The Program

The AFI Directing Workshop for Women (DWW) is the longest-running program dedicated to supporting women and gender nonbinary narrative directors.

Committed to providing opportunities for marginalized genders, DWW annually mentors eight filmmakers through the production cycle of a short film, providing hands-on instruction with classes led by industry experts. All completed projects will be showcased the following year.

Short film filmmakers will work towards completing a short narrative project with the intended outcome of playing at film festivals and acquiring distribution deals. Episodic filmmakers will work towards completing a digital series pilot or proof-of-concept to premiere online.


OCTOBER-NOVEMBER Interviews: Potential participants go through two rounds of interviews.
DECEMBER Notification: Participants are notified of their acceptance.
JANUARY–APRIL Screenplay & Fundraising Mentorship: Over the course of two long weekends, participants come to the AFI Campus in Los Angeles. This series of mini-workshops includes a thorough orientation of the program, development of the screenplays and classes on fundraising. Participants must complete fundraising by the start of the May Workshop Intensive.
MAY Workshop Intensive: Full-time classes and instruction. Evenings and weekends will be required. Classes include all topics related to directing and visual storytelling — from lectures to hands-on exercises with actors and cameras.
JUNE Pre-Production: Participants have approximately five weeks from the end of the May workshop until the first production begins shooting.
JULY Production: Participants have five days to shoot their short film or digital pilot. AFI provides grip, electric and camera packages.
AUGUST Editorial: Projects must lock picture within 45 days. AFI’s editing facilities are available for the participant’s use. All final projects are capped at 15 minutes, including credits.
SEPTEMBER–DECEMBER Post-Production: Participants work to finish their films with AFI staff guidance and following a list of assigned deliverables. Once fully delivered, each participant can premiere her film on campus and will be eligible to participate in the annual DWW Showcase.
FEBRUARY Industry Workshop Weekend: Participants return to the classroom for a final long weekend of instruction designed to help them make the most of their completed projects. Class topics cover all aspects of the industry and career-building.
MARCH Showcase: Eligible participants’ work is screened in an annual Showcase for agents, managers, producers and executives in Los Angeles.

Participants become AFI Conservatory Alumnae and enjoy all benefits therein.


The DWW is deeply committed to providing an equitable, safe space for all its participants. We seek out a diverse range of filmmakers and past classes have reflected this goal. As a result, participants will be in close collaboration with filmmakers from very different backgrounds. All filmmakers are required to sign the DWW Code of Conduct and contribute positively to our community.


The DWW is first and foremost an educational program. Participants must come ready to learn, accept feedback, and take instruction. The DWW is founded on the belief that all directors can improve and that doing so is an essential part of closing the gender parity gap in film.

The workshop includes both classroom instruction and hands-on education in the art and craft of visual storytelling. The workshop is a full-time commitment, including weekends and evenings.

The workshop is taught by film and television professionals working at top levels within the industry, as well as experienced faculty from the AFI Conservatory. Past DWW faculty can be found here.

Both short film and episodic participants will take the same classes, learning the foundations of filmmaking as well as skills specific to the other’s specialization (ex: Running a Television Show, Film Festivals & Distribution).

Along with the workshop in May, it is crucial that participants are available to participate in two long weekends, the first of which will take place in January 2020. (Exact dates are TBD.)

Classroom attendance during the workshop is mandatory and critical to participants’ success. No exceptions are made.

Participants are required to raise their complete budgets by the first day of the May Workshop.


Participants enter the program with a short script. The scripts are expected to grow and be revised throughout the workshop with the constructive engagement of peers, faculty and mentors — but the final creative decisions will always stay with the participant.

Participants are not required to have written their own material. But they do need to have ongoing access to their writers or co-writers, as scripts will evolve through the workshop process.

Submitted scripts must follow the industry standard for formatting: Courier font, 12pt type, standard margins. All scripts have a limit of 17 pages.

Episodic projects should be either the first one to two episodes of a short digital series or a short film intended to represent and support a future television show pitch. Episodic projects should not be a television pilot cut down to 20 pages. The production constraints of the program do not support a television pilot shoot.

If your script has been co-written or written by an outside writer, the writer must sign a literary release, which is submitted with your application.

If your script is based on existing material, the rights holder must sign the underlying rights agreement.


Equipment pick-up and drop-off times are specified. Participants are responsible for damaged and missing equipment. AFI provides limited insurance and requires shooting/location permits, in compliance with AFI SAG-AFTRA agreements and other production paperwork.

Because the DWW is designed to prepare participants for professional success, all projects must be produced within the parameters of AFI policies. Complete production details will be explained to participants during the orientations and throughout the workshop.

DWW participants will direct a short narrative project. AFI does not provide crew for these projects and the full responsibility for production will lie with the participant. However, there are many opportunities for participants to meet AFI Fellows — the graduate film students of the AFI Conservatory — who have completed films within similar parameters and who offer a rich resource for participants looking to fulfill their crew needs.

Production will take place in the Los Angeles area (within the 30-mile studio zone) during the month of July. Productions will be scheduled within a very strict time frame. Participants will have the opportunity to select production dates from a list of available times in advance. Production is then permitted only during the specific dates assigned to each project.

Editing must be completed within 45 days of shoot wrap. Although participants are given access to AFI editing facilities, participants may also choose to edit at an outside facility. Outside editing facilities must be approved in advance. Schedules are strictly monitored and all participants are required to screen cuts of their film for evaluation of progress. Some areas of post-production, such as mixing, will need to be done outside AFI at the production’s expense.

Final projects must be no longer than 15 minutes, including credits.

Participants are not allowed to act in, shoot or edit their films.

AFI owns the copyright to the projects produced within DWW, but not to the underlying rights of the project. The participants are able to develop the projects into other formats beyond DWW including but not limited to feature films, television series or digital projects.


The DWW is a tuition-free program, but participants must have the financial means to dedicate full-time concentration to the workshop and the production of their films. This will preclude participants’ ability to work full-time for approximately four months (May–August) when the DWW project has reached picture lock.

Participants may raise up to $40,000 in support of their productions. We highly recommend participants raise at least $25,000. All participants must be fully funded by the beginning of the workshop in May. Funds raised for an individual production are considered a donation to the American Film Institute, and a letter regarding the donation to a non-profit arts organization will be provided to each donor.

Many of our participants reach their funding goals through a combination of crowdfunding, matching grants, and individual donations. The DWW provides classes on fundraising in January and has an exclusive crowdfunding relationship with Seed & Spark. Through them, we offer personal mentorship throughout the crowdfunding process.

We welcome participants from outside the Los Angeles area but AFI does not provide housing or transportation to participants.

Lunch is provided during the workshop.