American Film

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July 2012


    Some of Hollywood’s most revered luminaries paid tribute to stage and screen legend Shirley MacLaine when she was lauded with the 40th annual AFI Life Achievement Award – the highest honor for a career in film – at a June 7 ceremony at Sony Picture Studios’ historic Stage 15. The event was taped and aired on TV Land on Sunday, June 24.

    The evening’s festivities kicked off with MacLaine entering the gala of over 1,000 attendees to “If My Friends Could See Me Now,” a song she made famous in SWEET CHARITY (1969). Immediately following dinner, Warren Beatty, MacLaine’s Academy Award®-winning brother and 2008 AFI Life Achievement Award recipient, recounted how the AFI Life Achievement Award was established in 1973 to ensure that “the great masters of film may take their deserved place in history beside leaders in other arts.” Beatty introduced the award recipients in attendance to celebrate MacLaine and the award’s 40th anniversary – Sidney Poitier (1992), Jack Nicholson (1994), Steven Spielberg (1995), Meryl Streep (2004) and Morgan Freeman (2011).

    Academy Award®-winning actress Julia Roberts took the stage to speak about MacLaine’s love for playing cards and “the boys” in her life – Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and even Chicago mob boss, Sam Giancana. Fellow STEEL MAGNOLIAS star Sally Field paid tribute to MacLaine by saying, “She is generous beyond a fault, a one of a kind original and an extraordinary actor. She’s a renowned world traveler who collects people. They are her most valued treasures. And I’m very proud to be included in her life long collection.” Dakota Fanning (I AM SAM) and Katherine Heigl (27 DRESSES) both spoke about how MacLaine inspired them in their own journeys in Hollywood.

    John Travolta introduced an inspiring video with footage from SWEET CHARITY and described MacLaine as “a woman who does it all, but always first – a dancer.” He went on to say that she “fills the world with a presence never seen before.”

    Last year’s AFI Life Achievement Award recipient, Morgan Freeman, described MacLaine’s impressive life journey, and Elizabeth McGovern (DOWNTON ABBEY) shared a never-before-seen clip from the hit PBS series featuring MacLaine and Maggie Smith, which returns for a new season in 2013.

    Comedian Don Rickles had the ballroom in stitches as only he can, while sincerely noting that MacLaine has “charm, warmth, class and is a person who makes you feel at home and loved on and off the screen.” In addition, Senator George McGovern and U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich spoke eloquently about MacLaine’s activism and passion to make a difference in the world through her support of the political process.

    The evening was peppered with video tributes from the likes of Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jack Black, James L. Brooks, Stephen Hawking, Goldie Hawn, Nicole Kidman, 2010 AFI Life Achievement recipient Mike Nichols and Charlize Theron. In presenting the prestigious award to her friend, Streep said, “There are some performers who are indelible. You fall for them early. You fall hard. And you follow them the rest of your life. That’s our Shirl.”

    Upon receiving the award, MacLaine took the stage and spoke about the women at her table – Jennifer Aniston, Sally Field, Melanie Griffith, Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep. She said they were “my other half of the sky and my sustained belief that you women will make the world a better place.” She went on to say, “Thank you to the fabulous leading men I’ve had the pleasure of making love to, on and off the screen,” and added, “When you’re in my life, you never get away – even if you die.” MacLaine closed by saying, “My one piece of assurance to all of us who are overachievers: don’t worry, what we don’t get done now, we will the next time around – if we keep our feet firmly planted on the ground and our heads in the stars, and always listen to the mothers and the women in our lives.”

    Among the many other guests present to honor MacLaine were Toni Collette, Carrie Fisher, Peter Fonda, Marcia Gay Harden, Dennis Haysbert, Deborah Secco, Tom Skerritt, Cecilia Suarez and Mena Suvari.

    Proceeds from the AFI Life Achievement Award gala directly support the Institute’s national education programs and the preservation of American film history. HP is the Presenting Sponsor of the gala tribute. Official Sponsors include Audi of America, Deloitte, Verizon Digital Media Services and American Airlines – the official airline of AFI, with additional support provided by Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills and Stella Artois.


    Mel Brooks and David Lynch received honorary Doctor of Arts degrees from the AFI Conservatory at last month’s commencement ceremony, which was held for the first time at the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Brooks, introduced by Carl Reiner and wearing a stethoscope, joked with Fellows and their families that, following the receipt of his doctorate, he was heading over to perform his first operation, a colonoscopy, at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.

    “AFI has an emotional connection to me. My dear wife, Anne Bancroft, started her career as a director-screenwriter at the AFI Directing Workshop for Women. Good things come out of AFI.” Describing himself as a writer he advised, “If you aren’t feeling it and laughing as you write comedy, then don’t write it – because they [the audience] won’t laugh either.”

