Initiative includes The Canva Fellowship, an expansive scholarship program at the AFI Conservatory

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – June 27, 2023, Los Angeles, CA – The American Film Institute (AFI) announced today the launch of a multifaceted partnership with Canva to empower rising filmmakers and improve access to the tools and skills necessary to realize their creative visions. Starting this year, as part of the new endeavor, Canva will establish The Canva Fellowship at the AFI Conservatory which provides scholarships for six AFI Fellows based on merit and financial need. Additionally, Canva will provide Canva Pro subscriptions to 250 AFI Fellows and 1,000 AFI Conservatory Alumni, along with in-depth design training and workshops. This new partnership unites AFI and Canva in their shared mission to educate and inspire the next generation of filmmakers to create visually impactful work.

“The AFI and Canva collaboration embodies the forward-thinking partnerships that are critical in supporting rising filmmakers,” said Susan Ruskin, Dean of the AFI Conservatory and Executive Vice President of the American Film Institute. “By breaking down barriers to education and technology and giving underrepresented filmmakers the opportunity to tell their stories, we are creating a pathway to a more diverse and inclusive industry.”

The recipients of The Canva Fellowship for 2023-2024 are AFI First Year Fellows Alex Bush (Directing), Hayoun Kim (Production Design), Dominika Podczaska (Cinematography), He “Shirley” Sui (Producing), Sydney Sullivan (Editing) and Darcy Wytko (Screenwriting). The Fellows will start the Master of Fine Arts filmmaking program at the AFI Conservatory on the AFI Campus in Los Angeles this August.

“We’re delighted to partner with AFI to support the goals of the next generation of filmmakers in such a meaningful way,” said Natalie Schwartz, Head of Global Brand Marketing at Canva. “Canva’s mission is to democratize design and creativity so that anyone can bring what’s in their mindseye to life. We’re thrilled to play a part in the journey of so many talented students, so they can build out their ideas and tell their stories in visually rich ways.”

About the recipients:

Alex Bush – Directing Fellow

Alex Bush (they/them) is a storyteller and director whose work is concerned with transformation, transcendence, intimacy and ecstasy among other themes. Their film THAW had its world premiere in competition at the 2023 Tribeca Festival. Eastern Oregon Filmmaker Residency, 2023. They received their BFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts, where they studied theatrical direction. Theatrical directorial work with Ars Nova, The PUBLIC and Musical Theater Factory. Music visual collaborations with Madeline, Caitlin Cobb-Vialet, Laura Galindo and more.

Hayoun Kim – Production Design Fellow

Hayoun Kim is a recent graduate of Sungkyunkwan University in Korea, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She also studied scenic design through Theater Art Seminar in 2019 and Spacial Design and Computer Graphics in 2023 via the Korean Government Training Program. Last summer, she served as a production designer on an independent musical film, HOMELESS KWON JENNY.

Dominika Podczaska – Cinematography Fellow

Born in Poland, Dominika Podczaska earned a Bachelor of Arts in Documentary Storytelling and a Master of Arts in American Studies. She is also an alumna of Laboratory of Reportage, Wajda Film School and Global Cinematography Institute in Los Angeles. She has been working as a cinematographer in documentary films, music videos and commercials for more than 10 years. In 2018, she focused on short films, including FOR I AM DEAD which won more than 20 awards for cinematography across the U.S. and Europe. Her debut feature film ALGORYTHMICS premiered at the 2022 Polish Film Festival. In 2023, Podczaska became an official member of Polish Society of Cinematographers.

He “Shirley” Sui – Producing Fellow

He “Shirley” Sui 隋和 is a recent graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts with a BFA in Film and TV. She has lived in Tsingdao, Shanghai, California and, most recently, New York City. She produced four short films in high school and 12 short films during her undergraduate years at NYU. She has also directed seven short films of her own. She won the 2021-22 Akhtar-Bhutta Fund for Student Producers Award at NYU and her short film PLEASE was screened at the Chinese Theatre and AMC Empire. Her latest film, AMERICAN DREAM, is currently in post-production. She also interned at Atlantic Pictures.

