Film producer and educator Susan Ruskin has been tapped as dean of the American Film Institute Conservatory. She replaces Richard Gladstein, an Oscar-nominated producer of The Cider House Rules and Finding Neverland who held the post for only 18 months, or one academic year, after being named dean in May 2017.
Before Gladstein, veteran film director and producer Jan Schuette, who has been professor of directing at the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg since 1994 and on the faculty of the Harvard Summer School since 2010, exited the AFI post in late 2016 after three years. During his tenure, some newly unionized faculty members called for his resignation.
Ruskin comes to the AFI Conservatory with her own academic credentials from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where she had been dean of the School of Filmmaking since 2013.
During her seven-year tenure, Ruskin created new MFA programs in creative producing and screenwriting and made UNCSA an official partner of the Sundance Institute. She also launched the Media and Emerging Technology Lab and hosted an inaugural Future of Reality Summit focused on immersive media.
Ruskin also has film producing credits that include Anaconda and Haunted Honeymoon, which continues an AFI tradition with earlier deans like Robert Mandel, Frank Pierson and Robert Wise having similarly brought filmmaking experience to the role.
With long-standing ties to some of the biggest names in Hollywood, AFI Conservatory graduate students during a two-year program are guided by instructors who are themselves professional filmmakers. AFI alumni include Darren Aronofsky, David Lynch, Ari Aster, Patty Jenkins, Sam Esmail, Wally Pfister and Brad Falchuk.
Ruskin will also serve as executive vice president and report directly to Bob Gazzale, AFI president and CEO.
“Susan is a bold and innovative educator with a clear passion for the future of the cinematic arts,” Gazzale said Tuesday in a statement.
“In a world where moving images are the fabric of society, AFI’s role as a champion of exceptional storytellers is more vital than ever, and I look forward to leading the Conservatory in this transformative time, when increasingly new avenues and access allow its fellows to express their unique and diverse vision in boundless ways,” Ruskin said in her own statement.
She also previously served as president of production at Middle Fork Pictures/Cinema Line and Gene Wilder’s Pal-Mel Productions, and as a creative executive at Lucasfilm.
Ruskin holds a bachelor’s degree from New York University and a master’s degree in creative writing and writing for the performing arts from the University of California Riverside.