    Laura Dern introduced Lynch by saying, “It is truly my greatest honor to introduce David – my mentor, guru and best friend. I have heard about AFI from David for many years. AFI inspired his vision and gave him the opportunity to make ERASERHEAD. I am forever grateful to AFI for inspiring David, who then gave me my career.” Lynch called Dern his “favorite actress in the world” and added, “AFI put me on the map – Mel Brooks put me on a beautiful mountain. Mel called me Jimmy Stewart from Mars, but he is the crazy one – he picked me to direct THE ELEPHANT MAN. It was my very good fortune that Mel had this insanity.”

    Lynch then took questions from the graduating class instead of providing a traditional commencement address. When asked how he found his voice, Lynch responded, “Learning by doing is critical in the action and reaction. Learn by doing and your voice will come out – and then stay true to that voice.”


    AFI Conservatory Class of 2011 directing alumni Ryan Prows and Justin Tipping were awarded the Silver and Bronze medals in narrative filmmaking at the 39th annual Student Academy Awards for their thesis films, NARCOCORRIDO and NANI, respectively. AFI Conservatory was the only school at this year’s Student Academy Awards with multiple medal winners.

    NARCOCORRIDO, directed and written by Ryan Prows, centers on a gravely ill border cop’s reckless cartel heist and the desperate souls destroyed in her wake. The AFI Conservatory thesis team also includes producer L. Onye Anyanwu, cinematographer Benjamin Kitchens, editor Jarod Shannon, production designer Callie Andreadis and story editor Shaye Ogbonna.

    NANI, directed and co-written by Justin Tipping, tells the story of a teenage graffiti artist and an elderly nursing home resident who form an unlikely bond through misadventures in graffiti. The AFI Conservatory thesis team also includes producer West McDowell, co-screenwriter Joshua Beirne-Golden, cinematographer Soren Hiorth, editor Linda Jildmalm and production designer Bonnie Bacevich.

    The Student Academy Awards were established in 1972 to support and encourage excellence in filmmaking at the collegiate level. Past Student Academy Award winners have gone on to receive 43 Oscar nominations and have won or shared eight awards, with past winners including directors such as Spike Lee, John Lasseter and Robert Zemeckis.


    Winners of the 2012 AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival, held last month at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, were ONLY THE YOUNG (Best U.S. Feature), a chaste love triangle about teenagers in a depressed Southern California suburb; PLANET OF SNAIL (Best World Feature), about a filmmaker’s encounter with a deaf and blind South Korean poet; and KINGS POINT (Best Short), which explores human connections in a retirement community. More than 27,000 attended this year’s festival.


    AFI President Emerita Jean Picker Firstenberg, who serves as Chair of the Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee, spoke at the U.S. Postal Service Special Dedication Ceremony for the four Great Film Directors “Forever” Stamps recognizing Frank Capra, John Ford, John Huston and Billy Wilder, all past AFI Life Achievement Award recipients. The event was held at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles on June 14. Director Garry Marshall (PRETTY WOMAN) and director-film critic Richard Schickel also made remarks. Angelica Huston, Allegra Huston, Tom Capra and Frank Capra III were present as honored guests.

    "The United States Postal Service supported the AFI for many years during the AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies series. I was honored when the Postmaster General invited me to join his Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee that recommends stamp subjects and images to him," said Firstenberg.

    Creators of some of the most iconic scenes in American cinema, these directors gave audiences an unforgettable (and in some cases, deeply personal) vision of life. The stamps showcase portraits of each filmmaker against a background suggesting scenes from their work: Frank Capra, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934); John Ford, THE SEARCHERS (1956); John Huston, THE MALTESE FALCON (1941); and Billy Wilder, SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959).

    Firstenberg and AFI's Ray Barry spoke at an earlier “First-Day-Of-Issue Ceremony” at AFI Silver on May 23, followed by a free screening of Wilder’s THE APARTMENT (1960) starring this year’s AFI Life Achievement Award recipient, Shirley MacLaine.


    A retrospective of the artwork of Robert Boyle (THE BIRDS, NORTH BY NORTHWEST) and Boris Leven (GIANT, THE SOUND OF MUSIC) will be exhibited at Gallery 800 of Local 800 of IATSE, the Art Directors Guild, at the Lankershim Arts Center in North Hollywood beginning July 28. Known as master designers/illustrators for their work in motion pictures, the two close friends went on many weekend painting excursions together and the resulting watercolors will be on display for the first time.

