AFI ANNOUNCES PARTICIPANTS FOR PRESTIGIOUS AFI DWW+ PROGRAM AND NAMES HANELLE M. CULPEPPER GUEST ARTISTIC DIRECTOR – American Film Institute

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AFI ANNOUNCES PARTICIPANTS FOR PRESTIGIOUS AFI DWW+ PROGRAM AND NAMES HANELLE M. CULPEPPER GUEST ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

Directing Program Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Alumnae Include Lesli Linka Glatter, Siân Heder, Dime Davis, Cicely Tyson, Lee Grant, Maya Angelou and More

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Los Angeles, CA, January 22, 2024 – Today, the American Film Institute (AFI) announced the participants selected for the AFI DWW+ Class of 2025. AFI DWW+ is a year-long directing program that supports women and traditionally underrepresented narrative filmmakers through the production cycle of a short film, providing hands-on instruction led by industry experts. The short films completed in the workshop will premiere at the annual DWW+ Showcase in Spring 2025. The directing program celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

The AFI DWW+ Class of 2025 participants are: Julia Bales, Jahmil Eady, MG Evangelista, Marissa High, Jasmine J. Johnson, Natasha Mynhier, Karina Lomelin Ripper and Ezra Rose. Learn more about the new class below and read their full bios here.

The eight participants went through a rigorous selection process and were ultimately selected from 20 finalists who met with the Final Selection Committee.

AFI also announced that AFI DWW Alum Hanelle M. Culpepper has been named AFI DWW+ Guest Artistic Director for the Class of 2025. Culpepper directed the record-breaking pilot of STAR TREK: PICARD, making her the first woman director to launch a new STAR TREK series in the franchise’s history. In 2021, she won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Directing for her work on the episode. In 2022, she was nominated for her work on Netflix’s TRUE STORY starring Kevin Hart and Wesley Snipes, and again in 2023 for THE LAST DAYS OF PTOLEMY GREY starring Samuel L. Jackson. Her recent work includes STAR WARS: THE ACOLYTE, WESTWORLD and the pilot for Neil Gaiman’s Amazon series ANANSI BOYS. In 2019, she was selected for the inaugural class of ReFrame and earned Variety’s Inclusion Impact Honor. Culpepper serves on the TV Academy’s Directors Peer Group Executive Committee, and as an alternate for the DGA’s National Board and Western Directors Council.

As the AFI DWW+ Guest Artistic Director, Culpepper will oversee and direct the artistic curriculum and serve as a mentor for the DWW+ participants through their production cycle and the industry showcase, as well as act as an ambassador on behalf of the program.

“I remember how supported I felt by our community when I participated in DWW – my fellow directors are dear friends to this day, and it was inspiring to learn from the alums out there blazing the trail. I’m excited for what’s ahead for this class, and I’m honored to guide them as they make their shorts and ultimately rise in our industry,” said Culpepper.

“We are thrilled to welcome the Class of 2025 into the legacy of the AFI DWW+ program. For 50 years, AFI has been dedicated to lifting up the voices of underrepresented artists and providing opportunities for them to advance in their careers as directors,” said Susan Ruskin, Dean of the AFI Conservatory and Executive Vice President of the American Film Institute. “Along with this year’s AFI DWW+ Guest Artistic Director, Hanelle Culpepper, a groundbreaking director who embodies leadership and passion for directing, and other esteemed Alums from the program, we look forward to working with our collaborators and partners across the entertainment industry to continue supporting and creating necessary pathways for underrepresented artists to share their stories with the world.”

Launched 50 years ago in 1974 as the Directing Workshop for Women, AFI DWW+ is one of the first gender impact programs in the cinematic arts and is one of the longest-running and preeminent film and television workshops. Since the program’s inception, DWW+ has trained over 350 filmmakers who give voice to historically underrepresented perspectives.

Distinguished Alums include Maya Angelou, Anne Bancroft, Neema Barnette, Shaz Bennett, Pippa Bianco, Tessa Blake, Tricia Brock, Ellen Burstyn, Rebecca Cammisa, Dyan Cannon, Hanelle Culpepper, Dime Davis, Jan Eliasberg, Naomi Foner, Jennifer Getzinger, Lesli Linka Glatter, Lyn Goldfarb, Lee Grant, Randa Haines, Siân Heder, Victoria Hochberg, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Matia Karrell, Maggie Kiley, Lynne Littman, Nancy Malone, Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, Becky Smith, Raelle Tucker, Cicely Tyson, Joanne Woodward and more.

About the AFI DWW+ Class of 2025:

 

Julia Bales

Julia Bales is a writer and filmmaker whose narrative work focuses on dark, comedic takes on social dynamics. After graduating from Chapman University with a screenwriting degree, Bales worked as a producer for a popular sketch comedy company and on set in production for various television shows, including NATHAN FOR YOU, THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH JAMES CORDEN and FULL FRONTAL WITH SAMANTHA BEE. Her short films have played at film festivals throughout the world and premiered online as staff picks with platforms like Vimeo and NoBudge. Bales’ commercial and branded work clients include Amazon, Kellogg’s and Disney.

 

Jahmil Eady

Jahmil Eady is an award-winning writer, director and producer from Charleston, SC and NYC. She earned her BA in Media Studies from Pomona College and an MFA in Directing from UCLA.

