AFI Conservatory 2013 Honorary Degree Recipients


Jon Avnet has directed, written, and produced more than 60 motion pictures, television movies and Broadway plays over the last 30 years, winning most of the major awards: Oscars®, Emmys®, Tonys®, Peabodys, DGA, the Humanitas and the AFI's Franklin Shaffner Medal. Avnet was the executive producer of BLACK SWAN, starring Natalie Portman (winner of the Oscar for Best Actress) and directed by Darren Aronofsky. BLACK SWAN received five Oscar® nominations in total (including Best Picture) as well as multiple nominations and wins from the PGA, WGA, SAG, BAFTA, AFI and the Golden Globes®. It grossed $326 million theatrical worldwide.

Avnet, in conjunction with Rodrigo Garcia (AFI Class of 1986) and director, most recently, of ALBERT NOBBS and Jake Avnet, launched a scripted channel for You Tube on May 14, 2012 entitled WIGS ( The first season of WIGS is comprised of 100 five-to-eight minute films, some single episodes and the majority serialized, all executive produced by Avnet, Garcia and Jacob Avnet. The first three series have newcomer Jennifer Garner, Caitlin Gerard, Virginia Madsen, Alfred Molina, Stephen Moyer, Sarah Paulsen, Julia Stiles and Jeanne Tripplehorn. Jennifer Beals, Troian Bellasario, Dakota Fanning, America Ferrara, Michael C. Hall, Jason Isaacs, Walton Goggins, Alison Janney and many other gifted performers have joined on. Filmmakers include Paul Brickman, Lesli Linka Glatter and Betty Thomas. Authors include Mitch Albom, Amy Lippman, Scott Turow and Neal LaBute. At Brandcast on May 4th 2012, Robert Kyncl and Eric Schmidt of Google announced major and unprecedented WIGS sponsorship deals with American Express and Unilever. WIGS has received multiple nominations, including a Writers Guild of America nomination for Jay Rodan, the screenwriter of LAUREN.

WIGS began its second cycle of projects in November when YouTube renewed its funded sponsorship. On May 19th, Kevin Reilly, chairman of Fox Broadcast networks, announced a strategic partnership with WIGS, the first of its kind, involving WIGS, a purely digital platform, having access to the marketing reach of a network and developing material for both platforms. WIGS has over 165,000 subscribers and more than 35 million views. 26 episodes of BLUE, starring Julia Stiles, have been uploaded with more than 4.5 million views in six weeks. LAUREN, starring Jennifer Beals, Troian Bellasario and Bradley Whitford, has been uploaded as well. There will be 12 episodes. Maggie Grace and Anna Paquin will also appear in the second cycle with 12 episodes. The development of the third cycle has just begun.

Avnet has been directing episodes of FX Network's JUSTIFIED starring Walt Goggins and Tim Olyphant for the last fours years. JUSTIFIED recently received a Peabody award. He directed and executive produced Mitch Albom's HAVE A LITTLE FAITH starring Laurence Fishburne, Martin Landau and Bradley Whitford for ABC. He is preparing to direct A REDBIRD CHRISTMAS, which is based on the novel by Fannie Flagg (the author of "Fried Green Tomatoes") with whom he co-wrote the screenplay and which Tom Pollock is producing.

Avnet directed Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and 50 Cent in RIGHTEOUS KILL, released in September 2008. He also directed and executive produced THE STARTER WIFE, a six-hour limited series for the USA Network starring Debra Messing, Joe Mantegna and Judy Davis. Based on the novel by Gigi Levangie Grazer, it aired May 2007 as the highest-rated limited cable series that year and received 10 Emmy® nominations as well as DGA and PGA nominations for Avnet. It became a series for the USA network in 2008.

In 2004, Avnet produced and co-financed with Aurelio DeLaurentiis Paramount's SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW starring Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Angelina Jolie. In 2001, Avnet directed, co-wrote with Paul Brickman, and produced the critically praised miniseries UPRISING for NBC, starring Hank Azaria, David Schwimmer, Leelee Sobieski, Donald Sutherland and Jon Voight. Prior to that, Avnet directed and produced RED CORNER starring Richard Gere and UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL starring Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer. Previously, he directed, produced and co-wrote the highly acclaimed FRIEND GREEN TOMATOES for Universal starring Kathy Bates, Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary Louise Parker and Jessica Tandy, which received multiple Oscar®, Golden Globe®, and Writers Guild nominations. His first directing outing (which he also co-wrote and produced) was the TV movie BETWEEN TWO WOMEN, starring Colleen Dewhurst and Farrah Fawcett, which earned Dewhurst an Emmy® for her performance.

In 1984, Avnet produced (with Steve Tisch) Paul Brickman's film RISKY BUSINESS, which launched Tom Cruise's career. In 1985, Avnet produced (also with Steve Tisch) THE BURNING BED, starring Farrah Fawcett, which garnered eight Emmy® nominations and was the highest-rated television movie ever aired on NBC. Along with Jordan Kerner, Avnet produced GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE, LESS THAN ZERO, MIAMI RHAPSODY, the MIGHTY DUCKS films and WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN, to name a few, as well as MAMA FLORA'S FAMILY, based on the Alex Haley novel.

