As a not-for-profit, private graduate film school, the AFI Conservatory teaches multimodal pedagogy in hands-on courses led by industry experts. Film students learn the art of narrative cinema by exploring their specializations in a highly collaborative environment. From Amy Hecklering (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless) to Terrence Malik (Badlands, Thin Red Line, Tree of Life), many graduates go on to become household names in the film industry. Today, AFI's alumni have taken home more than 149 Academy Award nominations and 30 wins.
What is it like to study at the American Film Institute Conservatory?
AFI is regarded as one of the best film schools in Los Angeles and the world. It functions not only as a forum to learn, but also a cutting edge film studio. But is AFI the best choice for you and your creative aspirations?
Before you apply, read FilmSchool.org’s exclusive interview with the AFI Admissions Department. Jill Murrin, Director of Admissions; Giovanni Maldonado Chinea; and Anna Proulx, former Director of Admissions discuss the day-to-day of day-to-day of studying at AFI, why AFI is a premiere school for graduate filmmakers, how to avoid common problems in the application process, mastering the narrative-focused portfolio, and more.
AFI emphasizes hands-on learning throughout the two-year program: expect to work 11-12 hours on set every Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Filmmaking courses are conducted at the Warner Bros. Building and the Manor House, and students can take advantage of several other state-of-the-art post-production and research facilities on campus.
Teams of six film students develop three cycle films in year one; each film requires a new team. To help film students diversify their set and post-production experience, AFI gives each discipline an equal chance to assemble student production teams. For example, if Directing is the first cohort to choose their team members for a cycle film, a different cohort will get first pick for the next cycle film.
Thesis films are a significant portion of the AFI tuition breakdown (see “ AFI Cost of Attendance and Financial Aid (2024)”). In year two, film students create at least one thesis film by assembling their own teams. Year two is also devoted to assembling a final portfolio, such as a reel or a series of short films.
5 Commonly Asked Questions About the AFI Application Process
1. What is AFI looking for in a portfolio?
Each discipline’s application requirements change year to year. Prompts are straightforward and allow students to experiment within the framework of the three-act structure. The Admissions Department stresses that applicants should not imitate other filmmakers, particularly AFI alumni.
2. Does AFI accept genre filmmakers?
AFI welcomes all storytellers, including genre filmmakers. (The comedy genre has historically received a lower number of applications). However, all sample films must follow the assigned time limit. Films that exceed the time limit will not be disqualified, but the remaining footage will not be viewed.
3. Does my GPA play a role in my decision?
Having a low undergraduate GPA doesn’t disqualify you from applying to AFI. But failing to explain your academic history may result in a disqualification. Take advantage of the application section about previous academic experience.
Want even more GPA info? The FilmSchool.org Application Database gives you access to the GPAs and demographics of accepted AFI applicants. Become a Supporting Member to find out the lowest GPA for accepted Fellows and review dozens of AFI applications and admissions statistics.
4. Can I use old films on my AFI application?
Yes. AFI allows applicants to repurpose films from any point in their career. However, the Admissions Department encourages applicants to use the exercise film to show their current skill set.
5. Does the exercise film have to be a single scene?
AFI's exercise film can be a single scene or contain multiple scenes, as long as it follows the three-act structure. The narrative must have a clear beginning, middle, and end that explores a conflict with a resolution. The exercise film is also limited to a five-page screenplay.
AFI admissions events for 2024
October 7 at 11:00 a.m. PT (Zoom): Attend a virtual meet and greet with all six discipline heads. RSVP here.
November 4 at 11:00 a.m. PT (Zoom): A panel of recent AFI alumni discuss the AFI Fellow experience and post-graduate opportunities. RSVP here.
In addition, campus tours are offered every Thursday at 10 a.m. To RSVP, email campustours@AFI.com. You can also schedule a self-guided tour Monday through Friday.
Editor's Note: This article has been revised to reflect 2024 application instructions and the AFI Scholarship. The AFI application for 2024 admission is now open. Click here to apply.