November News

David Lynch Wins Honorary Oscar®

Acclaimed director David Lynch (AFI Class of 1970), whose credits include ERASERHEAD, MULHOLLAND DRIVE and TWIN PEAKS, was recently awarded an Honorary Academy Award® at the Governors Awards on Sunday, October 27. He was surrounded by friends and frequent collaborators, Kyle MacLachlan, Laura Dern and Isabella Rossellini, who presented him with the award.


Dern said of Lynch, “Everyone who works alongside David feels that electricity. It’s his enthusiasm and passion that he brings to set that infuses you with a sense that you’re doing what you were always meant to.” Listen to his speech here.

Watch AFI's Student Academy Award Winners' Speeches

AFI alumni dominated the Narrative category at this year’s Student Academy Awards. On October 17, Asher Jelinsky won the Gold Medal for MILLER & SON, Hao Zheng accepted the Silver Medal for THE CHEF and Omer Ben-Shachar took home the Bronze Medal for TREE #3 — all from the Class of 2018. Check out the speeches from all three winners here!


For this year’s Student Academy Awards, there were 1,615 entries from 360 colleges and universities around the world. Winners are voted on by members of the Film Academy. Winners qualify for the animated short, live action short and documentary short categories at the 92nd Academy Awards, which will be held on Sunday, February 9, 2020.

Kasi Lemmons Talks Infusing HARRIET With Humanity

HARRIET writer/director Kasi Lemmons spoke exclusively to AFI Conservatory Fellows about her new film, which is now playing in theaters. Based on the thrilling and inspirational life of an iconic American freedom fighter, HARRIET tells the extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes. The movie has a standout cast, including Cynthia Erivo as Tubman, Leslie Odom Jr. and Janelle Monáe.


Listen to Lemmons speak about her approach to depicting slavery onscreen in a way that didn’t diminish the characters’ humanity, and check out the film’s trailer.


FORD V FERRARI's James Mangold Discusses Emotional Honesty in Film

Writer/director James Mangold visited the AFI campus recently for a Harold Lloyd Master Seminar to screen his new film FORD V FERRARI. Starring Christian Bale and Matt Damon, the film is based on the remarkable true story of the visionary American car designer Carroll Shelby (Damon) and the fearless British-born driver Ken Miles (Bale), who built a revolutionary race car for Ford Motor Company and took on the dominating race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966.


Watch Mangold speak to AFI Fellows about capturing emotional moments that are “like lightning in a bottle,” and check out the official trailer for the film here.

Scott Z. Burns Talks Harrowing New Film THE REPORT

In advance of the release of his new politically charged thriller THE REPORT, writer/director Scott Z. Burns visited the AFI Campus to talk to Fellows. Starring Adam Driver, the film follows an idealistic Senate staffer who is tasked by Dianne Feinstein to lead an investigation into the CIA’s post 9/11 Detention and Interrogation Program.


Listen to Burns discuss his struggle with depicting the violence at Abu Ghraib. Watch the trailer for the film, which will be released on Amazon Prime on November 29.

AFI Alumna Susannah Grant Visits For Q&A on New Series UNBELIEVABLE

Recently, writer Susannah Grant (AFI Class of 1991) joined executive producer, Sarah Timberman, and director, Lisa Cholodenko, at a Harold Lloyd Master Seminar on campus to talk about their new Netflix limited series UNBELIEVABLE, which follows police, played by Toni Collette and Merritt Wever, as they track a serial rapist in Washington and Colorado.


Check out the trailer here, and watch the trio discuss their collaborative process and how they strove to tell this difficult story with respect for the real-life survivors.

Oscar®-winning Director Ang Lee on 3D as an Art Form

Three-time Academy Award®-winning director Ang Lee visited the AFI Campus recently to talk to Fellows about his new film GEMINI MAN, which is now in theaters. The film stars Will Smith as a hitman who is targeted by a younger clone of himself while on the run from the government.


Watch Lee talk about his use of 3D and different frame rates in the film, and check out the trailer here.



Help Us, Help You: Take the AFI Alumni Survey

If you haven’t had a chance yet to complete this 2 minute Alumni survey, please do! The AFI Conservatory and Office of Alumni Affairs are in the midst of building a career services, mentoring and professional development program, and we need your input!

In other AFI Alumni news…


We are happy to announce that AFI FEST, which will be held November 14-21 at the TCL Chinese Theaters, will feature the work of 109 AFI Alumni. Join us in congratulating all of our talented filmmakers!


