AFI, SAG-AFTRA Meet Obama Challenge; Pledge One Million Hours of Mentorship

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At the White House Student Film Festival today, President Barack Obama announced that the American Film Institute (AFI) and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) have answered his nationwide call to service to mentor aspiring storytellers pursuing careers in the cinematic arts.

Working with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency tasked with leading Obama's United We Serve program, AFI and SAG-AFTRA, longtime partners in education through conservatory classes and student mentoring programs, will work toward a goal of one million mentor hours over the next three years.

"The American Film Institute was founded in the White House Rose Garden with a mission to educate the next generation of storytellers," said Bob Gazzale, AFI President & CEO. "Our pledge today is in furtherance of the apprenticeship tradition that has provided the foundation for the art form since its inception and which will continue to strengthen our community by planting the seeds for its professional future."

"This is an exciting initiative and our members are eager to reach out to the next generation of professional actors and filmmakers. Sharing the tools of the trade helps ensure dynamic new storytellers practicing the craft, and a vibrant future for the entertainment industry. That's something that benefits movies, television shows — in fact, the entire creative community and the nation," said SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard.

In addition to Howard and Gazzale, also scheduled to attend at the White House are SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director David P. White; SAG-AFTRA members SAG Award- and Oscar- recipient Hilary Swank (MILLION DOLLAR BABY,BOYS DON'T CRY), Emmy-recipient Joe Morton (SCANDAL), Kal Penn (BATTLE CREEK), Terrence J (THINK LIKE A MAN), Amber Riley (GLEE), Michael Ealy (THINK LIKE A MAN), La La Anthony (THINK LIKE A MAN) and Jake Johnson (NEW GIRL); along with director and Oscar-recipient Steve McQueen (12 YEARS A SLAVE) and producer Will Packer (THE WEDDING RINGER,UNCLE BUCK). Swank will speak to students participating in the film festival and encourage them to believe in themselves and never give up on their dreams.

A Call to Arts: The One Million Mentor Hours Pledge seeks to inspiretomorrow'sstorytellers through programs, events, and other mentorship opportunities — with the goal of reaching one million hours of mentorship over the next three years.

AFI will initiate the program with a newly added second day to the White House Student Film Festival on March 21, 2015, where the featured student filmmakers will receive professional development, made possible in collaboration with Participant Media. AFI will also provide each of the winning students with one-on-one mentorships with AFI Conservatory alumni.

SAG-AFTRA will then expand the pledge to the nation. The union will activate its President's Task Force on Education, Outreach and Engagement; its nearly 160,000 members; and its more than 300 local elected leaders to fully realize mentoring opportunities and programs in each of its 25 locals across the country.

SAG-AFTRA will dedicate existing educational seminars, outreach efforts, conservatory programs and classes to the effort, resulting in an immediate addition of tens of thousands of additional mentor hours and opportunities.

In addition, the Screen Actors Guild Foundation will bring even broader support to the project with its industry-lauded BookPALS program, The Business seminars, Storyline Online videos, and a host of other mentoring programs offered live, online and via live stream nationwide.

In the summer of 2015, AFI and SAG-AFTRA will work together to offer a three-day mentoring event on the campus of the AFI Conservatory in Los Angeles. AFI will also encourage its 350,000 subscribers to participate in SAG-AFTRA's mentor programs.

Through CNCS, SAG-AFTRA will provide the general public with an online destination that connects individuals, schools and community organizations interested in creative arts mentoring as a pathway to opportunity, particularly for underserved youth. Serve.gov, the online home of United We Serve, will feature tips and tools to enhance the mentoring experience.

For more than 40 years, AFI and SAG-AFTRA have worked together in an educational partnership with the shared mission of training film artists — in front of and behind the camera. By establishing and operating the SAG-AFTRA Conservatory office and classroom space on the campus of the AFI Conservatory, the Fellows of the AFI Conservatory have the opportunity to work with professional actors in their student films and SAG-AFTRA members receive professional development and are cast in almost 100 films annually.

Information about A Call to Arts: The One Million Mentor Hours Pledge will be posted on AFI.com and SAGAFTRA.org.

More information about the White House Student Film Festival can be found at WhiteHouse.Gov/FilmFest

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