AFI Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women

The AFI Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women (DWW) is committed to educating and mentoring female filmmakers to increase the number of women working professionally as directors and showrunners in film and television.

The selected participants will receive guided instruction and direct a short film or new media project. All completed projects will be showcased the following year. (Pictured above: Sarah Gertrude Shapiro (c.) with the DWW Class of 2015, from L to R: Erica Liu, Chelsea Woods, Dime Davis, Christine Boylan, Bella Monticelli, Shapiro, Mia Lidofsky, Rebecca Murga, Amy Barrett, Claire Fowler, Philiane Phang.)

Short film participants will work towards completing a short narrative project with the intended outcome of playing at film festivals and acquiring distribution deals. Episodic participants will work towards completing a web pilot or a miniseries to premiere online or via a streaming service.


DECEMBER Notification: Participants are notified of their acceptance.
JANUARY–APRIL Screenplay & Fundraising Mentorship: Over the course of four long weekends, participants will come to the AFI Campus in Los Angeles in order to have a thorough orientation of the program, develop their screenplays with faculty mentors, take classes on fundraising for their projects and begin the process of raising their production budget with DWW staff guidance.
MAY Workshop Intensive: Full-time classes and instruction. Evenings and weekends will be required. Classes include all topics related to directing and visual storytelling — from lectures to hands-on exercises with actors and cameras.
JUNE Pre-Production: Approximately four weeks from the end of the training workshop session until the first production begins shooting.
JULY Production: AFI provides lighting, grip and camera equipment that can be used for a five-day shoot (permission to use a non-AFI digital camera is possible through a formal request). 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, compliance with AFI SAG-AFTRA agreements and other production paperwork.
AUGUST Picture Lock: Participants are required to find editors for their projects. Projects must lock picture within the assigned 30 days, regardless of whether editing takes place on or off campus. On-campus editing facilities are available during specified hours.
SEPTEMBER–DECEMBER Post-Production: Participants work to finish their films with AFI staff guidance and following a list of assigned deliverables. Once fully delivered, each participant can premiere her film on campus and will be eligible to participate in the annual DWW Showcase.
APRIL Showcase: Eligible participants’ work is screened in an annual Showcase for agents, managers, producers and executives at the DGA Theater in Los Angeles.

Participants become AFI Conservatory Alumnae and enjoy all benefits therein.

As DWW alumnae, the directors receive quarterly newsletters and are invited to monthly tuition-free continuing education.


The workshop includes both classroom instruction and experiential education in the art and craft of visual storytelling. The workshop is a full-time commitment, including weekends and evenings.

The workshop is taught by film and television professionals working at top levels within the industry, as well as experienced faculty from the AFI Conservatory.

Both short film and episodic participants will take the same classes, learning the foundations of filmmaking as well as skills specific to the other’s specialization (ex: Running a Television Show, Film Festivals & Distribution).

Along with the workshop in May, it is crucial that participants are available to participate in four long weekends (see website for up to date information).

Classroom attendance during the workshop is mandatory and critical to participants’ success. No exceptions are made.

Participants are required to raise their complete budgets by the first day of the workshop. Fundraising information and support will be provided shortly after acceptance.


Throughout the workshop, each participant focuses on the development of a short narrative project. 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. Short films can be no longer than 15 pages. New media project — pilots or short series — have a limit of 20 pages.

If your script has been co-written or written by an outside writer, the writer must sign a literary release, which is submitted with your application.

If your script is based on existing material, the rights holder must sign the underlying rights agreement.


While “soft prep” will begin from the time participants are selected, pre-production begins in earnest at the end of the workshop intensive. 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.

During production, all DWW participants will direct a short narrative project — a short film or series. 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 — 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.

Participants may raise up to $30,000 in support of their productions ($35,000 for participants who are not local). [at time of publication—please see AFI website for most current information]

Complete production details will be explained to participants during the orientations and throughout the workshop. All productions must comply with DWW and AFI Production Requirements.

Productions will be scheduled within a very strict time frame. Production will take place in the Los Angeles area (within the 30-mile studio zone) during the month of July. Although participants are 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.

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 underlying rights of the project. The participants are able to develop the projects into other formats — including but not limited to feature films, television series or new media projects — beyond DWW.


Participants must have the financial means to dedicate full-time concentration to the workshop and the production of their films. This will preclude participants’ ability to work full-time for approximately four months (May–August) when the DWW project has reached picture lock. DWW is not a grant program. There is no tuition fee to attend.

As explained, participants may raise up to $30,000 in support of their productions ($35,000 for participants who are not local) and must be fully funded by the beginning of the workshop 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 non-profit arts organization will be provided to each donor.

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

Lunch is provided during the workshop.


Major Donors*

Will & Jada Smith
Family Foundation

Program Support

Jean Picker Firstenberg
Linda Hope
Mark & Lynne Liss
The Adrienne Shelly Foundation
Rosalind Wyman

DWW Endowment Support

Jean Picker Firstenberg Endowment
The Nancy Malone Endowment provided by The Bob & Dolores Hope Charitable Foundation


* All information a/o time of publication; see AFI website and call the Institute for most current information.







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