November News

AFI FEST 2020 Presented by Audi Wraps

The first virtual AFI FEST presented by Audi came to a close this year, attracting the largest national audience in its 34-year history with attendees from all 50 states. This year’s program had 53% of films directed by women, 39% of films directed by BIPOC and 17% directed by LBGTQ+ filmmakers. We were proud to 29 films from AFI alumni as part of AFI FEST this year as well. Did you miss out on any of the Q&As from AFI FEST 2020? Watch the full conversations here!



AFI Alums Win FEST Audience Award

Congrats to AFI alumni Carlo Canlas Mendoza (AFI Class of 2018) and Leo Chan (AFI Class of 2014) who won the AFI FEST 2020 Audience Award for Best Short Film for LONELY BLUE NIGHTS. The film is a portrait of a Chinese family in which the consequences of a mother’s decision to leave her daughter in the care of an American homestay family are slowly unearthed when they reunite for a family/business dinner on one lonely blue night. Check out the full list of winners below!



AFI and AMC Networks Launch Black Production Fund

In an announcement at AFI FEST 2020, AFI revealed that it will establish the Black Production Fund in partnership with AMC Networks to provide grants for thesis productions by Black fellows in their second year at the Conservatory. In addition to the fund, AMC Networks will stream a selection of AFI Conservatory films on UMC, the VOD platform dedicated to showcasing Black film and television.



Perenchio Foundation Bestows $5 Million Gift to Support Diversity at the AFI Conservatory

AFI announced it received a $5 million gift from the Perenchio Foundation, established to fulfill the charitable wishes of Andrew Jerrold “Jerry” Perenchio, who passed away in 2017.

This transformational gift will fund the Perenchio Family Endowed Scholarship to support the next generation of diverse storytellers.



The Wrap Names the AFI Conservatory the #1 Film School

After the Hollywood Reporter recently named the AFI Conservatory the top film school in America, The Wrap has also ranked the Conservatory #1! The Wrap praised the leadership of Dean Susan Ruskin and noted the successes of Asher Jelinsky, Hao Zheng and Omer Ben-Shachar (all Class of 2018), who swept the Student Academy Awards®, as well as the record-breaking sale of PALM SPRINGS, directed by Max Barbakow and written by Andy Siara (both Class of 2015), at Sundance this year. Congratulations to the entire AFI community!



AFI Email Addresses for Alumni

You asked, and we’ve answered! At last month’s Townhall, AFI alumni requested AFI email addresses to make it easier to connect and to cultivate a sense of community. If you are interested in receiving an AFI email address, please reach out to our Alumni Affairs department at

AFI Movie Club Alumni Day

We love featuring the incredible work of our alumni every Tuesday for AFI Movie Club! Last month, we featured producer William Chartoff (AFI Class of 1989) for CREED, director Darren Aronofsky and cinematographer Matthew Libatique (both Class of 1992) for BLACK SWAN and producer Steve Golin (Class of 1981) for CANDYMAN. This coming month we are proud to highlight the work of production designer Carol Strober (Class of 1991) for THIRTEEN, playwright Josefina Lopez (AFI TV Writing Workshop, Class of 1999) for REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES and producer Dana Lustig (Class of 1988) for BRICK. To learn about Movie Club, visit our website.



Tis’ the Season for AFI Merch

The holidays are right around the corner! And AFI has you covered. Check out exclusive AFI merch, including AFI x AFI – a line entirely designed by AFI Conservatory Fellows – and our new AFI FEST gear, including hats, totes and hoodies, which will make great holiday gifts and stocking stuffers for the film fan in your life.



AFI in the News


Cory Warner (AFI Class of 2014) recently directed A STONE OF HOPE to encourage American citizens to get out and vote this election season.

Missing in Brooks County, a feature documentary produced and co-directed by Lisa Molomot (AFI Class of 1998) and produced and edited by Jacob Bricca, ACE (AFI Class of 1998), will be streaming at the Doc NYC film festival  Nov. 11-19.  Find more info at Website | Trailer |Facebook Page


NBC Universal introduced the 2020-2021 classes for the Female Forward and the Emerging Director Program, which includes Juan Avella (AFI Class of 2013), Jean Lee (AFI DWW Class of 2014) and Kantú Lentz (AFI DWW 2014).


This year’s BAFTA Newcomers program, which recognizes and supports international professionals and students who have recently moved to LA, includes 16 AFI Fellows and alumni: Maor Azran (AFI Class of 2018), Blanca Balleste (AFI Class of 2020), Omer Ben Shachar (AFI Class of 2018), Guo Guo (AFI Class of 2020), Jo Jo Lam (AFI Class of 2020), Muriel Naim (AFI Class of 2017), David Carlo Mendoza (AFI Class of 2018), Andras Roder (AFI Class of 2019), Peier Shen (AFI Class of 2019), Akanksha Shyam (AFI Class of 2021), Nik Sysuev (AFI Class of 2020), Catherine Taylor (AFI Class of 2015), Nicole Vanden Broeck (AFI Class of 2019), Roi Vissel (AFI Class of 2017), Shi Min Yong (AFI Class of 2020), Yiming Zhao (AFI Class of 2020)


SOVEREIGN marks the first drama about an Indigenous family to be developed for network television. The pilot is co-written by Shaz Bennett (AFI DWW Class of 2012) and will be executive produced by Ava DuVernay.


