AFI Conservatory Commencement 2015

AFI celebrated this year's 122 AFI Conservatory graduates — and the world's newest filmmakers — today at Hollywood's historic TCL Chinese Theatre. During commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2015, Doctorate of Fine Arts degrees honoris causa were conferred upon Angela Lansbury and Lawrence Kasdan for their "contribution of distinction to the art of the moving image." Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation and AFI's 2010 Honorary Degree recipient, presented the honor to actress Angela Lansbury, beloved for her film, television and theater roles including Mrs. Potts in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991) — produced during Katzenberg's tenure as chairman at The Walt Disney Studios. Composer James Newton Howard presented the honor to celebrated writer, director and producer Lawrence Kasdan. Howard scored six of Kasdan's films including GRAND CANYON (1991) and WYATT EARP (1994).

Words of wisdom were shared by presenters and Honorary Degree recipients to the class of 2015. Howard said about his long-time collaborator, Kasdan, "I was a film composer ... he turned me into a filmmaker." Kasdan advised the graduates to make thoughtful movies and to stay focused on their art as they work toward commercial success. "It has never been easy to get challenging projects made ... Get your movies made any way you can," said Kasdan.

As Katzenberg presented the honor to his friend and Hollywood icon Lansbury, he noted, "The American Film Institute is honoring an American institution." While observing the various mediums filmmakers have available to them today, Lansbury commented that the graduates are "about to set forth into the thrilling world of drama and storytelling. Whether it be way of film, television or the Internet ... everything counts!"

Lansbury and Kasdan join an esteemed group of filmmakers who are previous recipients of an AFI Honorary Degree: Robert Altman, Maya Angelou, Kathryn Bigelow, Mel Brooks, Anne V. Coates, Clint Eastwood, Roger Ebert, Nora Ephron, James Earl Jones, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Kathleen Kennedy, John Lasseter, Spike Lee, David Lynch, Helen Mirren, Robert Towne, Cicely Tyson, Haskell Wexler and John Williams.

View photos from the 2015 commencement ceremony.