Afghanistan Vet Wins First AFI Winick Scholarship

Henry Hughes

Army Ranger war veteran Henry Hughes says Hollywood and the battlefield are "similar."

American Film Institute on Wednesday said that AFI directing fellow Henry Hughes, who spent four years as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan, has won the first Gary Winick Scholarship.

The honor is presented in memory of AFI directing alumnus Gary Winick, the Cassavetes Award winner who died in 2011 at 49 after battling brain cancer.

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Hughes says the military gave him "an incomparable advantage" as a filmmaker.

"You can't lead 40 people at 22 in any other profession with that much influence," he says. "And I was astounded when I walked on a set and realized how similarly the two fields are organized and operate."

Hughes' film study is also funded partly by the GI Bill.

AFI also announced that its trustee Moctesuma Esparza hooked the school up with a new partner, the Latino Donor Collaborative, to fund eight fellows for 2013-14. Scholarship funding is up almost 300 percent -- to more than $6.2 million -- after AFI board of directors chair Robert Daly's $1 million 2012 challenge grant, which raised $2.3 million thanks to major gifts by AFI board of trustees chair Sir Howard Stringer and Lawrence Herbert, and another $3.5 million from the likes of David Geffen, Alan Horn, Terry Semel and the Time Warner Foundation.

AFI was No. 2 on The Hollywood Reporter's 2013 Top 25 Film Schools list.