In terms of AFI Life Achievement, she’s done it all. Here’s the release: Read More »

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AFI Conservatory Scholarship Fund Grows

By | Wednesday July 31, 2013 @ 12:01am PDT

The American Film Institute‘s two-year graduate film program the AFI Conservatory has received a scholarship funding boost for the coming year that totals $6.2 million, nearly three times the total of previous years. The AFI Board of Directors raised $2.3 million on the backs of a $1 million challenge grant by chairman Robert Daly and gifts by Board of Trustees chairman Howard Stringer and Lawrence Herbert. An additional $3.5 million came from donors including David Geffen, Alan Horn, Terry Semel and the Time Warner Foundation, with the new total going 100% toward the program’s 200 fellows. AFI also announced two new initiatives tied to the the new funding, with more in the works. Here’s that part of the release announcing the gains: Read More »

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AFI Honors “Art And Farts” Of American Film With Laugh-Filled Mel Brooks Tribute

Pete Hammond

It was completely appropriate that AFI‘s 41st Life Achievement Award honoree Mel Brooks made his entrance at the Dolby Theatre to the Steven Sondheim song, “Comedy Tonight”.  It set the tone immediately for a very different evening than any that had come before at this annual event. Look at the list of the 40 previous AFI honorees, and there’s not a single solely comedic filmmaker or actor in the whole bunch. Yes, there are some — like Billy Wilder, Mike Nichols, Shirley MacLaine and Tom Hanks — who have made a few classic comedies but no one whose whole screen career is built on laughs. The AFI finally corrected that glaring omission Thursday night.

“Ladies and gentlemen, tonight the American Film Institute honors the art — and the farts — of American film,”  said AFI Board Of Trustees Chair Sir Howard Stringer in welcoming the star-studded crowd. “When I telephoned Mel to tell him the AFI had voted him in as the 2013 recipient, he responded instantly, ‘What took you so long?’ Fair enough. Comedy is routinely short-changed at many awards ceremonies , particularly the Oscars. It is often said comedy is harder than drama because funny is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. That makes  Mel, without question, Hollywood’s principal lightning conductor.” Read More »

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Martin Scorsese To Present Mel Brooks With AFI Award

By | Monday May 20, 2013 @ 7:43am PDT

Los Angeles, CA, Monday May 20, 2013 – Martin Scorsese will present Mel Brooks with the American Film Institute’s 41st Life Achievement Award – America’s highest honor for a career in film. The private black tie gala will be held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on June 6

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AFI Awards: Hollywood Power Players Turn Out For A Moment Of Sanity During Oscar Season Madness

Pete Hammond

Between the roller-coaster ride of Thursday’s 85th Academy Award Nominations and Critics Choice Awards and this weekend’s Golden Globes mania, Friday’s annual AFI Awards Luncheon was not only a breath of fresh air in this busy season. … Read More »

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AFI Appoints Capitol Hill Veteran Jennifer Hoelzer VP Communications

By | Monday June 18, 2012 @ 11:20am PDT

LOS ANGELES, CA, June 18, 2012 – Concluding its coast-to-coast search, the American Film Institute (AFI) announced that Jennifer Hoelzer will be joining AFI effective July 16 as Vice President, Communications where she will be responsible for developing and

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Mel Brooks, David Lynch Receive Honorary Degrees At AFI Commencement

By | Wednesday June 13, 2012 @ 5:25pm PDT
Pete Hammond

June is  the season for graduations around the nation and the American Film Institute is no different. After handing out their 40th Life Achievement Award less than a week ago to Shirley MacLaine today the focus was on those just embarking on a … Read More »

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AFI Degrees To Mel Brooks & David Lynch

By | Tuesday May 29, 2012 @ 6:33pm PDT

LOS ANGELES, CA, May 29, 2012 – The American Film

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Meryl Streep To Present Shirley MacLaine With AFI Life Achievement Award

By | Tuesday May 22, 2012 @ 7:23pm PDT

LOS ANGELES, May 22, 2012 — AFI Life Achievement Award honoree Meryl Streep will present Shirley MacLaine with the American Film Institute’s 40th Life Achievement Award – America’s highest honor for a career in film. The private black tie

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AFI to Screen ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ At The White House Thursday Night

