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School Ties director steps down as dean of AFI Conservatory

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AFI is my home and always will be,” notes Robert Mandel, dean of the American Film Institute Conservatory. After nine years of academic leadership for the graduate level film school, the AFI Conservatory alum will return to directing while remaining on faculty at the Conservatory.

“Mandel embodies the ideal of the AFI Conservatory – storytellers who have enjoyed great acclaim returning to share their trials and triumphs with the storytellers of the future,” states Bob Gazzale, AFI president and CEO. “His contributions to AFI have been extraordinary, and we are proud and honored to know they will continue through his role on the faculty.”

An Emmy Award-winner, Mandel joined AFI in 2005, after directing the motion picture School Ties and television shows including pilot for The X-Files, as well as episodes of Lost and Prison Break.

During Mandel’s time at the AFI Conservatory, he identified and attracted more than a dozen world-class faculty members, including James L. Brooks, who joined as artistic director.

Mandel also enhanced the curriculum, adding courses in acting, independent film finance, television and show running. With Mandel’s leadership, AFI Conservatory thesis films debuted to professional audiences at standing room only events.

To further launch the careers of graduates, Mandel created a career office for job opportunities and established an AFI Fellow-Alumni mentoring program. Mandel's commitment to create more access to the industry for AFI Fellows also resulted in programs such as screenwriting pitch sessions to agents, managers and production executives.

“Its an educational environment like no other in the world, where young men and women learn to make movies–by making movies,” observes Mandel. “It has been my honor to help see the dreams of the next generation become reality and it is they, in fact, that have inspired me to return to directing. There are more stories to tell.”

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