AFI Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women film


This AFI Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women short film completed principle photography and is now completed! Shot over a period of four days in Santa Clarita, California, over 70 crew and cast members came together to make something special. Half of the crew for former military veterans who donated their time to make this short film possible. The writer and director of the film is a U.S. Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan.

AMERICAN GIRL is a film about a young spunky Guatemalan girl who is driven by her late father’s dream to become an American. Accompanied by a retired smuggler, the two set out on a dangerous 2,000 mile journey through Mexico to reach the American border. Together they must overcome ruthless drug smugglers, human traffickers, and the harsh desert.

But her journey doesn’t end there. The ending of the film reveals the sacrifices that immigrants make.

“The story is inspired by my father’s journey to America in his desire for a better life,” the writer and director of the film Rebecca Murga explains. “And when I learned about a young Guatemalan immigrant who joined the Marines and was then killed in Iraq before becoming a citizen, it all came rushing together. To me, the desire for freedom is the heart of the American spirit…and for many that spirit beats within them, regardless of where they are born.”


AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women to Be Showcased April 12

Ten directors from the class of 2015 will be featured at AFI Conservatory’s Directing Workshop for Women Showcase on April 12 at 7 p.m. at the DGA in Los Angeles.

Guest of honor and keynote speaker will be Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, co-creator and executive producer of Lifetime’s “Unreal” and AFI DWW 2012 alumna (in photo above). The event is presented by Lifetime, which, through its Broad Focus initiative, guarantees employment to all DWW graduates as of the class of 2015.

The DWW Showcase provides female directors the opportunity of presenting their work in front of an audience of industry representatives and working artists.

The 10 directors showcasing their short works this year will be Amy Barrett, Christine Boylan, Dime Davis, Claire Fowler, Mia Lidofsky, Erica Liu, Bella Monticelli, Rebecca Murga, Philiane Phang and Chelsea Woods.

The tuition-free workshop provides women, with three or more years of professional experience in the field, the opportunity to further their careers. By the end of the program, all participants must have complete a short film or series. The stated goal is to “learn by doing.”

Past graduates have gone on to work in the industry. They include Leslie Linka Glatter (class of 1982), who received PGA and DGA nominations this year for her work on “Homeland”; Sian Heder (class of 2005), who sold her Sundance 2016 competition premiere “Tallulah,” based on her DWW short “Mother,” to Netflix; and Shapiro.

The AFI DWW class of 2016 will also be featured during the showcase.





VARIETY - MAY 15, 2015 - “Transparent” creator Jill Soloway delivered the keynote address to the students of AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women’s 2015 Showcase Thursday night at the Directors Guild of America.

Soloway began her remarks to the filmmakers and their guests by praising the recent action taken by the ACLU in support of female directors. “Guys, it’s an amazing time for women right now!” Soloway said. “ACLU thing! Let’s sue Hollywood! Sue ‘em all! Sue those mothaf—as!”

The rest of her speech was similarly empowering and expletive-laden. She encouraged the filmmakers to embrace their gender as they go forward. “I came into most of my power as a filmmaker when I realized that all I needed to do was make a safe space for people to have feelings,” she said. “And that is feminine energy…Rub your f—ed-up-ness all over your scripts. Add some shame and some embarrassment. Rub your shame all over your script and then dare yourself to shoot it. Seriously.”

read more here



MILITARY TIMES - June 1, 2015 - For Army Reserve Capt. Rebecca Murga, telling the story of women in combat ranks in significance just below the privilege of actually donning a military uniform.

Murga, a filmmaker, photographer and writer, is working on her latest short film, "American Girl," which follows a young woman's experience in becoming a soldier who eventually serves in Afghanistan.

She's one of 10 applicants participating in the AFI Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women this year, giving her the experience and skills to make the short film, which she hopes to turn into a full-length feature in 2016. She is the first service member to participate in the yearlong course, started by the American Film Institute in 1974.

Her film's basic subject matter is timely, as opportunities for women in the military are changing at an increasingly swift pace.

For example, for the first time this year, women began training at the Army's notoriously tough Ranger School, another step in the opening of ground combat occupations to female soldiers. The Marine Corps in 2014 opened up 11 military occupational specialties to female Marines.

read more here



Jill Soloway writer and director.

INDIEWIRE - APRIL 17, 2015 - "Transparent" creator and "Afternoon Delight" writer-director Jill Soloway will deliver the keynote address at the AFI Directing Workshop for Women (DWW) Showcase on May 14. 

Soloway will serve as the Artist-in-Residence for the incoming 2015 participants alongside filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood ("Beyond the Lights") and TV director Daisy von Scherler Mayer ("Orange is the New Black"). 



VARIETY - OCTOBER 7, 2014 - The American Film Institute Directing Workshop for Women has created an “Executive Circle,” consisting of 13 execs who will act as mentors to filmmakers there.

The Executive Circle consists of Lauren Abrahams, VP, Sony; Amanda Brown, VP, Paramount; Daria Cercek, VP, Fox; Tonia Davis, director of development, Disney; Maradith Frenkel, VP, Universal; Niija Kuykendall, VP, Warner Bros.; Annie Laks, VP, Paramount Animation; Alana Mayo, CE, Paramount; Anikah McLaren, VP, Universal; Chantal Nong, VP, Warner Bros.; Sara Scott, Director of Development, Universal; Alison Small, VP, Paramount/Paramount Insurge; and Erin Westerman, VP, Good Universe