President Obama Enlists AFI, SAG-AFTRA for One Million Mentor Hours

March 20, 2015 | by Ted Johnson

Photo source: Getty


The American Film Institute and SAG-AFTRA are pledging to work toward 1 million hours of mentorship as part of President Obama’s United We Serve initiative.

Obama will announce the commitment on Friday as part of the White House Student Film Festival, which will showcase projects from 15 students tied to the theme “The Impact of Giving Back.” The selections for the festival were made in collaboration with the AFI. An example: The youngest among them is Noah Gue, age 6, of Bozeman, Montana, who made a project about local wildlife and the environment and the impact of climate change.

The mentorship program — called A Call to Arts: The One Million Mentor Hours Pledge — will launch on Saturday with a second day of the Film Festival at the Newseum, where the student filmmakers will receive professional development, in a program sponsored by the AFI and Participant Media. The AFI also will provide each of the students with one-on-one mentorships with alumni from the AFI Conservatory.

SAG-AFTRA will dedicate existing educational seminars, conservatory programs and classes to mentorship, which it says will equate to tens of thousands of hours. The SAG Foundation also will offer hours via Storyline Online videos and the BookPALS program, as well as a seminar series called “The Business.”

AFI and SAG-AFTRA also plan a three-day mentoring event on the campus of the AFI Conservatory this summer, in addition to encouraging their members to volunteer. AFI has 350,000 subscribers, and SAG-AFTRA has nearly 160,000 members.

Students, schools and community groups will be connected via, the online portal for the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Among those expected at the event are AFI president and CEO Bob Gazzale, SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard, Participant Media’s Chad Boettcher, SAG-AFTRA national executive director David White, Terrance J, Jake Johnson, LaLa Anthony, Michael Ealy, Joe Morton, director Steve McQueen, producer Bianca Stigter, Amber Riley, Hillary Swank, Kal Penn and producer Will Packer.

“Our pledge today is in furtherance of the apprenticeship tradition that has provided the foundation for the art form since its inception and which will continue to strengthen our community by planting the seeds of the professional future,” Gazzale said in a statement.

White said that SAG-AFTRA members’ “willingness to focus on mentoring the next generation of storytellers is inspiring, and we are eager to partner with others to rise to this challenge.”