Four AFI Conservatory Alumni Win Grants for Their Thesis Work – American Film Institute


Four AFI Conservatory Alumni Win Grants for Their Thesis Work

Today at AFI FEST, AFI will present its annual alumni awards to four AFI Conservatory graduates from the Class of 2015 for excellence in their thesis work, honoring the remarkable talents of each promising storyteller while propelling them forward to successful careers in film and TV.

Director/producer Rick Rosenthal (AFI Class of 1973) will present the William J. Fadiman Award for Screenwriting ($15,000) to Andy Siara for the screenplay “The Last Karpinski”; and the Richard P. Rogers Spirit of Excellence Award ($10,000 each) to director Shelly Lauman for the film WOMAN OUTSIDE and director David Gerson for the film ALL THESE VOICES. AFI Conservatory Dean Jan Schuette will present the Franklin J. Schaffner Fellow Award ($20,000) to writer/director Daniel Sawka for the film ICEBOX.

Here’s more about the winners and the awards themselves:

The Richard P. Rogers Spirit of Excellence Award was awarded to David Henry Gerson for his AFI thesis film ALL THESE VOICES — a Nazi’s nightmare film — which is beginning its festival run. A Washington, DC, native, he studied English, theater and visual arts at Columbia University as well as acting at London’s British American Drama Academy and in NY at various Meisner and Method studios. Gerson is currently completing a screenplay adaptation of the book “Price of Terror,” the true story of how the families of victims in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 brought Muammar Gaddafi to justice.

Shelly Lauman, another winner of the Richard P. Rogers Spirit of Excellence Award for her film WOMAN OUTSIDE, is also the recipient of several other prestigious awards including AFI scholarships two years in a row. She has recently earned her MFA in Directing at the AFI Conservatory after having classically trained as an actor in Melbourne at the Victorian College of the Arts and having performed for some of Australia’s most critically acclaimed theater companies.

The recipient of the Franklin J. Schaffner Fellow Award is writer/director Daniel Sawka for the film ICEBOX — which has also screened at the Directors Guild of America, at the CAA Moebius Showcase and recently had its world premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival. Raised in Stockholm, Sweden, he grew up acting in theater productions and directed several plays before receiving a BA in Acting from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. After receiving a scholarship from the AFI Conservatory, he was led to direct short films, commercials and a TV pilot shot in Stockholm.

Andy Siara is the recipient of the William J. Fadiman Award for Screenwriting for the screenplay “The Last Karpinski.” His thesis film, THE DUKE: BASED ON THE MEMOIR “I’M THE DUKE” BY J.P. DUKE, was accepted into the first ever AFI Writers’ Room Ready. After graduating with a BA in Sociology from UC Irvine, Siara spent five years touring all over the U.S. and Canada with his band The Henry Clay People, releasing nine albums and performing several hundred shows including at such festivals as Coachella, Lollapalooza and SXSW.

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