May News

Lawrence Herbert On His $3 Million Dollar Gift to AFI Conservatory

We are excited to announce that AFI Trustee Emeritus Lawrence Herbert recently bestowed a very generous donation to establish the new Lawrence Herbert Alumni Center on the AFI campus in Los Angeles, as well as a digital AFI Backlot portal to unite AFI alumni from around the globe. The leadership gift from Herbert is part of AFI’s “Focus on the Future” campaign, which will provide professional development resources for alumni, engage AFI’s powerful network of mentors to support alumni and champion the accomplishments of AFI Conservatory alumni. AFI spoke with Herbert to discuss his plans for the Center and what the AFI community has meant to him over the years.



AFI Conservatory Dean Susan Ruskin on Innovative Storytelling During COVID-19

AFI Conservatory Dean Susan Ruskin recently spoke with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association about how AFI and the film industry at large have changed in response to the global pandemic. Ruskin discusses the opportunities and challenges of instating remote learning at the Conservatory and how technological advances could help expand storytelling possibilities.



AFI Announces Winners of Writers' Room Ready Awards

AFI recently announced the recipients of the Writers’ Room Ready Awards, which recognizes outstanding work by AFI Conservatory Screenwriting Fellows. Each Fellow will be paired with an established writer in the industry as a mentor – all of whom are graduates of the AFI Conservatory. The 2020 winners are: Haley Bartels paired with Sheila Wilson (WARRIOR NUN); Christina Kingsleigh Licud paired with Andy Siara (LODGE 49, PALM SPRINGS); Kenda Greenwood Moran paired with LaToya Morgan (THE WALKING DEAD, INTO THE BADLANDS); and Alessandro Pederzoli paired with Christina Strain (THE MAGICIANS, FINDING OHANA).



Don Cheadle on Carefully Selecting Roles and Taking Direction

Oscar®-nominated actor Don Cheadle recently participated in remote seminar for the AFI Conservatory. Bringing his characteristic humor and grace to the conversation, Cheadle spoke about being selective with film roles early on in his career and also shared stories of working with Paul Thomas Anderson and Steven Soderbergh on BOOGIE NIGHTS and TRAFFIC. He also spoke about processing the COVID-19 crisis and how artists can reflect the challenges facing humanity.



Tayarisha Poe on Her New Film SELAH AND THE SPADES

Director Tayarisha Poe joined the AFI Conservatory for an online seminar recently to talk to Fellows about her directorial debut SELAH AND THE SPADES, which was programmed at both AFI FEST and Sundance and was recently released on Amazon Prime. She discussed coming into her own as a director, how she made her characters relatable and giving proper credit onscreen to her cast and crew because filmmaking is a collaborative art form.



Kevin Bacon on Working with Clint Eastwood and Starring in FOOTLOOSE

This past month, renowned actor Kevin Bacon spoke with AFI Fellows about what he has learned over the course of his wide-ranging career, collaborating with Clint Eastwood and discovering his audition tape for FOOTLOOSE from the ‘80s. Speaking about his experience working on I LOVE DICK, he discussed leaving his comfort zone behind and being open to different approaches and individual techniques of directors, including AFI alumna Andrea Arnold (Class of 1991).



DWW Alumni Tessa Blake and Hanelle Culpepper on What It’s Like as Directors During the Shutdown

Recently, Tessa Blake (AFI DWW Class of 2014) and Hanelle Culpepper (AFI DWW Class of 2002) spoke to Refinery29 for the first ever episode of Below the Line, a new series that profiles women in Hollywood who are shaking things up behind the camera. In the episode, they talk about how they’ve managed to navigate this competitive industry and how Hollywood below-the-line workers are being impacted by the industry-wide shutdown.



Alumni Fee Waiver for AFI FEST

As an AFI alum, you are eligible for a fee waiver to submit your latest work to AFI FEST presented by Audi.


Contact for more information.

In Other Alumni news…


Neal Baer (AFI Class of 1983), the Showrunner on DESIGNATED SURVIVOR, is featured in Variety discussing the prescient pandemic storyline on the series.


Neema Barrnette (AFI Class of 1982), Hanelle Culpepper (DWW Class of 2002), Julie Dash (AFI Class of 1974), Bill Duke (AFI Class of 1978) and Petty Jenkins (AFI Class of 2000) participated in Ava DuVernay’s fourth Array Film Fellowship tweet-a-thon to bring the film community together.


Tribeca Film Institute Network selected FLY GIRL, directed by Angela Chen and produced by Summer Yang (both AFI Class of 2018), for the virtual film market where they will be pitching before industry professionals.


STAR TREK: PICARD writer Hanelle Culpepper (AFI DWW Class of 2002) discusses crew safety when film and television productions resume.


Julie Dash’s (AFI Class of 1974) landmark film DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST is featured in The New York Times.


ON THE RECORD, the new documentary, directed by Kirby Dick (AFI Class of 1983), gets a new trailer and will help launch HBO Max in May.


Netflix acquires THE STARLING edited by AFI Faculty member Matthew Friedman.


Director and Executive Producer Lesli Linka Glatter (AFI DWW Class of 1982) discusses the HOMELAND series finale and serving on the DGA Coronavirus Task Force.


Education impact report in Variety features a spotlight on Producing Discipline Head, Lianne Halfon.


SHARED BALCONY, written and directed by Fay Efrosini Lelios’ (AFI Class of 1998), won Best Short Fiction Film and Best Director at the 2020 London Greek Film Festival.


David Lynch (AFI Class of 1970) discusses the state of cinema and how he’s handling self-isolation as Studio Canal releases new 4k restoration of THE ELEPHANT MAN to celebrate its 40th anniversary.


Production Designer Erin Magill (AFI Class of 2012) discusses her new indie films SWALLOW and THE QUARRY, which was originally scheduled to play SXSW.


RELIC produced by Todd Makurath (AFI Class of 2005) has been acquired by Film Constellation.


Screen Media picks up THE OUTPOST produced by Paul Merryman (AFI Class of 2010) for U.S. distribution.


Aqute Media lands North American rights to I AM WOMAN directed by Unjoo Moon (AFI Class of 1998).


DUSTER written by LaToya Morgan (AFI Class of 2005) and J.J. Abrams receives HBO Max Production Commitment.


Daniella Nowitz (AFI Class of 2014) and Tiffany Johnson (DWW Class of 2018) win Jury awards from the Tribeca Film Festival.


Congratulations are in order for Michael Pessah (AFI Class of 2004) who was recently accepted into the American Society of Cinematographers.


Robert Richardson’s (AFI Class of 1979) VENOM sequel gets an official title and new release date.


Writer/producer Mattson Tomlin’s (AFI Class of 2014) LITTLE FISH, which was originally scheduled to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, was recently reviewed in IndieWire.


Dani Alpert’s (AFI Class of 1990) new memoir “The Girlfriend Mom” was published on May 5.


Sloan-winning AFI Thesis Film, A SAFE GUIDE TO DYING, will screen as part of Tribeca Film Festival Online. The film was created by director/cowriter Dimitrios Tsilifonis, cowriter Alessandro Pederzoli, producer Froso Tsipopoulou, cinematographer Melissa Riahi, Editor Travis Stuart (all AFI Class of 2019), and production designers Callie Andreadis (AFI Class of 2011) and Chryssanthy Kofidou (AFI Class of 2012).


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