February 2022 News

Alumni Challenge Raises Scholarships Funds

As 2021 came to a close, we put out a call to the AFI community to help support the next class of Fellows and make their dream of attending AFI a reality. Because of your support, we are well on our way to unlocking $25,000 of matching funds as part of this year’s Alumni Scholarship Challenge. If you haven’t had a chance yet, you can still contribute and support AFI Conservatory Fellows in the year ahead.



AFI Thesis films now online

With the inspired support of AFI’s Lawrence Herbert Alumni Center, we have created a home to share AFI Thesis films with a global audience. AFI Thesis films from 2009 – 2019 are now available to be screened at Watch.AFI.com. There are also films from these years produced by the collaborators at the AFI Directing Workshop for Women. We’ll be adding additional years regularly. The site also provides detailed synopsis information, credits, trailers and other information where you can learn more about other AFI Alumni or share your work as you continue to build your portfolio. If you have any questions about the AFI Conservatory Films platform, please email Alumni@AFI.com.



AFI Alumni Honored by Hollywood Guilds

We are excited to reveal the AFI Alumni who were recognized by the Hollywood guilds this year with nominations for their groundbreaking work. Thank you for sharing your remarkable talents and stories with the world. View the full list of AFI Alumni honored this awards season below.



AFI Alumni at Sundance!

With the 2022 Sundance Film Festival concluding this past weekend, we would like to congratulate all of our amazing AFI Alumni who rose above the challenges of the past year to showcase their work at the prestigious event. On Friday, January 28, the Sundance Institute announced the festival prize winners. Be sure to check out the Alumni filmmakers who took home Jury and Audience Awards this year!



Master Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro on NIGHTMARE ALLEY

Oscar®-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro recently visited the AFI Conservatory to discuss his filmmaking influences, creating his neo-noir NIGHTMARE ALLEY and collaborating with Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett.



Academy Award-Nominated Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve on DUNE

In December, the AFI Conservatory welcomed critically acclaimed, Academy Award®-nominated French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve who spoke to AFI Fellows about the influence of documentary on his career, his use of natural light and creating the sci-fi epic DUNE, which was named one of AFI’s 10 top films of the year.



The Incomparable Sidney Poitier Remembered

Last month, we lost a legend with the passing of acclaimed actor, director, humanitarian and AFI Life Achievement recipient Sidney Poitier, who also served as AFI’s Founding Vice Chair. He was a pioneer not only as the first Black actor to win an Oscar®, inspiring countless others to follow in his footsteps, but also as a civil rights activist who sought racial equality both onscreen and off. Join us in honoring this cinematic icon and remembering some of his most powerful performances in films including NO WAY OUT, THE DEFIANT ONES, A RAISIN IN THE SUN, LILIES OF THE FIELD, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT and BUCK AND THE PREACHER.



AFI Welcomes New Louis B. Mayer Library Director

In January, AFI welcomed Deborah Cooper, the new Director of the Louis B. Mayer Library. Deborah graduated with a Masters in Library and Information Science from San José State University and was previously the Digital and Special Collections Librarian at Cornell University. She previously worked in documentaries in the Bay Area and was very active in the San Francisco Film Arts Foundation as well as the Pacific Film Archive. Deborah is particularly excited to bring together her professional career in librarianship and archives, with her previous film experience and lifelong love of film. Please join us in welcoming her to AFI, and discover more about all that the Louis B. Mayer library has to offer.



Bidding Farewell to the Legendary Betty White

Honoring the trailblazing Betty White, who would have celebrated her 100th birthday last month, the AFI Catalog pays tribute to her inspiring trajectory, which spanned over seven decades, as one of America’s most treasured and multifaceted actors, including her first role in the feature film THE DARING MISS JONES (1951).



Network With Fellow AFI Alumni on Backlot!

A new year brings even more opportunities to connect with AFI Alumni, whether you are in search of mentorship or wanting to support other AFI Alumni looking to get a foothold in the industry. Sign up for AFI Backlot today!



AFI Emails Still Available

You asked, and we have answered! Request an AFI email address to make it easier to contact other Alumni. If you’re interested, please reach out to Alumni Affairs at AlumniEmailRequest@AFI.com.

