Warner Bros Television Group on Tuesday revealed the 12 directors selected for the 2020 Warner Bros Television Directors’ Workshop, which will be held virtually this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The redesigned program has been condensed into two weeks (from the usual nine) of online learning, with lectures led by co-teachers Bethany Rooney and Mary Lou Belli along with various showrunners, directors, cinematographers and editors. The practical directing work normally done on Warners’ sets will now be done using co-habitating actors, with the directors work with them remotely.
The program launched in 2013 with the aim to directors from other creative fields for the transition to TV, and to spur equity and inclusion by providing opportunities for female helmers and those from underrepresented groups. It has seen 100% of the graduates from the past four classes go on to direct episodes of Warner Bros–produced series. Alums include Pamela Romanowsky, Marcus Stokes, Jennifer Phang, Alexis Ostrander, David Rodriguez, Sherwin Shilati, Michael Goi, Antonio Negret, Jude Weng and Jaffar Mahmood.
Here’s the roster for this year’s program, which was culled from more than 500 applicants and begins this week:
Born and raised in Tel-Aviv, Israel, writer/director Omer Ben-Shachar won a 2019 Student Academy Award for his short film “Tree #3.” The film also won Urbanworld’s Best Young Creator Award, the Palm Springs ShortFest’s Audience Award, and AFI’s Richard P. Rogers Spirit of Excellence Award, among other accolades. An AFI Conservatory alum, Omer is currently part of the 2019–20 Viacom Viewfinder Emerging Directors Program and is a BAFTA LA Newcomers Program participant. He was named to Forbes Israel’s 30 Under 30 list in 2020.
Born in Vietnam, Auden Bui is a Directors Guild of America Award–winning writer/director. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from UC Berkeley before pursuing her Master of Fine Arts at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. Her graduate film, “The Lost City of Tomorrow,” was the recipient of many awards, including the DGA Student Film Award. An avid seeker of unfamiliar adventures, she has been to seven continents (Antarctica twice) and has a life goal of visiting every country before the age of 40.
Meredith Danluck began her career as an artist working in film and video. Her work has exhibited at festivals and institutions such as MoMA, PS1, Venice Biennale, the Toronto International Film Festival, South by Southwest, Tribeca, and Sundance. She participated in the 2013 Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Labs for her first narrative feature, “State Like Sleep,” starring Michael Shannon and Katherine Waterston. She has worked on tour visuals for John Legend, Jay-Z and Beyonce, and served as an executive producer and director for Vice Media. She is currently developing her next narrative feature with the production company Sight Unseen.
Born on the Texas-Mexico border, Melissa Hickey is a writer/director with a Master’s in Directing from the AFI Conservatory. Her short film “Ni-Ni” premiered at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival and won a DGA Student Film Award for Female Director, the Imagen Foundation Award for Best Short Film, and AFI’s Richard P. Rodgers Spirit of Excellence Award. She is an inaugural member of Ryan Murphy’s Half Initiative, a fellow of the Sony Diverse Directors Program, an Academy Nicholl’s Semifinalist, and a Sundance Screenwriters Intensive fellow.
Tiffanie Hsu is a writer/director whose work has played at Sundance, Cannes, HBO, and Netflix. She was selected as an HBO Visionary for her short film “Wonderland,” and is developing the feature adaptation in both the Sundance and Film Independent Screenwriting Labs. She is an alumna of UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television; AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women; and Sony’s Diverse Directors Program. She grew up in Wisconsin, Taiwan, and Southern California, and got her start directing stop-motion animation and location-specific Shakespeare.
Marie Jamora was the first Filipinx director accepted into AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women in 2020. Her short film “Flip the Record” won the Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Short at Urbanworld, and her first feature, “What Isn’t There,” premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival. She is the executive producer and director of “Family Style,” an Asian food and pop culture series from Justin Lin’s YOMYOMF channel and Warner Bros.’ Stage 13. She was recently named one of the Five Visionary Asian-American Female Filmmakers in KORE magazine’s New Hollywood issue.
An alum of the Sony Diverse Directors Program, Tahir Jetter’s feature film “How to Tell You’re a Douchebag” and his short film “Close” both premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. He is currently developing several projects for film and television.
Anna Kerrigan’s films and web series have premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, won awards at Outfest and the Tribeca Film Festival, and been nominated for a Gotham Award. She has written and directed short films for Funny Or Die, Amazon, and Refinery 29, and is a Film Independent and Sundance Fellow. Indiewire recently featured Kerrigan as one of 20 exciting female filmmakers to watch, pointing to her new feature “Cowboys,” starring Steve Zahn, Jillian Bell and Ann Dowd.
New Orleans native Stacey Muhammad was one of 13 helmers chosen by the Directors Guild of America for its inaugural Commercial Directors Diversity Program. Her recent directing work includes an episode from the fourth season of Warner Horizon Scripted Television’s “Queen Sugar” for OWN, and commercials for the Ad Council/AARP. She’s currently working on her first feature, “The Return,” and been attached to direct a reimagining of the 1932 film “White Zombie.”
Yoko Okumura most recently directed and co-wrote the story for the ‘Ball of Twine’ episodes of Quibi’s Sam Raimi horror anthology “50 States of Fright,” starring Ming-Na Wen (“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D”) and Karen Allen (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”). She is an alum of the Ryan Murphy Half Initiative, The FOX Directing Program, and the Sundance Women in Film Financing Intensive. Yoko graduated from both the CalArts school of Film/Video and the AFI Directing Program.
Solomon Onita Jr.
Solomon Onita’s films have garnered global acclaim. He recently completed his debut feature film “Tazmanian Devil,” and also wrote and directed the short film “Joy,” which addresses the critical subject of female genital mutilation around the world. “Joy” has screened at more than 60 film festivals, was a finalist in the HBO Short Film Competition, and was subsequently distributed on all of HBO’s platforms.
Leena Pendharkar is an award-winning writer/director. Her sophomore film, “20 Weeks,” premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival and was released on Hulu and in theaters in 2018. She has also directed numerous short films, including the recent “Awaken,” starring Parminder Nagra, which is traveling the festival circuit. She is also currently in the CBS Diverse Directors program.
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