The Gotham Award nominations were recently announced, recognizing the work of Ari Aster (AFI Class of  2010) for MIDSOMMAR, Susannah Grant (AFI Class of 1991) for UNBELIEVABLE and James Wilson (AFI Class of 1991) for WAVES.


IFC Films has secured the U.S. rights to Jon Avnet’s (AFI Class of 1972) THREE CHRISTS, which stars Richard Gere and Peter Dinklage, and they are planning a theatrical release for January 2020.


BAFTA Los Angeles named Maor Azran (AFI Class of 2018), Omer Ben-Shachar (AFI Class of 2018), Ashish Dawar (AFI Class of 2017) and Claire Fowler (DWW Class of 2015) as participants for the 2019 Newcomers Program, which provides support to emerging international artists and industry professionals. They join Muriel Naim (AFI Class of 2017), Catherine Taylor (AFI Class of 2015) and Roi Vissel (AFI Class of 2017) who are among the returning second-year newcomers.


Jennifer Nashorn Blankenship (AFI Class of 2008) co-wrote the script for GOOD GIRLS GET HIGH, now available on DirectTV and coming next year to HBOMax. You can read more and watch the trailer here.  


Cinematographer Carolina Costa (AFI Class of 2013), who also shot the AFI FEST film HALA, did an interview with Film Era recently in which she discussed her new film WORKFORCE and her time spent at AFI.


Hanelle Culpepper (DWW Class of 2002) has been selected for the Reframe Rise mentorship program, organized by Women in Film and the Sundance Institute. The pilot program pairs female directors with advisers to help guide them through the industry.


Coming off of the hit Disney live action remake of THE LION KING, Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel (AFI Class of 1969) spoke to No Film School about the high tech process he used to shoot the film.


ENDINGS, BEGINNINGS, a new film co-written and directed by Drake Doremus (AFI Class of 2005), was recently picked up for North American distribution by Samuel Goldwyn Films. It was recently announced the Doremus has signed with CAA.


Lucas Dziedzic (AFI Class of 2018) recently won the ASC Richard H. Kline Student Heritage Award for his AFI thesis film ANIMALS.


Universal Content Productions announced that in 2020 it will launch UCP Audio, a podcast network that will feature new projects from Sam Esmail (AFI Class of 2004), including the scripted podcast “The End Up” with LaKeith Stanfield and two unscripted podcasts.


Rodrigo Garcia (AFI Class of 1986) recently began shooting FOUR GOOD DAYS with Glenn Close and Mila Kunis in Los Angeles. He co-wrote the script with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Eli Saslow who writes for The Washington Post.


Fresh off its Gold Medal win at the Student Academy Awards, MILLER & SON, directed by Asher Jelinsky (AFI Class of 2018) makes its online debut as Short of the Week.


Jenée LaMarque (AFI Class of 2010) recently signed with AlteredLA for commercial representation. LaMarque has directed two feature films and most recently directed an episode of the PARTY OF FIVE reboot for Freeform, which is executive produced by fellow alum Rodrigo Garcia (AFI Class of 1986).


Magnolia Pictures has acquired SCANDALOUS, a documentary detailing the history of The National Enquirer, that’s directed by Mark Landsman (AFI Class of 2004).


SHARED BALCONY, a narrative short from Fay Efrosini Lellios (AFI Class of 1998), recently finished its Oscar®-qualifying run at the Laemmle Royal, and is now up for consideration for a Live Action Short Film nomination at the 2020 Academy Awards.


Randy McKinnon (AFI Class of 2017) is set to adapt OPPOSITE OF ALWAYS, from the romance novel by Justin A. Reynolds, for Paramount Players.


Ahead of screening her film HELLO AHMA at AFI FEST, Siyou Tan (AFI DWW Class of 2019) did an interview with SINdie where she discussed making her DWW short.


Premiering December 8th on Showtime, L WORD: GENERATION Q was shot by Sandra Valde-Hansen (AFI Class of 2006) and Moira Morel (AFI Class of 2014), with Nick Musco (AFI Class of 2013), Sherri Kauk (AFI Class of 2007) and Melissa Holt (AFI Class of 2003) as camera operators, Derrick Kolus (AFI Class of 1987) as a gaffer, and Allie Schultz (AFI Class of 2017) and Nathan Mielke (AFI Class of 2017) providing camera utility.


Oran Zegman (AFI Class of 2018) won the Best Student Short Award at The Woodstock Film Festival, while Asher Jelinsky’s (AFI Class of 2018) MILLER & SON earned an honorable mention.


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