AFI Honors Carol Burnett, Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick Honored at 2017 Conservatory Commencement

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The American Film Institute (AFI) held a historic AFI Conservatory Commencement at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on Monday, June 5, 2017. The date of the event marked the 50th Anniversary of the Institute's formation in 1967.

The AFI Class of 2017, as well as Honorary Degree recipients Carol Burnett, Marshall Herskovitz (AFI Class of 1975) and Edward Zwick (AFI Class of 1975) spanning the past, present and future of the art form were on hand.

AFI began its commemoration of its golden milestone, which will unfold through 2019 — the 50th Anniversary of the Conservatory's 1969 inaugural class. Activities and programs during that timeframe will continue AFI's promise to educate today's audiences and tomorrow's artists.

In celebration of the Anniversary, AFI Founding Director George Stevens, Jr., joined AFI President Emerita Jean Picker Firstenberg and current AFI President and CEO Bob Gazzale — bringing together all three presidents from AFI's history. Joining them and the AFI Class of 2017 were Sir Howard Stringer, AFI Board of Trustees Chair, and Robert A. Daly, AFI Board of Directors Chair.

"Fifty years ago, Gregory Peck and I announced the creation of the American Film Institute, with high aspiration and great hopes," said Stevens. "Its mission was to advance and elevate the art of film, and one central idea was to create a Center for Advanced Film Studies [known today as the AFI Conservatory], a bridge for young people from learning to make films to becoming professional filmmakers. You, the graduates of 2017, are a fulfillment of that dream."

The Commencement honorees — including this year's AFI Conservatory graduates, the world's newest filmmakers — underscored the spirit of the Anniversary, as 2017 also marks the 50th birthday of THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW, and Herskovitz and Zwick are both prominent alumni of the Conservatory. A Doctorate of Fine Arts honoris causa was conferred upon Burnett by special guest Kristin Chenoweth, and Doctorates of Communication Arts honoris causa were conferred upon Herskovitz and Zwick by Firstenberg. All three Honorary Degree recipients shared words of wisdom with the Class of 2017. Chenoweth sang a refrain from Burnett's trademark closing song, "I'm So Glad We Had This Time Together."

Burnett began her comments with her trademark "Tarzan yell" and urged Fellows to "make great art," while adding, "Nothing is impossible if you believe hard enough, and you work hard enough."

Herskovitz and Zwick shared anecdotes from their longtime creative collaboration, which began at the AFI Conservatory, and which Herskovitz described as "an extraordinary partnership — and the longest living partnership in Hollywood today."

"Leaving here you are not alone," said Zwick, stressing the uniquely collaborative nature of the Conservatory program. "Your classmates will be there to serve as a living reminder of who you are and what you dream of."

As heard in remarks throughout the event, the AFI Conservatory program has a deep history of propelling alumni to success and acclaim ­— including, most recently, Patty Jenkins (AFI Class of 2000), whose WONDER WOMAN had the biggest box-office opening for a female director ever.

Burnett, Herskovitz and Zwick join an esteemed group of past Honorary Degree recipients, including Robert Altman, Maya Angelou, Kathryn Bigelow, Mel Brooks, Anne V. Coates, Clint Eastwood, Roger Ebert, Nora Ephron, James Earl Jones, Lawrence Kasdan, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Angela Lansbury, John Lasseter, Spike Lee, David Lynch, Helen Mirren, Rita Moreno, Robert Towne, Quentin Tarantino, Cicely Tyson, Haskell Wexler and John Williams.

About the AFI Conservatory
The AFI Conservatory offers a two-year Master of Fine Arts degree in six filmmaking disciplines: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design and Screenwriting. Aspiring artists learn from the masters in a collaborative, hands-on production environment with an emphasis on storytelling. AFI Conservatory alumni have been consistently recognized with all of the major industry awards — Academy Awards®, Emmy® Awards and guild awards — as well as Tony Awards® and Grammy Awards®. Esteemed director, producer and screenwriter James L. Brooks serves as Artistic Director of the AFI Conservatory, providing creative leadership for the elite film program. Proud supporters of the AFI Conservatory are American Airlines, the official airline of AFI; and VIZIO, the official home theater sponsor of AFI.

About the American Film Institute
Celebrating its golden milestone, the American Film Institute began its mission on June 5, 1967 — to preserve the heritage of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers. Established by Lyndon B. Johnson's presidential mandate in the White House Rose Garden, AFI is America's promise to educate today's audiences and tomorrow's artists. The Institute was anchored by a foundation of luminaries from the film community including Gregory Peck as Chair, Sidney Poitier as Vice Chair, George Stevens, Jr., as Director and CEO with board members Francis Ford Coppola, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and Jack Valenti.

In 1969, AFI opened the Center for Advanced Film Studies, now called the AFI Conservatory, an elite MFA program whose inaugural class included Terrence Malik, Caleb Deschanel and Paul Schrader. The program's acclaimed film and television alumni include Andrea Arnold, Darren Aronofsky, Julie Dash, Patty Jenkins, Janusz Kamiński, David Lynch and Robert Richardson, among others.

In addition to the AFI Conservatory, AFI programs include the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and the AFI Archive, which preserve film heritage for future generations; the AFI Life Achievement Award, the highest honor for a career in film; AFI AWARDS, honoring the most outstanding movies and TV series of the year; AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies television events and movie reference lists, which have introduced and reintroduced classic American movies to millions of film lovers; year-round and special event exhibition through AFI FEST presented by Audi, AFI DOCS and the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center. For more information about AFI, visit AFI.com or

Connect with AFI: 

twitter.com/AmericanFilm

facebook.com/AmericanFilmInstitute

instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute

youtube.com/AFI

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