The American Film Institute has announced a dramatic increase in scholarship funding at the AFI Conservatory – its immersive two-year graduate program in the art and discipline of filmmaking. Further differentiating the MFA program in an ever-growing field of film school options, the boost in funding for current and incoming Fellows represents nearly three times that of previous years – 100 percent of which goes directly to Fellows.
Leading this effort is AFI board of directors chair Robert Daly, whose gift of $1 million was made in 2012 as a challenge grant for the AFI Board of Trustees. The board exceeded this goal by raising $2.3 million, which includes major gifts by Sir Howard Stringer, chairman of the AFI board of trustees and Lawrence Herbert. Adding to this effort, an additional $3.5 million was donated from entertainment community leaders like David Geffen, Alan Horn, Terry Semel and the Time Warner Foundation. The funds raised for scholarships to the Conservatory total more than $6.2 million. For AFI's intimate graduate program of about 200 Fellows, the impact of this funding is expansive.
Reflected in this new funding are two opportunities that deepen the hands-on filmmaking experience while encouraging diversity in storytelling. Several more will be announced later this year.
The Gary Winick Foundation has established an endowed scholarship in Winick's memory. Winick was an AFI directing alumnus (Class of 1986), innovator in independent filmmaking and noted mentor to young talent. The first Gary Winick Scholarship has been awarded to AFI Directing Fellow Henry Hughes, a U.S. military veteran, whose tuition is covered in small part by the G.I. bill. Hughes is participating in ABC's Standing Up For Heroes – and through the program has had the opportunity to screen his cycle film for filmmaker George Lucas, who is now mentoring Hughes' progress.
Through the introduction of AFI Trustee Moctesuma Esparza, the AFI Conservatory has partnered with the Latino Donor Collaborative to promote talented filmmakers from the Latino community by offering scholarship funds to be distributed in varying amounts to eight Fellows (including both First and Second Year) in the 2013-2014 academic year.