By | Wednesday April 4, 2012 @ 12:00pm PDT
Pete Hammond

The 50th Anniversary celebration of the Academy Award winning 1962 classic, To Kill A Mockingbird just got a very high profile addition with the American Film Institute’s announcement today that the film will be screened tomorrow night, April 5,  at the White … Read More »

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AFI Surprises Howard Stringer With … Sean Connery

By | Thursday February 23, 2012 @ 3:17pm PST

This morning the AFI Board Of Trustees meeting was held from 9-11 AM at the Peninsula Hotel. Among those attending were Sir Howard Stringer, Bob Daly, Amy Pascal, Christopher Dodd, Thomas Tull, Chris Silbermann, Rich Ross, and more. As a … Read More »

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AFI Fest Announces Centerpiece Galas And Special Screenings

Pete Hammond

With just a little more than two weeks to go before its opening-night world premiere gala of Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar on November 3, the American Film Institute has just announced the long list of Centerpiece Galas and Special Screenings for its 25th edition — AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi. Unlike the Eastwood coup, the lineup doesn’t include any other world or North American premieres and instead is made up of films recently seen in Toronto, Venice, Telluride or New York or combinations of all of the above festivals.

The AFI Fest, which runs November 3-10, is becoming known as the festival of galas, with at least one big red-carpet event every night of the week. Slated as Centerpiece Galas this session are Luc Besson’s The Lady (November 4), which played the Mill Valley Film Festival last week in a version now several minutes shorter than its well-received Toronto Film Festival premiere; Roman Polanski’s Carnage (November 5); My Week With Marilyn (November 6); The Artist (November 8); and Steve McQueen’s controversial Shame (November 9). Also on November 7, the fest will present an evening with Pedro Almodovar, this year’s Guest Artistic Director, who will be presenting his 25-year-old classic Law of Desire and participating in a special onstage conversation. All will be presented at the Chinese theater in Hollywood. Read More »

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Pedro Almodovar To Be Guest Artistic Director At AFI Fest

By | Monday August 29, 2011 @ 6:04am PDT
Mike Fleming

The American Film Institute has set Pedro Almodovar to be Guest Artistic Director at AFI Fest 2011. The 25-year-old festival runs Nov. 3-10. Almodovar will present a screening of his 1986 film Law of Desire, which is also 25 years … Read More »

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Hammond: Morgan Freeman Honored With AFI Life Achievement Award

By | Friday June 10, 2011 @ 4:52pm PDT
Pete Hammond

He may have only received his first major big-screen break at the age of 50 in 1987′s Street Smart, but Morgan Freeman has created such a distinguished body of work in the quarter of a century since then that Thursday night he was named the 39th recipient of the AFI Life Achievement Award for a career in film. Just after the honor was announced by the American Film Institute on October 11th, I ran into Freeman at an awards-season event and he was ebullient, telling me, “Now I am one of the big boys.” During Thursday’s warm ceremony on Sony’s Stage 15 and at the after-party nearby on the lot, Freeman still seemed just as happy about the honor.

In fact, after he accepted the award from his Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby co-star and director Clint Eastwood and made his speech, he became the first of the AFI’s 39 honorees to actually remain on stage and sing along to one of his theme songs, “Lean On Me,” from the 1989 film in which he starred as real-life school principal Joe Clark. Earlier in the evening, Garth Brooks and a large chorus sang the song — actually twice, as a snafu forced them to perform it again. The black-tie industry crowd didn’t seem to mind at all.

Among those in attendance who offered toasts or onstage tributes with personal anecdotes about Freeman were Sidney Poitier, AFI Board of Trustees chair Howard Stringer, AFI president and CEO Bob Gazzale, Betty White, Samuel L. Jackson, Rita Moreno, Don Cheadle, Matthew Broderick, Helen Mirren, Cuba Gooding Jr, Matthew McConaughey, Casey Affleck, Forest Whitaker and Tim Robbins. Filmed tributes were also shown from Chris Rock, Dan Ackroyd, Steven Spielberg, David Fincher and Ashley Judd.

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OSCAR: Stealth AFI Premiere For ‘The Fighter’

By | Wednesday November 10, 2010 @ 2:06am PST
Pete Hammond

Paramount and the AFI Festival pulled off a sneak awards season manuever Tuesday night with a previously unannounced screening of Oscar hopeful, The Fighter. Billed as a “secret screening” on the ticket but also labeled a “World Premiere”  in a Tuesday morning … Read More »

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