The American Film Institute (AFI) is an independent non-profit organization created by the National Endowment for the Arts, which was established in 1967 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act.
In 1969, Czechoslovakian-born Frank Daniel was appointed the first school's first dean.
In 1980, Jean Picker Firstenberg became Director and CEO.
In 2007, Bob Gazzale, a fifteen-year veteran of AFI, was named president and CEO.
The AFI established a Life Achievement Award in 1973. Their own film festival, AFI Fest, was launched in 1987 and has been held every year. AFI Fest is the first film festival in the United States to carry FIAPF accreditation.
Often confused, AFI DALLAS International Film Festival is not an AFI program. AFI DALLAS is a separate non-profit organization with a licensing agreement with the American Film Institute.
In 1998—the 100th anniversary of American film—AFI began its 100 Years... series, celebrating and promoting interest in film history; they also preserve old films, which are subject to degradation of film stock.
The AFI re-opened the AFI Silver theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland, near Washington, D.C., in April 2003. The AFI Conservatory focuses on training through hands-on experience with established figures. AFI also produces film education and appreciation materials for middle and high school students. In spite of its name, AFI does not focus exclusively on film, but also on television and video.