Cate Blanchett signed on to executive produce Christos Nikou’s APPLES, which AFI alum Jerome Duboz (AFI Class of 1999) served as an associate producer on. The film played at AFI FEST.


The short film JANE– recently released on Hulu as part of Huluween – was created by a team of the following recent AFI grads: writer/director Quinn Else (AFI Class of 2019), producer Talya Stern (AFI Class of 2019), cinematographer Celine Layous (AFI Class of 2019), production designer Mauricio Abud (AFI Class of 2019), editor Yiqing Yu (AFI Class of 2019).


THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT, written, directed and executive produced by Scott Frank (AFI Class of 1984) and starring Anya Taylor-Joy, debuts on Netflix to critical acclaim.


Azazel Jacob’s (AFI Class of 2001) THE FRENCH EXIT is profiled in Indiewire as an Oscar® contender.


Following their collaboration on the WONDER WOMAN franchise, Patty Jenkins (AFI Class of 2000) and Gal Gadot will reunite to shoot for CLEOPATRA at Paramount.


PAPER TIGER, about a widowed immigrant mother in LA who fears her schizophrenic teenaged son is turning into a school shooter, premiered in competition at the Austin Film Festival from October 22-29. The film won an Audience Award, as well as a Film Competition Jury Honorable Mention and was created by a team of eight AFI alumni: writer/director/producer Paul Kowalski (AFI Class of 2015), producer Pin-Chun Liu (AFI Class of 2013), cinematographer Ed Wu (AFI Class of 2014), production designer Ying-Te Julie Chen (AFI Class of 2014), line producer Dawn Devoe (AFI Class of 2014), UPM Lisa Gollibin (AFI Class of 2014), associate producer Yu-Hao Su (AFI Class of 2015) and gaffer Christian Janss (AFI Class of 2012).


The short film SHARED BALCONY, written and directed by Fay Lellios (AFI Class of 1998), is an Official Selection at the 15th Cyprus International Film Festival which will screen from November 15-22.  Watch the trailer here! Another of her films A MONTH OF SUNDAYS is set to have its Oscar®-qualifying theatrical run at Laemmle Theatres beginning November 18.


Leif Lindhjem (AFI Class of 2007) launched a new GO GREEN digital series, which hopes to inspire viewers to reduce their carbon footprint. Actors and activists Mark Ruffalo and Don Cheadle have already signed on to make cameo appearances in the show.


Melina Matsoukas (AFI Class of 2005) is set to direct and executive produce David Weil’s new sci-fi limited series at Amazon.


The sci-fi horror fantasy LOVECRAFT COUNTRY ended with a gripping season finale that was directed by Nelson McCormick (AFI Class of 1985).


Randy McKinnon (AFI Class of 2017) is developing WILD RABBIT, a new sports drama inspired by his life, at Hulu.


Variety profiled crew members, including cinematographer Hilda Mercado (AFI Class of 2000), who worked on WELCOME TO BLUMHOUSE, an anthology featuring eight horror thrillers.


Rachel Morrison (AFI Class of 2006) is reteaming with director Rick Famuyiwa to shoot a new docuseries on Magic Johnson.


AFI Alum Anku Pande (AFI Class of 2006)‘s new film KAALI KHUHI is now available to watch on Netflix. Watch the trailer here!


Cinematographer Joe Passarelli (AFI Class of 2006) shot the fourth episode “Vavilov” of COSMOS: POSSIBLE WORLDS hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, which is now streaming on Fox. Fellow alum Duke Johnson (AFI Class of 2006) also worked as a Supervising Animation Director on the episode.


Sweta Rai’s (AFI Class of 2016) new documentary A PANDEMIC: AWAY FROM THE MOTHERLAND, which follows five Indian doctors fighting the coronavirus in America, recently premiered on Apple TV.


Brendan Rooney (AFI Class of 2014) and Christy Carlson Romano have launched the podcast interview series, “Burn The Curtain,” which will feature conversation with celebrities dealing with success as well as post-stardom challenges and other issues.


AND THE BRAVE SHALL RISE, the Oscar®-qualifying documentary directed by Adam Schlachter (AFI Class of 2005), which tackles the gun violence epidemic in the U.S. following the Parkland Shootings, is now available to stream on Amazon Prime as well as, & ShortsTV.


Michelle Steffes’ (AFI DWW Class of 2006) short film SUMMONED was featured in Disney’s new collaboration with 30 filmmakers as part of the initiative “Bite Size Halloween.”


Film Independent announced the 2020 Producing Lab Fellows, including producer Yu-Hao (David) Su (AFI Class of 2015) for his project THE MUSHROOMERS.


Xinlei Yang (AFI Class of 2018) is set to co-produce #MeToo Documentary BRAINWASHED, alongside gender parity activist Maria Giese.


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