On August 22, AFI Executive Vice President and Dean Susan Ruskin and her renowned Faculty and Staff welcomed the Second Year cohort of AFI Fellows, as well as 150 First Year Fellows, who are embarking on their two-year MFA filmmaker training program.
In honor of the AFI Conservatory opening its doors for the 2022-2023 school year, AFI hosted three distinguished Alumni of the AFI Conservatory: Liz Hannah (AFI Class of 2009, THE GIRL FROM PLAINVILLE, THE DROPOUT), Andy Siara (AFI Class of 2015, THE RESORT, PALM SPRINGS) and Byron Wu (AFI Class of 2019, THE BROTHERS SUN). They spoke to the Fellows about their personal experiences as showrunners and writers on their respective television series and their filmmaking trajectories.
Siara recalled collaborating with director Max Barbakow, who he met on his first day at the Conservatory, on PALM SPRINGS which broke the sales record at Sundance, saying, “I communicate with him like my own brother. Nothing’s off the table. Nothing is off limits. And that’s how I communicate with everybody I went to AFI with, and truly a movie was born out of that friendship and that movie opened up other doors.”
Meanwhile, Wu, who is currently in production on THE BROTHERS SUN starring AFI Honorary Degree recipient Michelle Yeoh, talked about the freedom AFI allowed him to explore a multitude of genres, remarking, “I remember coming to AFI with a bunch of broad comedies and then they were like ‘you can write whatever you want.’ It was such a great space to come in… and see if I could push myself into a place where I’m really unfamiliar.”
Hannah, whose limited series THE DROPOUT is nominated for six Emmy Awards®, also spoke about how honored she was to be a graduate of AFI. Reminiscing about her time at the Conservatory, Hannah said to the Fellows, “We were all talking about what AFI means to us, and what you want to take away from it is do things that you will fail at. Be ok failing. But just try and hit the grand slam. Really go for it because this is the safest place to do it.” We look forward to watching as AFI Fellows take this next step in their filmmaking journey, following in the footsteps of these inspiring AFI Alumni.