    Boyle, who died in 2010 at the age of 100, was a Distinguished Lecturer at AFI Conservatory for nearly 30 years. He received an Honorary Academy Award in 2008 “in recognition of one of the great careers in art direction.” A pioneer in the AFI Production Design discipline, Boyle entered the film profession in 1933. Seven years later, Boyle began his long association with Alfred Hitchcock, designing such films as SABOTEUR (1942), THE BIRDS (1963) and MARNIE (1964). In 2000, AFI Conservatory alumnus Daniel Raim (AFI Class of 1999) co-wrote and directed an Oscar-nominated documentary on Boyle’s work, entitled THE MAN ON LINCOLN’S NOSE – the original working title for a classic Hitchcock/Boyle collaboration, NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959).

    Boris Leven (1908-1986) was a Russian-born Academy Award-winning art director and production designer whose Hollywood career spanned fifty-three years. Leven emigrated to the United States in 1927 and became a naturalized citizen in 1938. A graduate of the University of Southern California and the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design in New York City, Leven designed the Victorian home for the set of GIANT (1956) that became an iconic image for the film. His numerous film credits include THE KING OF COMEDY (1983) and THE COLOR OF MONEY (1986).


    AFI has tweaked its benefits structure based on member response. “Member feedback is important to us, and these new provisions further enrich the interests of our members,” said Ginger Simpson, AFI Membership Manager. “This is less a makeover than a make-better.” While most benefits are unchanged, Simpson reports the addition this year of a new partnership with Turner Classic Movies’ online store, giving 4-star members and above new choices of films and film books. Click below to review the new benefits program, which takes effect on July 1, 2012.

    AFI Member Benefits

    AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center Member Benefits


    We visited Patty West in her second-floor office in the Warner Bros. Building, just a short walk across the AFI Campus from The Glade, where she was recently married. The Associate Manager of the AFI Conservatory and National Workshops answered our 10 Closeup questions in the middle of a typically busy day.

    1. Where are you from? I am from Winnetka, Illinois. It's a little suburb just north of Chicago where a lot of John Hughes movies were filmed. Rock Hudson was also born there.

    2. Where did you go to school? I went to Northwestern University. Go, Wildcats! I then went on to the AFI Conservatory and received my MFA in Producing.

    3. What did you do before you came to AFI? After attending the AFI Conservatory, I went to work in entertainment finance and entertainment law, learning about various parts of independent producing. I was then itching to be a bit more creative and went to work for AFI Conservatory faculty member and producer, Carol Baum, as her creative executive.

    4. How long have you been at AFI? This July, I will have been working at AFI for three years.

    5. What do you do at AFI? I am an Associate Manager for the AFI Conservatory and its National Workshops. I support the Executive Vice Dean's office in various ways, which includes helping to run the Directing Workshop for Women (DWW), an annual workshop that we have here. It's a tuition-free program for emerging female directors, which I'm very, very proud to be a part of. I also help manage the distribution of the Fellows thesis films and the DWW films, as well as support various faculty affairs and Conservatory administration needs.

    6. How does that affect members? Well, our Fellows and DWW participants go on to write, direct, produce, shoot, design and edit the motion pictures that our members enjoy – the film and television that we are passionate about and that motivate us to want to support the work of  the American Film Institute.

    7. What was your best day at AFI? Other than my wedding taking place on campus at The Glade and the premiere of my thesis film in the Mark Goodson Screening Room, I think some of the best moments as an employee have been witnessing commencement for the Fellows and getting to see them share their experience with their families. And then there are our showcases, both for the Directing Workshop for Women and for the Conservatory. We do them every year and it’s a great culmination of all the work that we do. We pack the DGA Theater with over 600 industry guests and expose them to our students’ work. The filmmakers are truly in the spotlight and nobody does it better than AFI. I take pride in that.

    8. What are you working on today? Today we are finalizing the schedule for the AFI Directing Workshop for Women. The participants shoot their films in July. The next few months will involve intensive Directing Workshop for Women activities. We also have a faculty meeting this afternoon and it's exciting to see everyone together. It's the last faculty meeting of the year, which allows us to reflect on all of the great work that’s been done this year.

    9. What don't your colleagues know about you? I am a big Barbra Streisand fan. From an early age, my mom showed me her catalog of films and she stuck with me. I don't tell a lot of people that though.

    10. What's your favorite film? This is an impossible question for cinephiles, but I am going to say PSYCHO for a couple reasons. I like how it played with the conventions of storytelling and the expectations of the audience. It also had an impact on me at an early age as to the power of filmmaking. I took baths for a couple of years instead of showers. I know I'm not the only one, but I think Alfred Hitchcock is a genius.