FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – November 23, 2022, Los Angeles, CA – The American Film Institute (AFI) announced at the 2022 AFI Alumni Reunion the recipients of the AFI Conservatory Alumni Awards. The awards recognize outstanding achievement in directing and screenwriting at AFI, and include the Richard P. Rogers Spirit of Excellence Award, the William J. Fadiman Award and the Franklin J. Schaffner Fellow Award. The AFI Alumni community returned to the AFI Campus recently to honor the winners from two classes of AFI graduates.

“The tradition of these awards represents what the AFI Conservatory stands for – community, collaboration and supporting the next generation of talented storytellers,” said Susan Ruskin, Dean of the AFI Conservatory and EVP of the American Film Institute. “Grants like these to emerging filmmakers are more important than ever, and we can’t wait to see their next projects as they continue to excel in their craft and artistry.”



Richard P. Rogers Spirit of Excellence Award

Olivia Hang Zhou – APART TOGETHER


William J. Fadiman Screenwriting Award  

Suhana Chander – “From the Golden Land”

Victor Gabriel – “The Incredible Heist of Hallelujah Jones“


Franklin J. Schaffner Fellow Award  

Omar S. Kamara – MASS AVE



Richard P. Rogers Spirit of Excellence Award  

Daniel J. Egbert – CHORUS


William J. Fadiman Screenwriting Award

E Southern – “Between The Lines”

Scout Cripps – “Stolen”


Franklin J. Schaffner Fellow Award  

Nicole Mejia – MY LIFE STOPPED AT 15


About the Awards:

Richard P. Rogers Spirit of Excellence Award
The Richard P. Rogers Spirit of Excellence Award is given annually to a director whose performance at AFI embodies the spirit of celebrated documentarian Richard P. Rogers, who passed away in 2001. The award includes a $15,000 grant.

William J. Fadiman Screenwriting Award

The William J. Fadiman Award for Screenwriting recognizes an outstanding achievement in screenwriting in honor of the distinguished story editor and AFI Conservatory Faculty member, William J. Fadiman. The award includes a $10,000 grant.

Franklin J. Schaffner Fellow Award 

The Franklin J. Schaffner Fellow Award is presented to an exceptional Directing Fellow in memory of Franklin J. Schaffner, a longtime champion of AFI and former chair of the AFI Conservatory Advisory Committee. The Franklin J. Schaffner Fellow Award, made possible through the generous support of The Franklin and Jean Schaffner Foundation, was established in 1991 by Jean Schaffner to celebrate her husband’s creative legacy and dedication to fostering new talent. The award includes a $20,000 grant.


About the winning AFI Conservatory thesis projects (in alphabetical order):

APART TOGETHER, directed by Olivia Hang Zhou (AFI Class of 2020)

Yiru is a Chinese teenager traveling to the U.S. as a translator for her mom, who is searching for her first daughter she gave up for adoption under the one-child policy.


“Between the Lines” written by E Southern (AFI Class of 2021)

Two transgender teens, a century and continent apart, discover that they can communicate across time and space. Bonded by their mirrored lives, they work together to escape their circumstances – for one a conservative hometown, for the other a dangerous marriage – and in the process find a safe haven within each other.


CHORUS directed by Daniel J. Egbert (AFI Class of 2021)

After missing his wife’s phone call goodbye on the morning of September 11th, a now listless and brokenhearted music teacher must harmonize with his increasingly reckless 14-year-old son.


“From the Golden Land” written by Suhana Chander (AFI Class of 2020)

Amidst the global upheaval of World War II, a young boy takes it upon himself to get his widowed pregnant mother and younger brother from war-torn Burma to the safety of India.


“The Incredible Heist of Hallelujah Jones“ written by Victor Gabriel (AFI Class of 2020)

During a season of gun violence in Compton, CA, a precocious book thief who hears the voices of his dead parents, discovers that a long lost novel belonging to his family is being auctioned off and with the help of the neighborhood matriarch, a 100-year-old black woman, he concocts a plan to steal it back.


MASS AVE directed by Omar S. Kamara (AFI Class of 2020)

Over a day of landscaping work, a first generation African American and his immigrant father have their relationship and outlooks on life transformed irreversibly when racially profiled by police.


MY LIFE STOPPED AT 15 directed by Nicole Mejia (AFI Class of 2021)

A visit to a skating rink triggers Sofia into a world where she must confront her pain in order to break free from her past.


“Stolen” written by Scout Cripps (AFI Class of 2021)

1922 Australia. A gritty and violent epic about a drunken hard-nosed WWI veteran and his 14-year-old Indigenous daughter who go on the run after killing two corrupt police officers.


Learn more about the AFI Conservatory 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 FESTAFI DOCS 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.


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