About AFI Directing Workshop for Women

The Program

The AFI Directing Workshop for Women (DWW) is the longest-running program dedicated to supporting women and nonbinary narrative directors.

Committed to providing opportunities for marginalized voices, DWW annually mentors up to eight filmmakers through the production cycle of a short film, providing hands-on instruction with classes led by industry experts. All completed projects will be showcased the following year.

Filmmakers will work towards completing either a short narrative project intended to play at film festivals and acquire distribution deals, or a proof-of-concept intended to sell a television series or feature film.

PROGRAM AT-A-GLANCE

OCTOBER-NOVEMBER Interviews: Applicants go through two rounds of interviews.
DECEMBER Notification: Participants are notified of their acceptance.
JANUARY–MAY Screenplay, Fundraising and Production Mentorship: Over the course of four months, filmmakers will participate in virtual workshop classes, which include a thorough orientation of the program, development of their screenplays and classes on fundraising and production. Additionally, if restrictions permit, there will be an in-person,  1-2 week hands-on intensive in May. Participants must complete fundraising by the start of the Intensive.
JUNE Pre-Production: Participants have approximately four weeks from the end of the May Intensive until the first production begins shooting.
JULY Production: Participants have three days to shoot their short film. AFI may provide grip, electric and camera packages if available.
AUGUST Editorial: Projects must picture lock within 30 days. AFI’s editing facilities may be available for the participant’s use. All final projects must be no longer than 10 minutes, including credits.
SEPTEMBER–OCTOBER Post-Production: Participants work to finish their films guided by the DWW staff and a list of assigned deliverables.
NOVEMBER Delivery & Industry Workshop Weekend: Once fully delivered, if restrictions allow, each participant may premiere their film on campus and will be eligible to participate in the annual DWW Showcase*. To wrap up their time in the program, participants will convene for a final virtual workshop weekend designed to help them make the most of their completed projects, build their careers and perfect their pitches.

*The details of the DWW Showcase to be determined and aligned with current health and safety restrictions.

INCLUSION & SAFETY

The DWW is deeply committed to providing an equitable, safe space for all its participants. We seek out a diverse range of filmmakers and past classes have reflected this goal. As a result, participants will be in close collaboration with filmmakers from many different backgrounds. All filmmakers are required to sign the DWW Code of Conduct and to contribute positively to the community.

CURRICULUM

The DWW is first and foremost an educational program. Participants must come ready to learn, accept feedback and take instruction. The DWW is founded on the belief that all directors can improve and that doing so is an essential part of achieving gender parity in the film industry.

The curriculum includes both virtual instruction and hands-on education in the art and craft of visual storytelling. The curriculum is taught by film and television professionals working at top levels within the industry, as well as experienced faculty from the AFI Conservatory. Past DWW faculty can be found here. Participants will learn the foundations of filmmaking, as well as skills specific to Episodic and Short Film specializations (ie: Running a Television Show, Film Festivals & Distribution).

Virtual classes will be regularly scheduled January through May. Exact dates will be determined and communicated closer to the beginning of the workshop itself. If restrictions permit, there will be an in-person, 1-2 week Intensive in May. Attendance to both virtual and in-person classes are mandatory and critical to participants’ success. No exceptions are made.

Participants are required to raise their complete budgets by the first day of the May Intensive.

SCREENPLAY DEVELOPMENT

Participants enter the program with a short script. The scripts are expected to grow and be revised throughout the workshop with the constructive engagement of peers, faculty and mentors — but the final creative decisions will always stay with the participant.

Participants are not required to have written their own material, but they do need to have ongoing access to their writers or co-writers, as scripts will evolve through the workshop process.

Submitted scripts must follow the industry standard for formatting: Courier font, 12pt type, standard margins. All scripts have a limit of no more than 7 pages. Scripts should be written with potential COVID-19 safety guidelines in mind (no live crowd scenes, limited locations (1-3), limited intimacy scenes, smaller casts, etc). While AFI Filming Protocols are still being determined, the participant must be prepared to shoot in a socially-distant setting.

Scripts may either be for a stand-alone short film or a proof-of-concept intended to sell a television series or feature film. If your script has been co-written, written by an outside writer or has been adapted from existing materials, the participant will need to submit the appropriate releases with their application. For more info, please visit our “How to Apply” page.

PREP, PRODUCTION & POST

Equipment pick-up and drop-off times are specified. Participants are responsible for damaged and missing equipment. AFI provides limited insurance and requires shooting/location permits, in compliance with AFI SAG-AFTRA agreements and other production paperwork.

Because the DWW is designed to prepare participants for professional success, all projects must be produced within the parameters of AFI policies. Complete production details will be explained to participants during the orientations and throughout the workshop.

DWW participants will direct a short narrative project. AFI does not provide crew for these projects and the full responsibility for production will lie with the participant. However, there are many opportunities for participants to meet AFI Fellows — the graduate film students of the AFI Conservatory — who have completed films within similar parameters and who offer a rich resource for participants looking to fulfill their crew needs.

Production will take place in the Los Angeles area (within the 30-mile studio zone) during the month of July. Productions will be scheduled within a very strict time frame. Participants will have the opportunity to select production dates from a list of available times in advance. Production is then permitted only during the specific dates assigned to each project.

Editing must be completed within 30 days of shoot wrap. Although participants may be given access to AFI editing facilities, participants may also choose to edit at an outside facility. Outside editing facilities must be approved in advance. Schedules are strictly monitored and all participants are required to screen cuts of their film for evaluation of progress. Some areas of post-production, such as mixing, will need to be done outside AFI at the production’s expense.

Final projects must be no longer than 10 minutes, including credits.

Participants are not allowed to act in, shoot or edit their films.

AFI owns the copyright to the projects produced within DWW, but not to the intellectual property of the project. The participants are able to develop the projects into other formats beyond DWW including but not limited to feature films, television series or digital projects.

COSTS

The DWW is a tuition-free program, but participants must have the financial means to dedicate full-time concentration to the workshop and the production of their films. This may preclude participants’ ability to work full-time for approximately four months (May–August) when the DWW project has reached picture lock.

Participants may raise up to $25,000 in support of their productions. All participants must be fully funded by the beginning of the Intensive in May. Funds raised for an individual production are considered a donation to the American Film Institute, and a letter regarding the donation to a nonprofit arts organization will be provided to each donor.

Many of our participants reach their funding goals through a combination of crowdfunding, matching grants and individual donations. The DWW provides classes on fundraising in January and has an exclusive crowdfunding relationship with Seed&Spark. Through them, we offer personal mentorship throughout the crowdfunding process.

We welcome participants from outside the Los Angeles area but AFI does not provide housing or transportation to participants.

Lunch will be provided for any in-person class days during the May Intensive.

SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER