September 2021 News

AFI Ranked One of the Nation’s Top Film Schools

In August, The Hollywood Reporter once again named the AFI Conservatory one of the top film schools in the country, highlighting CODA filmmaker Siân Heder (AFI DWW Class of 2005), Emmy®-nominated creator of MARE OF EASTTOWN Brad Ingelsby (AFI Class of 2005) and the new Lawrence Herbert Alumni Center.



Student Academy Awards® Finalists Announced

The Academy recently revealed the 2021 Student Academy Award® Finalists, including AFI Fellow Yingqi “Niko” Ren (AFI Class of 2020) for his film THE MONKEY KING. Congratulations, Niko! The winners will be celebrated on Thursday, October 21.



Primetime Emmy®-Nominated Projects by AFI Alumni

The 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards® are right around the corner! Support your fellow AFI alumni by watching their Emmy®-nominated work and then tune in on September 19 to celebrate the winners.



AFI FEST 2021 to Open with World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM!

We’re excited to announce that AFI FEST 2021 will take place November 10–14, 2021, and open with the World Premiere of tick, tick…BOOM!, directed by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award® winner Lin-Manuel Miranda and starring Tony Award® winner Andrew Garfield. The hybrid festival will feature both in-person screenings and events in Los Angeles, CA, as well as virtual screenings, and a gala event celebrating AFI Life Achievement Honoree Julie Andrews. Please stay tuned for upcoming updates on Alumni FEST benefits



Be Part of Selecting the Next Class of AFI Filmmakers

It’s that time of year – application season! The Admissions office is looking for alumni readers and interviewers for this year’s applications for fall 2022. Click below to read more about the process and important dates, and to fill out your application to be involved in the process. Alumni reader applications are due on Thursday, October 21, 2021 at 10 p.m. PST. If you have any questions, reach out directly to Jill Murrin, Senior Manager in Admissions at



AFI Conservatory Kicks Off the Academic Year

In August the AFI Conservatory hosted orientation for the Class of 2023 – the largest incoming class in AFI’s history – and then kicked off the start of classes on August 21. This year, AFI celebrated the largest number of applications in the history of the Conservatory, as well as the largest pool of diverse applications to date – with a 63% increase in domestic diversity in just this last year. Donate to the Alumni Scholarship fund and help us support the next generation of talented AFI filmmakers!



Congratulations to the Class of 2020 on Their Commencement!

AFI celebrated the Class of 2020’s graduation from the AFI Conservatory at the historic TCL Chinese Theatre on August 21. The festivities included speeches from AFI President and CEO Bob Gazzale, Dean Susan Ruskin, Aaron Sorkin and Class of 2020 Representative Wilandrea Blair. Watch AFI Life Achievement honoree Jane Fonda, who paid tribute to friend and collaborator, Lily Tomlin, who was the recipient of an AFI Honorary Degree.



In Other AFI News…




BAFTA LA announced the winners of the 2021 GSA BAFTA Student Awards, including writer/director Olivia Hang Zhou (AFI Class of 2020) for her project APART TOGETHER. She also spoke with writer/director Scott Frank who attended the AFI Conservatory as well for the Tea with BAFTA series, which pairs talented performers and writers nominated for this year’s Emmys with participants of their international talent development programs. The following AFI Alumni also worked on APART TOGETHER:

    • Blanca Balleste Perez de Olaguer (AFI Class of 2020), producer
    • Lucia Zavarcikova (AFI Class of 2020), cinematographer
    • Alexander Scarfe (AFI Class of 2020), editor
    • Jess Kohs (AFI Class of 2017), writer
    • Dae Hyun Kim (AFI Class of 2020), steady cam operator
    • Nick Vera (AFI Class of 2020), 1st AC
    • Lily Judge (AFI Class of 2020), assistant editor
    • Moritz Rautenberg (AFI Class of 2020), Gaffer
    • Haley Min Young Kreofsky (AFI Class of 2020), Key Grip
    • Amanda Ferrarese (AFI Class of 2020), Key Grip


San-San Onglatco (AFI Class of 2020) was selected as one of the recipients of the Sundance Uprise Grant for BIPOC artists this week.


AFI Screenwriting Fellow Anna Vecellio (AFI Class of 2021) was awarded this year’s Alfred P. Sloan Episodic Grant to support the development of her pilot, “Mary Mallon,” through the Film Independent Episodic Lab.




F9, written by Daniel Casey (AFI Class of 2007) and produced by Jeff Kirschenbaum (AFI Class of 1999), just crossed the $700 million mark at the global box office – making it the only film to accomplish that feat during the pandemic.


Cinematographer Carolina Costa (AFI Class of 2013) was nominated for Best Cinematography by the Mexican Academy of Cinematographic Arts and Sciences (AMACC) – Mexico’s version of the Academy Awards®.


DWW Alum and AFI faculty Marie Jamora (AFI DWW Class of 2020) recently became a member of the Directors Guild of America and spoke about how her experience in the Directing Workshop for Women was an integral part of her trajectory.


Director Mark Landsman (AFI Class of 2004) and cinematographer Michael Pessah (AFI Class of 2004) were nominated for the Outstanding Documentary Emmy® Award for their film SCANDALOUS, which was released by Magnolia Pictures and CNN Films.




Ari Aster’s (AFI Class of 2010) Square Peg banner and A24 are teaming to develop Adrian Tomine’s graphic memoir “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist” for television as an animated series.


FX orders the limited series RETREAT, which will be written, directed and executive produced by AFI Alum Zal Batmanglij (AFI Class of 2006) and frequent collaborator Brit Marling.


Amazon Studios announced the premiere date and revealed a first look of THE LORD OF THE RINGS television adaptation. Charlotte Brändström (AFI Class of 1982) directed two episodes of the series.


Directors Kirby Dick (AFI Class of 1983) and Amy Ziering participated in a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter about their Emmy®-nominated docuseries ALLEN V. FARROW.


Rodrigo García (AFI Class of 1986) is set to write and direct the new film RAYMOND AND RAY, starring Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke.


AFI Alum Alfonso Gomez Rejon (AFI Class of 1995) has been hired to direct and produce the film THE FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE for Amazon.


The drama pilot COERCION, which is being written, directed and executive produced by Susannah Grant (AFI Class of 1991), gets an order from Showtime.


CANDYMAN (2021), with cinematography by John Guleserian (AFI Class of 2005), has a $20.4 million opening with director Nia DaCosta becoming the first Black female director to debut a movie in the No. 1 weekend spot at the domestic box office.


Chloë Sevigny joins THE GIRL FROM PLAINVILLE, which is being written by AFI alum Liz Hannah (AFI Class of 2009) – who is also serving as the co-showrunner.


The Hollywood Reporter highlighted actors Marlee Matlin, Daniel Durant and Troy Kotsur who star in CODA, directed by Siân Heder (AFI DWW Class of 2005) and shot Paula Huidobro (AFI Class of 2004), calling the film “a watershed moment in disability representation in Hollywood.”


PHYSICAL, shot by cinematographer Paula Huidobro (AFI Class of 2004), was renewed for a second season on Apple TV+.


Brad Ingelsby (AFI Class of 2005) spoke with Indiewire about his hit HBO series MARE OF EASTTOWN and being a “character writer.”


Apple TV+ revealed the trailer for the second season of THE MORNING SHOW, directed and executive produced by AFI Alum Mimi Leder (AFI Class of 1973).


The premiere of NINE PERFECT STRANGERS, directed and executive produced by Jonathan Levine (AFI Class of 2004), broke the record for the most-watched Hulu original ever.


WILD INDIAN, produced by AFI Alum and thesis production Staff member Thomas Mahoney (AFI Class of 2008) is set to be released September 3. Check out the new trailer.


MISSING IN BROOKS COUNTY, a documentary co-directed by Lisa Molomot and Jacob Paul Bricca (both AFI Class of 1998) about the perilous journey of migrants on the Texas-Mexico border, is featured in the Texas Standard ahead of its premiere on August 27.


Season 2 of HIGHTOWN will premiere Sunday, October 17 on Starz with Oscar®-nominated cinematographer and AFI Alum Rachel Morrison (AFI Class of 2006) returning to direct two episodes of the sophomore season.


LAMB, produced by Sara Nassim (AFI Class of 2015) and shot by Eli Arenson (AFI Class of 2015), gets its first trailer after debuting at the Cannes Film Festival.


HIT & RUN co-creators Dawn Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin (both AFI Class of 1985), who met at the AFI Conservatory, spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about creating their nine-episode geopolitical espionage thriller.


EYE WITHOUT A FACE, with cinematography by Tara Robson (AFI Class of 2017), premiered August 10 through Gravitas Ventures in the U.S. and Canada and Miracle Media in the UK on August 24.


SMALL ENGINE REPAIR, produced by AFI Alum Rick Rosenthal (AFI Class of 1973), sets a release date for September 10.


Indiewire interviewed writer/director Paul Schrader (AFI Class of 1969) about his new film THE CARD COUNTER, remarking that, ”Schrader makes movies steeped in empathy for lost souls in search of redemption despite the daunting odds.”


Susanna Styron’s (AFI Class of 1983) documentary feature 9/12 is being re-released to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11. The film will be streamed FOR FREE from Thursday, September 9 through Monday, September 13, and is available for rent and purchase at


The second season of THE L WORD: GENERATION Q recently premiered on Showtime. AFI faculty and Alum Sandra Valde-Hansen (AFI Class of 2006) and Alum Moira Morel (AFI Class of 2014) worked as cinematographers on the show, while Nich Musco (AFI Class of 2013) served as the “B” Camera Operator/Steadicam. DWW Alums Nancy Mejía and Katrelle Kindred (both AFI DWW Class of 2018) also worked on the series, which airs Sundays at 9 p.m. Watch the trailer here.


RESERVATION DOGS, which premiered August 9 and is edited by Varun Viswanath (AFI Class of 2012), is expanding awareness around Native American representation by presenting nuanced depictions of Indigenous culture in film and television.




IFC Films acquired the North American rights to Andrea Arnold’s (AFI Class of 1991) debut documentary, COW, which premiered at Cannes.


Gravitas Ventures picked up PAPER TIGER, written and directed by Paul Kowalski (AFI Class of 2015). The drama/thriller film was released on VOD/digital on August 24. The other AFI Alumni who worked on the project include:


    • Pin-Chun Liu (AFI Class of 2013), Producer
    • Dawn DeVoe (AFI Class of 2014), Line Producer
    • Yu-Hao Su (AFI Class of 2015), Associate Producer and Location Scout
    • Ed Wu (AFI Class of 2014), Cinematographer
    • Ying-Te Julie Chen (AFI Class of 2014), Production Designer
    • Lisa Gollobin (AFI Class of 2014), Unit Production Manager
    • David Gidali (AFI Class of 2011), Visual Effects Consultant
    • Christian Janss (AFI Class of 2012), Chief Lighting Technician




Additional titles have been announced for the Toronto International Film Festival this September. Congratulations to the following AFI Alumni with projects in the festival:

  • Daniel Andrade (AFI Class of 2001), cinematographer and producer of LO INVISIBLE
  • Justin Bull (AFI Class of 2005), writer of A BANQUET
  • Guy Godfree (AFI Class of 2011), cinematographer of WILDHOOD
  • Bella Gonzales (AFI Class of 2018), cinematographer of THE WHEEL
  • Eva Husson (AFI Class of 2003), director of MOTHERING SUNDAY
  • Emma Koh (AFI Class of 2014), production designer of SNAKEHEAD
  • Teck Siang Lim (AFI Class of 2019), cinematographer of WHETHER THE WEATHER IS FINE


AMIRA, written by Khaled Diab (AFI Class of 2013), Mohamed Diab and Sherin Diab is an official selection in the Venice Film Festival this month.


The Middlebury New Filmmakers Festivals honored AFI Faculty and Alum Heidi Levitt (AFI Class of 1987) with a Teddy Award and will be screening CHINESE BOX, which she co-produced and cast. MNFF has also programmed MOTHER’S DAY, written and directed by Jeanine Frost (AFI Class of 2019); REBEL HEARTS, executive produced by Rick Rosenthal (AFI Class of 1973); and WHIRLYBIRD, produced by Diane Becker (AFI Class of 2006).




Documentary filmmaker and AFI Alum David Henry Gerson (AFI Class of 2015) was recently featured on a podcast episode by the National Endowment for the Arts.


Director Patty Jenkins (AFI Class of 2000) spoke at CinemaCon about having to pivot release strategies for WONDER WOMAN 1984 and the importance of the theatrical experience, saying “I make movies for the theatrical experience. That’s the sandbox I’m in. It’s OK for me if you watch it a second or third time on your phone, but I grew up loving the cinema.”


Beyoncé’s “Formation,” directed by AFI Alum Melina Matsoukas (AFI Class of 2005) was named the best music video of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine.


DARK BLOOD, the new comic book series created by LaToya Morgan (AFI Class of 2005) and released only this month, is now in its third printing.


Fourteen of the industry’s top cinematographers, including AFI Alum Amy Vincent (AFI Class of 1991), signed a letter asking studios to address “the hazards of unsafe working hours” that have been common in Hollywood for decades as they resume talks with IATSE on a new collective bargaining agreement.


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