Stephen Lighthill, ASC Helps AFI Launch Cinematography Introductory Intensive For Women

The AFI Conservatory Cinematography Discipline Head and Tessa Blake, Director of Nancy Malone Inclusion Initiatives at AFI, organize a tuition-free workshop for aspiring female cinematographers

David E. Williams

On August 3-6, the American Film Institute (AFI) conducted a tuition-free workshop for aspiring female cinematographers. This first-ever Cinematography Introductory Intensive for Women (CIIW) was sponsored by 21st Century Fox Global Inclusion and took place in Los Angeles, initiating women who are interested in cinematography, but lack experience, into the fundamentals of visual storytelling.  

Staffed by the world-class AFI Cinematography faculty and master-level guests, the program introduced participants to the career potential of cinematography — with production workshops, discussions, screenings of the work of pioneering female cinematographers and more.  

The workshop encouraged participants to continue their studies and become a working professional in the field, with the goal of increasing the number of women working in cinematography.  

A complete breakdown on the participating students can be found here.

Stephen Lighthill, ASC

Organizers included AFI Conservatory Cinematography Discipline Head Stephen Lighthill, ASC and Tessa Blake, Director of Nancy Malone Inclusion Initiatives at AFI. 

“Less than four percent of film and television programs have a female cinematographer. Even in an industry rife with gender discrimination, the lack of parity is striking,” said Lighthill, a past president of the ASC. “The AFI Conservatory Cinematography program has been a leader in the field — and by piloting a program that supports female cinematographers as they begin their exploration of the field, Fox and AFI will give diverse and deserving DPs greater opportunity to enter the industry.”

Additionally, Fox will host between 10 and 15 recently graduated female cinematographers from the AFI Conservatory for a Behind the Studio Curtain Intensive. Over the course of two days, Fox will provide a rigorous curriculum to help demystify the hiring process. Participants will meet with departments responsible for recommending and approving cinematographers in film and television; they will see a studio film and/or Fox series in process; and they have the opportunity to hear from fellow cinematographers working at Fox for career guidance.  

Applications for this program — open exclusively to AFI Cinematography alumnae — opened in August of 2018.

Lighthill confers with two of the class participants.

The AFI Conservatory Cinematography program has propelled female cinematographers to great success, including trailblazer Rachel Morrison, ASC — the first woman ever nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography and the first to shoot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Black Panther as well as Ava Berkofsky (Insecure); Uta Briesewitz, ASC (Stranger Things, as director); Carolina Costa (The Chosen Ones); Autumn Durald (Palo Alto); Mimi Leder (The Leftovers, as director); Polly Morgan, ASC, BSC (Legion); Cynthia Pusheck, ASC (Sacred Lies); Amy Vincent, ASC (Wayward Pines); and Lisa Wiegand, ASC (Law & Order True Crime); among others.

Of note, Morgan was one of the instructors during the CIIS, while Natasha Braier, ASC, ADF (though not an AFI alumni) participated by screening her film The Neon Demon for the class.

Lighthill was recently honored by the ASC with its President's Award, in part for his exceptional work as an educator.

Below is a gallery of stills from the inaugural CIIW:

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