June 2021 News

Alumni Filmmakers Spotlighted at AFI DOCS

AFI DOCS will be held June 22-27, and we’re excited to announce that the following AFI alumni have films in this year’s festival. Support your fellow alums and check out their compelling new documentaries today!



–Rick Rosenthal (AFI Class of 1973), Executive Producer



–David Henry Gerson (AFI Class of 2015), Director and Editor

–Aashish D’Mello (AFI Class of 2017), Assistant Editor



–Anne Etheridge (AFI Class of 2003), Cinematographer



–Diane Becker (AFI Class of 2006), Producer



AFI Alum Deniese Davis Discusses Producing and the AFI Alumni Council

With the announcement of the inaugural AFI Alumni Council, AFI spoke with founding member and Emmy®-nominated producer Deniese Davis (AFI Class of 2012) about what she loves about producing, the inspiration behind her new production company and the impact she hopes the Council will have on the alumni community.



Cinematography Chair Stephen Lighthill Is Reelected ASC President

Congratulations to AFI Conservatory Cinematography Discipline Head Stephen Lighthill who was just reelected as the President of the American Society of Cinematographers!


He will serve his next term alongside vice presidents Amy Vincent and Steven Fierberg, who are both AFI graduates. Lighthill previously served as president of the ASC from 2020-2021 and 2012-2013.



“No Sleep ‘Til Film Fest” Winners Announced by AGBO

AGBO revealed the winners of its inaugural “No Sleep ‘Til Film Fest” filmmaking competition, awarding writer/director/editor Kali Davis (AFI Class of 2000) the first-place prize for HAPPY DAY. Writer/production designer Rebecca Muench, cinematographer Pip White, 1st AD Henry Wolf, 1st AC Nick Vera and gaffer/key grip Jonas Fischer (all AFI Class of 2020) worked on the film. Director Eric Yang (AFI Class of 2013) also earned an honorable mention for UNSEND. Check out their short film below.



Writer A.J. Devlin (AFI Class of 2004) on his New Novel ROLLING THUNDER

For the one-year anniversary of the publication of “Rolling Thunder,” AFI spoke with author A.J. Devlin (AFI Class of 2004) about his new detective novel, his experiences at the AFI Conservatory and releasing his second book in an unconventional year with the pandemic.



Join AFI Backlot

Take your career to the next level or give a fellow AFI alum the opportunity to advance in the industry. Connect with your fellow alums on AFI Backlot today!



Get AFI DOCS Merchandise

Looking to represent as an AFI Conservatory alum? Check out our official AFI merch, including our new line of AFI DOCS merchandise, including hats, t-shirts and hoodies, for the film fan in your life.



AFI Emails Now Available

AFI alumni asked, and we have answered! If you’d like an AFI email address to make it easier connecting with other alumni, please reach out to our Alumni Affairs department at AlumniEmailRequest@AFI.com.

Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month

Recently, AFI hosted a panel in honor of AAPI Heritage Month to discuss triumphs, challenges and advice on how to cultivate an entertainment career while managing multiple cultural and ethnic identities. The panel featured filmmakers Joyce Liu-Countryman (AFI Class of 2018), Christina Strain (AFI Class of 2015), Jude Weng (AFI DWW Class of 1998), Vanara Taing (2012) and Ed Wu (AFI Class of 2014).



AFI Movie Club Spotlights LGBTQIA+ Stories

This June in honor of Pride Month, AFI Movie Club will be featuring stories by and about the LGBTQIA+ community, featuring powerful films and series including ANGELS IN AMERICA, BEGINNERS, BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER and POSE. Be sure to follow along for exclusive behind-the-scenes content, including a new BTS video with AFI Alum and POSE co-creator Brad Falchuk (AFI Class of 1994).



