Obama Enlists AFI, SAG-AFTRA to Expand Film Mentorship Programs

The White House Exterior - H 2014
AP Images

The White House Exterior - H 2014

The president will announce a "Call to Arts" program at a White House event, expected to be attended by the likes of Hilary Swank and Kal Penn, to support of "the next generation of storytellers."

At the second annual White House Student Film Festival Friday morning, President Barack Obama is set to announce that the American Film Institute (AFI) and the Screen Actors Guild-America Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) are teaming up to mentor aspiring young storytellers from across the country to help them pursue careers in the cinematic arts.

"The American Film Institute was founded in the White House Rose Garden with a mission to educate the next generation of storytellers," said Bob Gazzale, AFI president & CEO. "Our pledge today is in furtherance of the apprenticeship tradition that has provided the foundation for the art form since its inception and which will continue to strengthen our community by planting the seeds for its professional future."

Although both groups were already working together through conservatory classes and school mentorship programs to assist young filmmakers, AFI and SAG-AFTRA have agreed to step up their efforts as part of Obama’s "United We Serve" program, in conjunction with the Corporation for National and Community Service agency. The action is part of Obama’s new “Call to Arts" initiative, an outgrowth of the White House's “National Call to Service” effort, which was built on a belief that "ordinary people can come together and achieve extraordinary things when given the proper tools," according to administration officials.

As part of the president's new initiative, AFI and SAG-AFTRA will dedicate 1 million mentorship hours over the next three years to "inspire tomorrow’s storytellers through programs, events and other mentorship opportunities."

"This is an exciting initiative and our members are eager to reach out to the next generation of professional actors and filmmakers," said SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard. "Sharing the tools of the trade helps ensure dynamic new storytellers practicing the craft, and a vibrant future for the entertainment industry. That’s something that benefits movies, television shows — in fact, the entire creative community and the nation."

In addition to Howard and Gazzale, a variety of Hollywood filmmakers and actors are expected to attend the president’s announcement detailing his "Call to Arts" initiative Friday morning. They include Oscar-recipient Hilary Swank, Scandal’s Joe Morton, Kal Penn, Terrence J, Amber Riley, Michael Ealy, La La Anthony, Jake Johnson, SAG-AFTRA national executive director David P. White, director and Oscar-recipient Steve McQueen and producer Will Packer

According to AFI, the group will initiate its expanded mentorship program by teaming up with Participant Media this week to offer special guidance to 15 students – chosen from thousands of aspiring young filmmakers – to showcase their works at this year’s White House Student Film Festival.

In the coming weeks, SAG-AFTRA will expand its effort nationwide to offer educational seminars, outreach programs and classes to high school students across the country. In addition, the guild’s foundation will use its industry-lauded BookPALS program and Storyline Online video effort to reach students via the Internet.

AFI and SAG-AFTRA will also work together to offer a three-day mentoring event on the campus of the AFI Conservatory in Los Angeles. AFI will also encourage its 350,000 subscribers to participate in SAG-AFTRA’s mentor programs, officials said.