Founded in 1985 by filmmaker Richard Linklater, the Austin Film Society’s mission is to empower our community to make, watch, and love creative media. AFS curates and screens hundreds of repertory, international and arthouse films annually at the AFS Cinema; delivers financial support to Texas filmmakers through the AFS Grant; operates Austin Studios, a 20-acre production facility, and Austin Public, a space for our city’s diverse mediamakers to train and collaborate. Through its award-winning after school classes, intern training, and the Ed Lowry Student Film program, AFS encourages media literacy and provides a place for youth of all backgrounds to learn the craft of filmmaking and gain access to tools for media production. By hosting premieres, special events, local and international industry events, and the Texas Film Awards, AFS shines the national spotlight on Texas filmmakers while connecting Austin and Texas to the wider film community. AFS is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
The Austin Film Society began in 1985 with a group of friends getting together to watch films that weren't distributed to the general public. As word got out, that small group of cinephiles turned to hundreds and the Austin Film Society (AFS) was born, honoring classic and independent film with screenings in venues all over Austin.
Filmmaker Richard Linklater (DAZED AND CONFUSED, SLACKER) spearheaded AFS’s early efforts and in May of 1986, the Austin Film Society was incorporated as a non-profit educational organization. From the outset, programs have been curated to present films within an artistic and cultural context. Series are constructed around thematic links, or feature the work of an individual director, and program notes accompany many screenings. Over the years, our offerings have built a loyal audience and brought forth a nationally known, thriving film culture.
AFS offers a model for presenting artistic works of cinema on a regional level. Most films presented are not widely available and we frequently present Austin premieres. Past series have included "Black Image in American Cinema," "Bigger than Life: a Festival of Cinemascope," "San Francisco Super-8 Film Happening," "Pre-Code Hollywood," "Women's Film Shorts" and "Che Bella: Italy in the 60s." Directors featured in retrospective series have included Lindsay Anderson, Bergman, Bresson, Bunuel, Cassavetes, Dreyer, Fassbinder, Robert Frank, Sam Fuller, Godard, Abbas Kiarostami, Ozu, Oshima, Pasolini, Peckinpah, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressberger, Satyajit Ray, Raul Ruiz, Ousmane Sembene, Douglas Sirk, Aleksandr Sokurov, Preston Sturges, Andrei Tarkovsky and many others. Check out our current Essential Cinema series >>
Visiting filmmakers are an important component of AFS programming, both as inspiration to the audience and affirmation for the filmmaker. Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino, Catherine Hardwicke, Ron Howard, Robert Rodriguez, Atom Egoyan, Charles Burnett, Monte Hellman, Tobe Hooper, Nancy Savoca, Gregg Araki, Albert Maysles, James Benning, Les Blank, Ethan Hawke, James Ponsoldt, Ciro Guerra, Jean-Pierre Gorin, Ross McElwee, D.A. Pennebaker, and others have presented their works for AFS audiences. Several of these filmmakers sit on our Advisory Board >>
By 1995, our mission had expanded from appreciating the movies we were screening to supporting the filmmakers who made them. AFS hired its first paid staff and revised the mission statement to reflect its expanded role as a source of support and information for regional artists. These support services, which continue today, include advice and referrals, workshops, a community newsletter, an information-rich website, fiscal sponsorship of projects, and the Austin Film Society Grant (since 1996 the Austin Film Society has awarded over $1.7 million in cash, goods and services to over 466 film and video projects).
The Austin Film Society founded Austin Studios in 2000 through a partnership with the City of Austin. Austin Studios features a 10,000 square foot production office and over 100,000 square feet of production space in former airplane hangars. Improvements totaling $6 million to the facility include the largest cyclorama wall in Texas at 87 feet in length and two fully soundproofed production stages. Austin Studios is bringing millions of dollars into the Austin economy in the form of jobs, goods and services.
The Texas Film Hall of Fame was founded in 2001 to honor the best in Texas film and to raise funds for the year-round programs and services of AFS. Each year, the Texas Film Awards event has grown to become the most glamorous night in Austin. Honorees have included Carol Burnett, Morgan Fairchild, Marcia Gay Harden, Matthew McConaughey, Billy Bob Thornton, Farrah Fawcett, Horton Foote, Terrance Malik, Jack Valenti, Woody Harrelson and music acts such as the Dixie Chicks, ZZ Top and Lyle Lovett. Each year, the Awards also honor a film made in Texas. Past recipients include STATE FAIR, EASY RIDER, GIANT and THE LAST PICTURE SHOW. Check out the Honorees Gallery for a complete list >>
Today, the Austin Film Society has over 1900 members and attendance at our programs last year was over 40,000. Audiences and members represent all ages and a cross-section of the diverse population of Austin. Individual series target particular audiences, and have expanded our audience base in the Latino, African-American, Middle Eastern, Jewish and Asian-American communities. We also co-sponsor events with other Austin arts organizations such as Cine Las Americas, The Contemporary, the Blanton Museum of Art and the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.
Our exhibition programs enjoy a national reputation, with the Austin Film Society ranked among the top film centers of the country. We have earned the Directors Guild of America's first DGA Honors Award in recognition for our support of regional film production and culture. We also receive support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Texas Commission on the Arts and the City of Austin.
The Austin Film Society's accomplishments have been sustained by concerted volunteer efforts, the support of the community and local arts organizations, a strong Board of Directors, the enthusiasm of Austin audiences and the support of well-known filmmakers including our Advisory Board including Charles Burnett, Guillermo del Toro, Jonathan Demme, Mike Judge, Robert Rodriguez, Harry Knowles, Alexandra and Terrence Malick, Janet and John Pierson, John Sayles, Steven Soderbergh, Paul Stekler, Elizabeth Avellán, Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith.