American Film Institute Dean Jan Schuette will step down at the end of the current academic year, AFI announced Monday. Schuette joined the conservancy as Dean in 2014, and intends to continue working in academia and as a filmmaker and producer.
According to Variety, the announcement of his departure comes roughly three months after AFI’s faculty union held a “no confidence” vote regarding Schuette’s leadership that passed 35-8, with roughly half of the 87-person faculty not voting. At least 30 faculty members also signed a letter in 2015 expressing deep concern about Schuette’s leadership and the direction of the conservatory. Members of the union claimed that Schuette, who joined AFI from the German Film and Television Academy, had fired AFI faculty members without cause, cut off communication with other faculty members and undermined the curriculum of its students, known as “fellows.” Several members of the faculty also resigned earlier this year, at least one of whom said his resignation was directly in response to changes instituted by Schuette.
Members of AFI’s leadership, however, refuted many of the faculty’s claims. Marshall Herskovitz, co-chair of the AFI board of directors, told IndieWire in August that he unequivocally supported the dean, calling him “a great leader,” adding that four of the five faculty members the union claimed were fired simply did not have their contracts renewed, a common situation at AFI, which reviews every faculty member’s contract on an annual basis. He added that the fifth faculty member was fired for cause and that the circumstances went back several years.
AFI CEO Bob Gazzale said in a statement Monday that Schuette’s “devotion to the high standards of AFI will ensure the Conservatory remains a foremost training ground for the artists of tomorrow. In Jan, as is the spirit in the halls at AFI, our Fellows have been led by an artist who has lived it — who has been on the set and told the stories. We deeply appreciate his contributions and respect that he feels this is the right moment to pass the mantle of leadership to a new Dean and pursue the next steps in his own academic career, as well as his passion for filmmaking.”
Schuette was not available for comment Monday, but said in the statement: “When AFI invited me to take this role, its directive was to build upon its proud past and plant the seeds of growth for the future. Like filmmaking itself, these years have been both challenging and rewarding. I’m proud to say that many of these goals have been accomplished, and it’s the right time to turn the work over to a new Dean who will take the Conservatory forward.”
AFI has six total disciplines: Directing, Screenwriting, Producing, Editing, Cinematography and Production Design.