The American Film Institute said today that Jan Schuette will depart as dean of the AFI Conservatory at the end of the academic year after three years in the job. AFI said Schuette he intends to continue his work in academia and resume his professional work as a filmmaker and producer.
The move comes after a majority of Los Angeles’ famed film school in August called for Schuette to resign, claiming that “the AFI Conservatory is on the brink of unraveling.” That move comes a day after Deadline reported that a wave of faculty firings and resignations had rocked the school as it began a new term.
The union representing the instructors said “a vast majority of faculty” at the school has voted “no confidence” in Schuette’s leadership and requested that he immediately be “relieved of his duties and responsibilities.”
Said AFI president and CEO Bob Gazzale today: “Jan’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. We thank him for his commitment to the Fellows as well as championing essential issues like diversity, recruitment and ensuring the Conservatory evolves and changes as film does.”
Faculty unrest has been brewing at the school since Schuette was named dean, succeeding Emmy-winning director Robert Mandel, who stayed on as a member of the faculty after guiding the film school for nine years. Mandel, whose film credits include School Ties, was one of those fired. Since July, five veteran instructors have been fired and four more have resigned in protest.
Schuette’s films have screened at the Cannes, Venice, San Sebastian, Toronto and Sundance, and he was a member of the Cannes Film Festival jury in 2002. Before joining AFI, Schuette was director of the German Film and Television Academy in Berlin and taught at Harvard and Dartmouth.
“It has been a distinct honor to serve as dean of one of the world’s great film schools,” Schuette said in today’s statement announcing his departure. “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.
“I care deeply about the Fellows and plan to continue my work in academia, which I love, while also resuming my career making films. Through commencement next June, my focus will remain on achieving another successful academic year and ensuring a smooth transition to the future.”