BURBANK, Calif. — Warner Bros. Television Group today announced the 12 emerging directors who have been selected (out of more than 500 applicants) to participate in the 2020 edition of the Warner Bros. Television Directors’ Workshop, and unveiled plans for a virtual instructional program due to the COVID-19 production shutdown. Established in 2013, the WBTV Directors’ Workshop aims to discover new and innovative talent, to prepare directors from other creative fields (motion pictures, commercials, music videos, shortform content, etc.) for the transition to television, and to spur equity and inclusion by providing increased opportunities for female helmers and those from underrepresented groups. Since its founding, the Directors’ Workshop has helped to launch or further the TV directing careers of more than 50 women and/or people of color, and 100% of the graduates from the last four Workshop classes have directed episodes of Warner Bros.–produced television series.
Taught by esteemed directors Bethany Rooney and Mary Lou Belli, who have collectively helmed more than 300 episodes of network television, the WBTVG Directors’ Workshop course traditionally meets for nine weeks of master classes that feature guest speakers currently working in television. Due to COVID-19, the Workshop has made several modifications to the 2020 program which begins this week:
- The typical nine weekly sessions will be condensed into two weeks of intensive online learning for 2020.
- Lecture-based discussions will be led by Rooney, Belli and an eclectic mix of showrunners, directors, cinematographers and editors who will teach the participants a new skill essential for excelling in pre-production, on-set shooting, and post-production.
- For the practical directing work with actors which normally takes place on a Warner Bros. set, this year’s program will cast cohabitating actors who will use their homes as sets, and the directors will work with them remotely via Zoom and other technology.
The following talented artists comprise the Class of 2020:
- Omer Ben-Shachar: 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.
- Auden Bui: 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 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: 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.
- Melissa Hickey: 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 Diversity 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: 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: 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.
- Tahir Jetter: 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: 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.
- Stacey Muhammad: 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: 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: 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.
The Class of 2020 joins an esteemed group of prior Directors’ Workshop graduates that includes Pamela Romanowsky (“Riverdale,” “Katy Keene,” “Prodigal Son”), Marcus Stokes (“The Flash,” “Station 19,” “9-1-1”), Jennifer Phang (“Riverdale,” “The Boys,” “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Cloak & Dagger,” “DC’s Stargirl”), Alexis Ostrander (“Riverdale,” “American Horror Story,” “Supergirl,” “Servant”), David Rodriguez (“Animal Kingdom,” “The Chi,” “Queen of the South”), Sherwin Shilati (“Lucifer,” “Riverdale,” “Manifest”), Michael Goi (“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” “Riverdale,” “American Horror Story”), Antonio Negret (“Prodigal Son,” “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” “The 100”), Jude Weng (“Fresh Off the Boat,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “The Good Place,” “Young Sheldon”), and Jaffar Mahmood (“Young Sheldon,” “Brooklyn 99,” “Superstore”), among many others.
In addition to the Directors’ Workshop, WBTVG operates the annual Television Writers’ Workshop, which has been the premier program for aspiring TV writers for more than 40 years. Janine Sherman Barrois (“Claws,” “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam CJ Walker”), Felicia D. Henderson (“Gossip Girl,” “Fringe,” “Soul Food”), Joe Henderson (“Lucifer”), Michael Narducci (“The Originals,” “The Vampire Diaries”), Heather Mitchell (“Scandal,” “Grey’s Anatomy”) and LaToya Morgan (“Shameless,” “The Walking Dead,” upcoming “Duster”) are but a few of the many successful alumni of this pioneering program.
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