Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids are All Right) opened Monday's AFI showcase at the DGA Theatre and soon had the audience laughing with the tales of serving as an assistant at AFI in the early 90s. She claimed she was totally inept at her job, but used the opportunity to thoroughly study the resumes and proposals of all the applicants to the DWW to learn how to “present” herself, Having learned her lessons well, she got into Columbia where she earned her MFA and was off and running.
Cholodenko might not officially be an alumni of DWW, but those who are include Randa Haines (Children of a Lesser God) Victoria Hochberg (Bad Boy) and Lesli Linka Glatter (Now and Then and many television programs, including Mad Men). DWW has been operational for over thirty years, providing a tuition free program to a select number of women. They have three weeks of classes, five days of shooting (no pick ups allowed) another month to lock and a few months after that to turn in their finished product.
This year’s graduates – Amy French (Hold for Laughs), Jennifer Glynn (Smorgasbord), Rachel Goldberg (Neighbors), Kimberly McCullough (Nice Guys Finish Last), Lisa Robertson (Commerce), Courtney Rowe (Sunnyview) Tina Salmassi (Tumbling) and Velvet Andrews Smith (Ripple Effect), were all in the audience for their screenings, along with friends, AFI staff, agents and studio reps. Six of the short films had female protagonists – a change of pace to say the least – and all boggled the mind that they were shot in five days.
There was so much talent on the screen, yet one cannot help but be reminded that according to the Celluloid Ceiling, the report turned out each year by the remarkable Martha Lauzen and her Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film in San Diego, for the past two years, only 7 percent of the top 250 films were directed by women. I hate to think what the percentage would be without AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women.
[AFI Photo from left to right: Jennifer Glynn, Courtney Rowe, Kimberly McCullough, Rachel Goldberg, Amy French, Lisa Cholodenko, Tina Salmassi, Lisa Robertson and Velvet Andrews Smith.]