Tessa Blake Named as First-Ever
Director of Nancy Malone Women’s Initiatives

Photo credit: Tessa Blake

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — November 28, 2017, Los Angeles, CA — Today, the American Film Institute (AFI) announced a donation of $500,000 from the estate of director, producer, actor and philanthropist Nancy Malone to advocate for the advancement and employment of women from the AFI Conservatory and the AFI Directing Workshop for Women (DWW).  As an alumna of DWW, Malone’s generosity will fund the newly created Nancy Malone Initiatives for Women Filmmakers.

The Initiative enables the creation of a new position at the AFI Conservatory — the Director of Nancy Malone Women’s Initiatives — an executive-level role that will grow greater opportunities within the creative community for female filmmakers from AFI.  The Initiative also creates the Nancy Malone Symposium, which will be held annually at AFI FEST presented by Audi beginning in 2018, gathering a coalition of the creative community’s leaders to further advance women in the filmmaking profession.

Director/writer Tessa Blake (AFI DWW, Class of 2015) has been named the inaugural Director of Nancy Malone Women’s Initiatives.  For the past two years, Blake led the DWW, where she created alliances with innovative industry programs designed to strengthen the pipeline of Conservatory graduates and DWW participants to employment.  Among the initiatives are the Universal Pictures Directors Intensive, AFI and Fox Filmmakers Lab, Google as well as Lifetime’s Broad Focus.  Now taking on a larger role at the AFI Conservatory, Blake will create programs that help Conservatory and DWW alumnae find employment.

“It was Nancy’s lifelong wish that women storytellers be heard,” said producer/writer Linda Hope of the Nancy Malone estate and the Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation.  “The Nancy Malone Initiatives for Women Filmmakers ensure that her wish is realized.”

“Nancy Malone remains an enduring inspiration at the American Film Institute,” said Bob Gazzale, AFI President & CEO.  “This peerless gift in support of women storytellers will help to ensure America’s art form echoes with equality for future generations.”

About the AFI Conservatory and the AFI Directing Workshop for Women (DWW)
The AFI Conservatory offers a two-year Master of Fine Arts degree in six filmmaking disciplines: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design and Screenwriting. Aspiring artists learn from the masters in a collaborative, hands-on production environment with an emphasis on storytelling. AFI Conservatory alumni have been consistently recognized with all of the major industry awards — Academy Awards®, Emmy® Awards and guild awards — as well as Tony Awards® and Grammy Awards®. Esteemed director, producer and screenwriter James L. Brooks serves as Artistic Director of the AFI Conservatory, providing creative leadership for the elite film program. Proud supporters of the AFI Conservatory are American Airlines, the official airline of AFI; and VIZIO, the official home theater sponsor of AFI.

The AFI Directing Workshop for Women (DWW) is a hands-on training program committed to increasing the number of women working professionally in screen directing. DWW is open to women with three years or more of professional experience in the arts. Each participant is required to complete a short film or series by the end of the program. Though the program is tuition-free, participants are responsible for raising the funds for their projects.

About the American Film Institute
Celebrating its golden milestone, the American Film Institute began its mission on June 5, 1967 — to preserve the heritage of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers.  Established by Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidential mandate in the White House Rose Garden, AFI is America’s promise to educate today’s audiences and tomorrow’s artists.  The Institute was anchored by a foundation of luminaries from the film community including Gregory Peck as Chair, Sidney Poitier as Vice Chair, George Stevens, Jr., as Director and CEO with board members Francis Ford Coppola, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and Jack Valenti.

In 1969, AFI opened the Center for Advanced Film Studies, now called the AFI Conservatory, an elite MFA program whose inaugural class included Terrence Malick, Caleb Deschanel and Paul Schrader.  The program’s acclaimed film and television alumni include Andrea Arnold, Darren Aronofsky, Julie Dash, Patty Jenkins, Janusz Kamiński, David Lynch and Robert Richardson, among others.

In addition to the AFI Conservatory, AFI programs include the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and the AFI Archive, which preserve film heritage for future generations; the AFI Life Achievement Award, the highest honor for a career in film; AFI AWARDS, honoring the most outstanding movies and TV series of the year; AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies television events and movie reference lists, which have introduced and reintroduced classic American movies to millions of film lovers; year-round and special event exhibition through AFI FEST presented by Audi, AFI DOCS and the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center.  For more information about AFI, visit or connect with AFI at,, and


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