In Other AFI News…




The Rising Voices Initiative, established by Lena Waithe’s Hillman Grad Productions, Indeed and AFI Alum Constanza Castro’s (AFI Class of 2015) 271 Films to support Black, Indigenous and people of color filmmakers, is returning for a second year. “Indeed is investing $3 million in the second iteration of Rising Voices: $1 million for “Season 2” of the short film initiative, which again will allocate $100,000 production budgets to 10 filmmakers each, and $2 million to the new Production and Development Lab.” Season 2’s advisory panel also includes AFI Alum Melina Matsoukas (AFI Class of 2005).


Netflix announced its inaugural Emerging Filmmaker Initiative which will give up-and-coming filmmakers the opportunity to develop, fund, produce and distribute their short films on Netflix, with a focus on stories in the sci-fi, action, horror and thriller genres. Of the three filmmakers selected, two are graduates of AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women – Ashley Eakin (AFI DWW Class of 2020) and Marielle Woods (AFI DWW Class of 2019).


The Black List revealed its annual compilation of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood, including scripts by AFI alumni Yumiko Fujiwara (AFI Class of 2018) and Thomas Kivney (AFI Class of 2021).


Director and DGA President Lesli Linka Glatter (AFI DWW Class of 1982) was named to The Wrap’s Changemakers of 2021 List.


The 35mm visual essay ASHES won the Best Student Film Jury Award at the Cinegear Expo’s 2021 Film Series Competition. BANDA MS FEAT. SNOOP DOGG AND BECKY G – QUE MALDICION also won in the category of  Best Music Video/Commercial. Congratulations to all the AFI Alumni involved!


Student Films: ASHES

Daniel J. Egbert (AFI Class of 2021), writer/director

Xue “Sophie” Hou (AFI Class of 2021), producer

Siwei Li (AFI Class of 2021), cinematographer

Tianhao “Simon” Gao (AFI Class of 2021), production designer

Guangping “Ben” Niu (AFI Class of 2021), editor



Jorge Gonzalez Camarena (AFI Class of 2020), co-writer/co-director/co-producer

Victor Gabriel (AFI Class of 2020), co-writer

Kadri Koop (AFI Class of 2020), cinematographer


BEING GINA, a short film by AFI Directing Fellow Radha Mehta (AFI Class of 2023), was selected as a finalist for the WrapWomen and Starz’s “Telling Our Stories” Film Competition that was presented at the 2021 Power Women Summit.


AFI Alum Nicole Mejia (AFI Class of 2021) was selected for the second annual Latinx Inclusion Fellowship in collaboration with Netflix. Each fellow will be awarded a $20K grant to produce a short film and will receive mentorship, chances to network and the opportunity for their completed films to premiere as part of the 2022 Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival.


Cinematographer Ino Yang Popper (AFI Class of 2020) was named a 2021 Panavision Fellowship and the recipient of a $60,000 grant. This news was officially announced at the DGA theater where two of her films – 7 LBS 8 OZ and THE MASON RING – screened as part of Film Independent’s Project Involve initiative.


AFI Alumni Kyung Sok Kim (AFI Class of 2019) and Sheila Wilson (AFI Class of 2017) were named to Forbes 30 Under 30 list. https://www.forbes.com/30-under-30/directory/




The ‘Prophecy’ podcast drama series, created, written and directed by AFI Alum Randy McKinnon (AFI Class of 2017), added Laurence Fishburne and Daniel Dae Kim to its ensemble. They join previously cast Kerry Washington who is also executive producing under her Simpson Street banner.


AFI Fellow and Audi Award Scholarship recipient, Nicole Mejia (AFI Class of 2021), is set to direct her debut feature film, A PLACE IN THE FIELD.


Directing Workshop for Women Alum Bridget Moloney (AFI DWW Class of 2020) is set to adapt her DWW short film BLOCKS, which played at festivals including Sundance and SXSW, into a half-hour comedy for Showtime. Moloney will write, direct and executive produce the prospective pilot.


Showtime has announced that it is developing JUMPMEN, a sneaker industry drama written by AFI Alum Shaye Ogbonna (AFI Class of 2011).


AFI Alum Yoko Okumura (AFI Class of 2014) is set to helm UNSEEN, a new thriller from Epix and Blumhouse, which will mark her feature directorial debut.