On Broadway, his plays have received 35 nominations and 12 Tony awards. He produced with Bill Haber the Tony Award® winning "Spamalot" and "The History Boys." He also produced "The Pillowman," "Inherit the Wind," starring Christopher Plummer, "The Seafarer" by Connor McPherson, and the Mike Nichols-directed "Country Girl," starring Morgan Freeman and Frances McDormand.

Avnet attended the University of Pennsylvania and received a BA from Sarah Lawrence College. Today, Avnet is Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors at the American Film Institute, where he has been a guiding force for over 20 years. In addition, he serves on the Board of Overseers of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. Avnet participates as a mentor in the Director's Lab at Sundance and its sister program Emergence in France. Most recently he has become a trustee of the DGA-Producers Pension and Health Plan. He also lectures on film and holocaust studies at numerous universities worldwide and has supported a diverse range of charitable organizations.


Kathryn Bigelow is a film director and producer who has crafted a body of work that challenges genre norms and offers viscerally stunning portraits of characters and conflicts resonant to contemporary culture.

A two time Oscar® winner, Bigelow most recently directed and produced the critically acclaimed, multi-Oscar®-nominated ZERO DARK THIRTY starring Jessica Chastain and written by Mark Boal, which chronicles the decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden. More than 200 top 10 lists honored the film, which went on to receive five Oscar® nominations, including for Picture, Actress and Screenplay.

For ZERO DARK THIRTY, Bigelow won an AFI Award, Best Director honors from both the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review. Additionally, she was nominated for the second time by the Directors Guild of America. The film received four Golden Globe® nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actress (Drama), which Chastain won; a Best Picture nomination from the Producers Guild of America; and a Best Original Screenplay win from the Writers Guild of America for Boal.

In 2009, her direction and producing of THE HURT LOCKER earned her an AFI Award and two Oscars®, for Best Picture and Director. Chronicling an unseen side of the Iraq war while revealing the soul-numbing rigors of the modern battlefield, the film was hailed by Time's Richard Corliss as "a near perfect movie," and deemed "a classic of fear, tension and bravery which will still be studied 20 years from now," by the New Yorker's David Denby.

Bigelow's second feature, which she directed and co-wrote, was the stirring, instant cult classic NEAR DARK. The film was critically lauded as a "poetic horror film." Bigelow subsequently directed the hit action thriller POINT BREAK, which explored the perilous extremes of a psychological struggle between two young men.

With the release of STRANGE DAYS, critics began to assess Bigelow's filmmaking in a new light, with Roger Ebert calling it a "technical tour de force." In the film, Bigelow explored the unsettling prospects of computer-generated virtual reality and the impending new millennium. Bigelow then directed THE WEIGHT OF WATER and quickly followed with the big screen action epic K-19: THE WIDOWMAKER.

Originally trained as a painter, Bigelow graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute and was invited to study at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. She earned her master's degree from the graduate film program at Columbia University. In 2011, MoMA honored Bigelow's work in both film and the visual arts with a showcase and exhibition entitled "Crafting Genre: Kathryn Bigelow."


Anne V. Coates, O.B.E., A.C.E. was born in Reigate, Surrey, England and came to motion pictures after harrowing experiences as a nurse at Sir Archibald McIndoe's pioneering plastic surgery hospital in East Grinstead. She fulfilled her long-held ambition to be a film director with a company called Religious Films. The work consisted of patching up prints of devotional shorts before sending them out to Britain's churches. This led to a job in the cutting room at Pinewood Studios, where she worked on THE RED SHOES, among other films, before achieving her first screen credit with THE PICKWICK PAPERS.

Coates was hired to cut together elaborate tests that David Lean shot of Albert Finney for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. She was anxious when the time came to show her cut to the great director and his team. "That's the first time I've ever seen a piece of mine cut exactly as I would have done it," Lean said.

Coates received an Oscar® for her work on LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, which ranks #7 on AFI's list of the top 100 movies. She was nominated for both Academy Awards® and A.C.E. Awards for her work on BECKET, THE ELEPHANT MAN, IN THE LINE OF FIRE, and OUT OF SIGHT. Her other credits include GREYSTOKE: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, LORD OF THE APES; UNFAITHFUL, ERIN BROCKOVICH (an AFI Award winner), OUT TO SEA, STRIPTEASE, CONGO, CHAPLIN, and WHAT ABOUT BOB? She most recently edited Chris Weitz's THE GOLDEN COMPASS, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig.

Speaking to Fellows at a Harold Lloyd Master Seminar at the AFI Conservatory in 2000, Coates explained her approach to her work: "I like to watch the director working on the floor with the actors and crew because it helps me assimilate the film. I find that useful because often the director will come up and chat to me about a particular problem...I like to watch dailies with the crew, because if the director has a problem he can say so there and then...It's also important for me to start editing while the shooting is still going on, so you can tell the director that he might be missing a shot ...If there's one thing I try to bring to every job it's a sense of clarity. Some directors have a tendency to overcut. By that I mean they cut out important little things that add that little bit of clarification the audience needs."

Coates has been honored by Women In Film on two separate occasions for her achievements in the film community.

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