AFI Conservatory Dean Richard Gladstein Exits After 18 Months

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Richard Gladstein

Michael Chung and Tom Engfer have been named co-interim deans.

Richard Gladstein, who was named dean of the AFI Conservatory in May 2017, is stepping down from that post, which he held for just over one academic year, the American Film Institute announced Monday.

Michael Chung, vice dean of administration, and Tom Engfer, vice dean of academic affairs, have been named co-interim deans, reporting to AFI president and CEO Bob Gazzale, as the search for a permanent dean gets underway. 

The AFI didn't offer any explanation for the surprise development and declined further comment.

"It was my honor to serve as dean of the AFI Conservatory," Gladstein said in a statement. "As I move on to new opportunities, I will always cherish and champion the Fellows, the faculty and the alumni who make AFI a world-class experience." 

In a statement of his own, Gazzale added, "We appreciate Richard's contributions to the Conservatory, and we wish him well in his future endeavors."

Gladstein, an Oscar-nominated producer of The Cider House Rules and Finding Neverland, was recruited to succeed Jan Schuette, whose three-year tenure as head of the film school, which ended in June 2017, proved controversial. By choosing a working producer to take the reins, the AFI was following a tradition it established with earlier deans like Robert Mandel, Frank Pierson and Robert Wise, who all brought filmmaking experience to the role.

When he was named to the post, Gladstein, who served as executive vp at Miramax Films from 1993 to 1995 before founding his production company, FilmColony, told The Hollywood Reporter that when he was first approached, "I wasn't so sure right off the bat that this was something right for me and would I be right for the AFI. But the more I spoke about it with friends and spoke with those at the conservatory, it became something I was super-interested in and pursued with great vigor. I feel very honored to get the gig." 

Overseen by the American Film Institute, the AFI Conservatory, located in Hollywood, offers a two-year MFA program in six disciplines — cinematography, directing, editing, producing, production design and screenwriting — overseen by instructors who are themselves filmmakers. It prides itself on its reputation as one of the country's leading film schools, with a long roster of graduates who have gone on to successful careers in the film and TV industries.