An interview with the Allison Dekmatel, PR for the AFI’s Film Institute on the afternoon that the American Film Institute changed their list:
Q: Why, exactly, is the AFI changing the list?
A: It essentially comes down to the fact that there are 10 more years of film history to be accounted for.
Q: So why not just add ten more rather than reorder the list?
A: AFI has decided to undertake this program because in film and in other art forms, our perception of films can change through the cultural temperature of the times. We have a criteria [in selecting these films] that it’s about the test of time and the times change.
Q: The first AFI list is inclusive of all genres, decades, and figures. It looks like it might have been selected rather than done by a vote. If there was just a strict vote and the jurors tended to gravitate toward the Golden Age, than the list would be flooded with films from the 30s and 40s?
A: The list was done through a straight vote. The reason it’s so diverse is that the film historians from within the AFI selected from a panel of 400 films which came from a variety of decades and genres.
Q: So who votes for the actual AFI list?
A: The vote comes from a jury of 1500 people. All people who sign up for a membership with the AFI collectively get one vote.
Q: Are they the same people as the ones who voted on the original list?
A: There are some different people but of the same backgrounds as the original voters.
Q: Does having one of your films selected to the list feel like an Oscar for some directors? Does a guy like Sidney Pollack (whose film Tootsie made the list) ever voice their enthusiasm to you?
A: We’ve gotten responses from both sides. [From] filmmakers who’ve made the list and filmmakers who haven’t.
Q: Any specific examples?
A: I don’t know of the specifics, but there has been enormous feedback to the process.
Q: At this point, who knows what the new AFI list is?
A: It has not been announced to the press. It will be broadcast tonight and that’s when everyone will know. Then we will post the list at 11 pm when the program ends. Very few members of the press know what’s on the new list at this point.
Q: Are you worried that some cult film that’s popular in the here and now like “Napoleon Dynamite” might make the list and ruin its credibility. You did do a pretty good job with the first one, why tamper with that?
A: The beauty of the system is that we have a lot of confidence in our jury and we think that the jury takes this very seriously. If 10,000 out of the 15,000 members of our jury should decide that “Napoleon Dynamite” deserves merit as one of the top 100 films, than we’re confident that they have a good reason to vote that way.
Q: Why doesn’t the AFI release the broadcasts?
A: As a non-profit organization we’re aloud one free TV broadcast and the studios that produce the films are all kind enough to let us use clips for that broadcast. Past that, it would be excessively expensive with all the clips we use.
Q: How recent are the films? Do you have films from 2006 and 2007 in contention?
A: Films released as late as 2006 are eligible but no film later than 2005 was selected onto the 400 films. Films from 2006 can be added through write-in votes, however. They felt that more time needs to pass before [we can analyze those films with proper perspective].
Q: Why did the AFI undertake the original AFI program?
A: The original AFI list was created as part of a year-long celebration to mark the centennial [of film] and the AFI list was the flagship of that program”
Q: What will happen to the old films that will be left off the list?
A: New films will definitely be added and the list is going to change.
Q: Are there any films on the original list in particular that were flying under the radar and got a big boost of recognition when the list came out?
A: The AFI helped bring about recognition to many films and greatly improved their visibility.