Blumhouse Television has landed the rights to turn Stephen King’s bestselling novel “Later” into a limited series starring Lucy Liu. Series creator Raelle Tucker (AFI DWW Class of 2003) wrote the pilot script. https://deadline.com/2022/01/blumhouse-television-stephen-king-later-series-lucy-liu-raelle-tucker-writer-1234919245/


Actress Jessica Chastain optioned the TV rights to Jessamine Chan’s debut novel “The School for Good Mothers” with AFI DWW Alum Jude Weng (AFI Class of 1998) on board to direct.


HONOR SOCIETY, a live-action comedy from Awesomeness Films starring Angourie Rice, Gaten Matarazzo and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, is set to be directed by AFI Alum Oran Zegman (AFI Class of 2018).




FX ordered a TV adaptation of KINDRED, based on the novel by Octavia E. Butler. The forthcoming series comes from Darren Aronofsky (AFI Class of 1992) and his Protozoa Pictures, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Courtney Lee-Mitchell, Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields.


AFI Faculty Alon Aranya and Producing Alum Talya Stern’s (AFI Class of 2019) new pilot for A’DAM & EVA was just picked up by NBC.




JOE VS. CAROLE, a limited series about Joe Exotic starring John Cameron Mitchell and Kate McKinnon, released a new teaser and will premiere on NBC’s Peacock on March 3. The series is directed and executive produced by AFI Alum Justin Tipping (AFI Class of 2011).


Variety named their most anticipated film releases for 2022 including THE BATMAN, written by Mattson Tomlin (AFI Class of 2014); DISAPPOINTMENT BLVD. written and directed by Ari Aster (AFI Class of 2010) and shot by Pawel Pogorzelski (AFI Class of 2010); and DON’T WORRY DARLING shot by Matthew Libatique (AFI Class of 1992) and edited by Affonso Gonçalves (AFI Class of 1993).


COBRA KAI climbed to the top of Netflix’s most-watched TV shows list as its fourth season premiered this past week. AFI DWW Alum Marielle Woods (AFI Class of 2019) and AFI Conservatory Alum Joel Novoa (AFI Class of 2012) directed two episodes each of the new season.




2022 Sundance Film Festival:


AFI Alum Chloe Okuno (AFI Class of 2014) was interviewed by Deadline about her new film WATCHER which was showcased at the Sundance Film Festival as part of the U.S. Dramatic Competition. Cinematographer Benjamin Kirk Nielsen (AFI Class of 2014) and editor Michael Block (AFI Class of 2014) also worked on the film.


Constanza Castro (AFI Class of 2015) made her directorial debut with the short film, WE ARE HERE, which explores the marginalization of immigrants in the U.S. and the meaning of citizenship. The film just debuted at the Sundance Film Festival.


Deadline called EMILY THE CRIMINAL, which played at Sundance and stars Aubrey Plaza, a “taut, gripping” story. The film was written and directed by John Patton Ford (AFI Class of 2009) and shot by cinematographer Jeff Bierman (AFI Class of 2009).


Co-writer, director and producer Julian Higgins (AFI Class of 2010) and co-writer Shaye Ogbonna (AFI Class of 2011) were interviewed, alongside star Thandiwe Newton, about their new film GOD’S COUNTRY which premiered at Sundance. The film was also shot by cinematographer Justin Laforge (AFI Class of 2010), produced by Halee Bernard (AFI Class of 2015) and edited by Andrew Wheeler (AFI Class of 2010).


Variety reviewed PALM TREES AND POWER LINES which had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Executive Producer Rhianon Jones (AFI Class of 2007) and Art Director Shi Min Yong (AFI Class of 2020) worked on the project.


The MY HERO International Film Festival – led by Co-Founder and Director Jeanne Meyers (AFI Class of 1983), took place virtually in December and professional filmmakers and students from around the world took part. Ron Kovic, Kathy Eldon, Esther Wojcicki and others presented special awards. Check out all of the award-winning short films.




Renowned poet, activist and DWW Alum Maya Angelou (AFI DWW Class of 1974) is the first Black woman to be featured on a U.S. quarter.


American Cinematographer reflected on the legacy of AFI Alum Halyna Hutchins (AFI Class of 2015), who was tragically killed on the set of RUST this fall, and offered insights from the ASC Future Practices Committee regarding on-set safety measures across all areas of production.


Alumni Fund gifts are solely designated to support the future of the AFI Scholarship Fund.