DIGITAL MEDIA FROM THE INSIDE OUT: My focus is digital content -- production, distribution, collaboration, innovation, creativity. Some posts have appeared across the web (HuffPo, Tribeca's Future of Film, The Wrap, MIPblog, etc.). To receive these posts regularly via email, sign up for my newsletter here.

Entries in American Film Institute (1)


AFI & the Digital World - Excerpt from new book, 'Becoming AFI'

This post is an excerpt from chapter 7 of the book "Becoming AFI: 50 Years of the American Film Institute" by Jean Picker Firstenberg and James Hindman (Santa Monica Press), which I authored. Jean Picker Firstenberg, who was President and CEO of the AFI from 1980 to 2007, will be featured October 26th at a Writers Bloc event in Beverly Hills, in conversation with former AFI trustee--and ex-Monkee, Michael Nesmith. More information on the event, including how to buy tickets, can be found here.



It’s difficult to recall a world before the Internet, even for those of us who were there when it started. Just as AFI was setting out on its own digital journey, the Internet emerged from its academic and technical cocoon to take flight as a new and all-pervading data net- work that would soon transform all aspects of culture and business. In its infancy, the Internet was simply a marvel—a miraculous new utility that fostered community and created much beauty, rather than the corporate battleground it would become.

My Internet life started with AppleLink, a private email ser- vice for companies doing business with Apple. Logging on with a squawky dial-up modem, I felt like a member of a secret society of digital somebodies at a time when just having an email address seemed cool. Soon, we built AFI’s first campus email network.

Some in Hollywood heard about the World Wide Web—the graphical component of the Internet—at an “Information Super- highway Summit” in January 1994, organized by Rich Frank, an AFI trustee from Disney, who also chaired the television academy. (Rich Frank’s role on the AFI board, serving almost continuously since 1991, has been extraordinary. His Frank Family Wines have been served at many Life Achievement Award dinners, and he con- tinues to chair the TV jury for the AFI AWARDS every year.) Ev- eryone was there: Hollywood moguls like Jeffrey Katzenberg, Barry Diller, and Rupert Murdoch, as well as FCC chairman Reed Hun- dt and Vice President Al Gore, who would subsequently overstate his role in the invention of the Internet.

AFI’s first glimpse of the World Wide Web came a few months later during a campus tribute at AFI to Wired, the magazine that gave voice to “digital lifestyle” before anyone even knew what that was. After entertaining the audience with the magazine’s ground- breaking graphics and McLuhanesque content, Wired founders Louis Rossetto and Jane Metcalfe blew everyone’s minds with a sneak preview of the web’s first commercial magazine, HotWired, which they were preparing to launch in a few months. Projected onto AFI’s movie screen using the Mosaic web browser, HotWired whipped us from one page to another—from words to images to video and back again—with a simple click of a mouse. This was something completely new, a revolutionary way of publishing, communicating, and connecting, and I knew that AFI had to be part of it.

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