Her work blends genre with social impact and often features people from underrepresented communities in futuristic or fantastical environments. Eady began her career in unscripted film and television and was an associate producer on documentary projects for the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), Viceland and Discovery Networks. Collectively, her short films have screened at over 50 film festivals worldwide, including several Academy Award® and BAFTA-qualifying film festivals.

 

MG Evangelista

MG Evangelista was born in Manila and grew up in the Bay Area. Evangelista received the 2023 United States Artists Fellowship in Film. Their debut feature, BURNING WELL is in development and has been supported by Tribeca, Array, the Torino Feature Film Lab and the SFFilm Rainin Grant. The feature is based on their award-winning short film FRAN THIS SUMMER, which played at Sundance. Evangelista’s work includes the VR dramedy WATER MELTS, supported by Tribeca and Google; LA GLORIA, a Project Involve short; and the award-winning short documentary THEY CALL ME SUKI, about legendary AAPI activist Suki Terada Ports.

 

Marissa High

Marissa High is a writer/director with a comedic dialogue-driven style with colorful contrast and camera movement that punctuates emotion. In 2023, she was a Film Fatale Stowe Story Labs Finalist and directed ALL APPETITE which won Best Comedy at the Los Angeles Short Film Festival. In the branded space, High has written and directed for Hulu, SELF, Architectural Digest, CollegeHumor, as well as creatively consulted with Kettle, Sid Lee and Big Breakfast. She recently directed Moonbug Entertainment’s MEEKAH. She is currently directing THOUSANDAIRES for the SVOD platform Dropout. Her feature screenplay TRASHY PEOPLE was selected for WIF Film Financing Intensive.

 

Jasmine J. Johnson

Jasmine J. Johnson (“Triple J”) is a director, writer and producer. Her credits include executive producer on THE ANGRY BLACK GIRL AND HER MONSTER (2023), which premiered at SXSW, and co-executive producer on Peacock’s THE GIRL IN THE WOODS and Facebook Watch’s MIRA MIRA. As a director, Johnson explores the intersectionality within the minority experience through immersive storytelling techniques. Using heightened elements like magical realism, surrealism, genre and humor, her work focuses on themes of grief, discovery and the moments that epitomize human resilience. Her latest short, INNER DEMONS, was selected for SXSW’s Midnight Shorts Competition.

 

Natasha Mynhier

Natasha Mynhier is a director, writer, cinematographer and editor for fiction and documentary projects. Mynhier’s work explores the evolving intersections of science, technology and human rights, especially in how they will impact the lives and futures of women. Recently, Mynhier directed/produced BEYOND THE SUMMIT chronicling ski mountaineer Kit DesLauriers’ mission to safeguard the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and is currently spearheading a web series about privacy-preserving technology. Mynhier has also worked as a cinematographer for brands like Netflix, Marvel, ESPN and the New York Times, and was selected for the American Society of Cinematographer’s Vision Mentorship Program in 2021.

 

Karina Lomelin Ripper

Karina Lomelin Ripper is a Mexican-American writer and director whose films tell stories that center Latina/e characters and subvert expectations. Ripper’s short VISIONS (2022) won Best Documentary Short at the Official Latino Film Festival and her short documentary LA TIENDA (2020) aired on PBS as part of THE LATINO EXPERIENCE. She was selected for the 2021 Eastern Oregon Filmmaker Residency and most recently, received the 2023 Tell Your Story Oregon Creative Foundation Grant to develop a feature script based off of her short film CHISPA which will premiere at festivals in 2024. Ripper is on the directors roster at Maverick.

 

Ezra Rose

Ezra Rose (they/them) is a filmmaker living on Lenape land/New York City. Born in Norfolk, England, Rose began their career in entertainment playing disgruntled children on television. As a director, they focus on stories of queer and trans community histories, experiences of disability and historically suppressed voices. They have directed several short films including CLOWN TITS, an experimental meditation on dysphoria told through drag, dance and queer history, and are currently working on a documentary project, PAPER TIES, about the radical history of community-generated transgender publications. Rose is a Winter Guest Resident at Woodward Residency in Ridgewood, Queens.

 

 

This year’s AFI DWW+ program is generously supported by Paramount Pictures, The Golden Globe Foundation, NBCUniversal, The Walt Disney Studios and Participant. Additional support comes from the Lewis Greenwood Foundation, Jean Picker Firstenberg Endowment, The Nancy Malone Endowment, The Bob and Dolores Hope Charitable Foundation, and other individual supporters committed to providing opportunities for historically underrepresented voices in the media arts.

AFI DWW+ is part of the AFI Conservatory’s Department of Innovative Programs, which also includes the Cinematography Intensive for Women. Through a range of learning opportunities, Innovative Programs serves a diverse community of aspiring visual storytellers to cultivate cutting-edge technological and media-making skills, bridge access to professional networks and place participants on an upward career trajectory. Read more about Innovative Programs on AFI.com 

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 AFI.com and follow us on social media at Facebook.com/AmericanFilmInstitute, YouTube.com/AFI, Twitter.com/AmericanFilm and Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

 

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.

 

Press contact:

American Film Institute

Shari Mesulam, [email protected]

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