Sydney Sullivan – Editing Fellow

Sydney Sullivan graduated with a degree in Film Production and Digital Media from Loyola University Chicago. Her work is deeply connected to the Chicago arts community – collaborating with arts organizations, theater groups and independent performing artists including The Walder Foundation, Asian Improv Arts Midwest, Motion Pictures / Dance Project and Hubbard Street Dance Company. This past summer she worked as the assistant editor on THE REAL DANCE, a web series commissioned by Pivot Arts, and editor for THE SEEING PLACE, an experimental film shown at IN / MOTION Film Festival and Screen Dance International Film Festival.

Darcy Wytko – Screenwriting Fellow

Darcy Wytko is a Seattle-based filmmaker, festival programmer, award-winning burlesque artist and former video store employee who was raised in rodeo. She is a graduate of Circle in the Square Theater’s acting conservatory on Broadway and co-founder of Blonde Ambition Burlesque, serving as a producer and performer. She has a soft spot for baby goats, Al Pacino, the Velvet Underground and all films rock’n’roll, indie and arthouse. Currently she is a programmer for the Seattle Queer Film Festival and Seattle International Film Festival. Her short film MILLER PARK, which she has written and will direct, starts production this summer.

Learn more about the AFI Conservatory MFA program at


About the American Film Institute (AFI)

The American Film Institute (AFI) is a nonprofit organization with a mandate to champion the moving image as an art form. Established in 1967, AFI launched the first comprehensive history of American film and sparked the movement for film preservation in the United States. In 1969, AFI opened the doors of the AFI Conservatory, a graduate-level program to train narrative filmmakers. The Conservatory, which counts Deniese Davis, Affonso Gonçalves, Susannah Grant, Matthew Libatique, David Lynch, Melina Matsoukas and Rachel Morrison as Alumni, is ranked the #1 film school in America. AFI’s enduring traditions include the AFI Life Achievement Award, which honors the masters for work that has stood the test of time; AFI AWARDS, which celebrates the creative ensembles of the most outstanding screen stories of the year; and scholarly efforts such as the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and the AFI Archive that preserve film history for future generations. AFI exhibition programs include AFI FEST and year-round exhibition at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Maryland. AFI Movie Club is a destination for movie lovers from around the world to celebrate and engage with the art form every day. Other pioneering programs include workshops aimed at increasing diversity in the storytelling community, including AFI DWW+ and the AFI Cinematography Intensive for Women. Read about all of these programs and more at and follow us on social media at,, and


About the AFI Conservatory

The AFI Conservatory opened its doors in 1969 to an inaugural class that included Terrence Malick, Caleb Deschanel and Paul Schrader. Today, the Conservatory offers a two-year MFA degree in six filmmaking disciplines: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design and Screenwriting. In a collaborative production environment, AFI Fellows learn to master the art of storytelling, collectively creating up to 175 films a year. Fellows actively participate in the entire life cycle of a film, from development through production and exhibition.

Alumni of this elite program, ranging from modern masters to bold new voices defining the state of the art form include Andrea Arnold, Darren Aronofsky, Ari Aster, Deniese Davis, Sam Esmail, Brad Falchuk, Affonso Gonçalves, Susannah Grant, Liz Hannah, Patty Jenkins, Janusz Kamiński, Matthew Libatique, David Lynch, Melina Matsoukas, Polly Morgan, Rachel Morrison and Wally Pfister, among others.


About Canva

Launched in 2013, Canva is a free online visual communications and collaboration platform with a mission to empower everyone in the world to design. Featuring a simple drag-and-drop user interface and a vast range of templates ranging from presentations, documents, websites, social media graphics, posters, apparel to videos, plus a huge library of fonts, stock photography, illustrations, video footage, and audio clips, anyone can take an idea and create something beautiful.


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American Film Institute

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