Alumni Projects Featured in AFI Movie Club

This past month, AFI Movie Club shone a light on underrepresented stories and highlighted some great documentaries leading up to AFI DOCS. Editor and AFI alum Reynolds Barney (AFI Class of 2016) took us “Behind the Scene” of filming GOOK, set against the backdrop of the 1992 LA uprising. Filmmaker and 2015 Guggenheim Symposium honoree Stanley Nelson introduced his documentary THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION. And editor and AFI alum Affonso Gonçalves (AFI Class of 1993) talked about making the drama NIGHT CATCHES US that was a precursor for many social justice films. Visit AFI.com to revisit some of your favorites from the past month.

Acclaimed Artists Visit AFI

AFI welcomed several world-class artists to speak to AFI Conservatory Fellows about the art of creating for movies and television.  Pixar’s Pete Docter reminisced about how he first got his start in animation and directing the Oscar®-winning film SOUL. Writer/director Steve McQueen discussed his acclaimed anthology series SMALL AXE and wanting to shine a light on people who have been “written out of history.” Filmmaker Sam Levinson talked about pivoting due to the pandemic and filming MALCOLM & MARIE, starring Zendaya and John David Washington. And creators Megan Ganz and Rob McElhenney spoke about taking risks and pushing boundaries in their series MYTHIC QUEST: RAVEN’S BANQUET.

In Other AFI News…




The BAFTA TV and Craft Awards announced their nominations, which include the following AFI alumni work:

  • ONCE UPON A TIME IN IRAQ – Petra Graf (AFI Class of 1988), additional photography
  • LITTLE AMERICA – Sian Heder (AFI DWW Class of 2005), writer, director, executive producer; Paula Huidobro (AFI Class of 2004), cinematographer; Julia Franklin (AFI Class of 2007), assistant editor; Lynarion Hubbard (AFI Class of 2007), assistant editor
  • LOVECRAFT COUNTRY – Nelson McCormick (AFI Class of 1985), director; Bjørn T. Myrholt (AFI Class of 2000), editor; Mari Lappalainen (AFI Class of 2015), art director; Elena Albanese (AFI Class of 2012), art director
  • WELCOME TO CHECHNYA – Neal Baer (AFI Class of 1983), executive producer


The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced the nominees for the 42nd Annual Sports Emmy® Awards. Congrats to the following AFI alumni!

Outstanding Edited Sports Series

  • DEFYING GRAVITY: THE UNTOLD STORY OF WOMEN’S GYMNASTICS – Jeffrey Elmont (AFI Class of 2008), editor

Outstanding Edited Sports Series / Outstanding Post-Produced Audio/Sound

  • THE PLAYBOOK – John W. Rutland (AFI Class of 2007), cinematographer; Yoni Shrira (AFI Class of 2018), additional photography/First AC; Chad Cohlmia (AFI Class of 2006), gaffer

Outstanding Edited Sports Series / Outstanding Editing – Long Form

  • WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS – Jacob Mosler (AFI Class of 2000), producer; Hammad Hassan (AFI Class of 2018), assistant editor
  • THE SCHEME – Sean McQueeney (AFI Class of 2005), editor

Outstanding Serialized Sports Documentary

  • OUTCRY – Sean McQueeney (AFI Class of 2015), editor
  • TEXAS 6 – Andrew Schwartz (AFI Class of 2015), producer


The Television Academy has unveiled the recipients of its 14th Television Academy Honors, including the following AFI alumni projects:

  • FOR LIFE – cinematographer Niels Alpert (AFI Class of 2002); camera operator Terrence Burke (AFI Class of 2013); assistant editor Yoshie Ishiguro (AFI Class of 1995); consulting producer Onalee Hunter (AFI Class of 2001); assistant art director Clarisa Garcia-Fresco (AFI Class of 2016) and production designer Javiera Varas (AFI Class of 2006)
  • LITTLE AMERICA – writer/director/executive producer Sian Heder (AFI DWW Class of 2005); cinematographer Paula Huidobro (AFI Class of 2004); assistant editorJulia Franklin (AFI Class of 2007); and assistant editor Lynarion Hubbard (AFI Class of 2007)
  • WELCOME TO CHECHNYA – executive producer Neal Baer (AFI Class of 1983)


Congratulations to Carly Usdin (AFI DWW Class of 2019) who won the New Filmmakers LA Award for Best Short Film, Comedy for MISDIRECTION. Other alumni who worked on the film include:

  • Moira Morel (AFI Class of 2014), cinematographer
  • Mauricio Abud (AFI Class of 2019), production designer
  • Marcin Banasiak (AFI Class of 2017), key grip
  • Jessica Pantoja (AFI Class of 2016), camera operator





The Hollywood Reporter announced its 29th annual Women in Entertainment Power 100 list. AFI alum Patty Jenkins (AFI Class of 2000) and AFI Board of Trustees Chair Kathleen Kennedy were honored, as well as Board of Trustees members Ava DuVernay, Bonnie Hammer, Donna Langley, Shonda Rhimes and Octavia Spencer.




Juan Avella (AFI Class of 2013) made his TV directorial debut on THE BLACK LIST as part of NBCUniversal’s Emerging Director Program. The Los Angeles-based Venezuelan writer-director’s work focuses on gritty and social genre stories set in multicultural worlds. Among his filmography are award-winning shorts HIJO POR HIJO and HER BODY, the latter of which is streaming on HBO. Avella’s THE BLACKLIST episode sees the Task Force hatch a plan to steal a Soviet-era cipher machine in order to decrypt coded messages.


Charlotte Brändström (AFI Class of 1982) has been hired to direct two episodes of Amazon’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS TV series, joining an impressive international creative team shooting in New Zealand.


Lesli Linka Glatter (AFI DWW Class of 1982) will direct David E. Kelley’s new HBO Max series LOVE AND DEATH, which is set to star Elizabeth Olsen.


Producer Joel McDonell (AFI Class of 2002) is gearing up for his fifth feature film, DEAD WRONG, to begin filming this Summer in Utah.




Vertical Entertainment has acquired North American rights to WILD INDIAN, produced by AFI Faculty and alum Thomas Mahoney (AFI Class of 2008).


FXX picked up LITTLE DEMON, an animated comedy series starring Danny DeVito and Aubrey Plaza and created by Darcy Fowler, Seth Kirschner and Kieran Valla (AFI Class of 2012).




Tribeca Film Festival announced their lineup. Check out the AFI alumni projects involved in this year’s festival.


Cinematographer Leah Anova’s (AFI Class of 2005) new short film 21ST AND COLONIAL had its World Premiere at Carmarthen Bay Film Festival, which is a BAFTA Cymru Qualifying Film Festival.


The 2021 Tribeca Festival announced its inaugural official podcast selections – the first time a major fest is introducing podcasts into its lineup. Their selections include “Something Strange Is Happening,” created by Tessa Bartholomew and Christina Kingsleigh Licud (AFI Class of 2019).




INDIGO VALLEY, written and directed by Jaclyn Bethany and edited by Selinda Zhou (both AFI Class of 2018), is currently available to watch. Check out the trailer and watch the film on VOD.


Writer/director Jessica Ellis (AFI Class of 2010) spoke with Women and Hollywood about her new film WHAT LIES WEST, which was released May 11.


Netflix picks up FIREFLY LANE, created by Maggie Friedman (AFI Class of 1998), for a second season.


Amazon debuted a new trailer for anthology series SOLOS, with episodes directed by Tiffany Johnson (AFI DWW Class of 2018) and Melina Matsoukas (AFI Class of 2005).


Wes Lofgren (AFI Class of 2003) has a new documentary ROCK CAMP, which he served as Associate Producer on, that is now available to watch on VOD.


Filmmaker David Lynch (AFI Class of 1970) released a new video for “I Am the Shaman” to celebrate the Scottish folk singer Donovan’s 75th birthday.


THE CARD COUNTER, starring Oscar Isaac and written and directed by Paul Schrader (AFI Class of 1969), will be released on September 10.


Executive producer and showrunner, Eric Heisserer, spoke to Variety about developing hit series SHADOW AND BONE and the contributions of writer Christina Strain (AFI Class of 2015).


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