Lifetime and the AFI Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women are working together to solve what has been a decades long issue, a lack of gender diversity in filmmaking. The two companies are working together next year to create and offer production jobs for each graduate of the Institute’s acclaimed program throughout the A+E Networks’ portfolio of platforms.

The AFI DWW is a workshop that has for over 40 years, committed to increasing the number of women working professionally in screen directing. As part of Lifetime’s Broad Focus initiative dedicated to cultivating and supporting women behind the camera, the alliance with AFI symbolizes the network’s commitment to make significant changes for women in the media industry. The goal of the program is to align the skills and career aspirations of each woman with an opportunity that begins to build for them solid industry experience to help launch their professional careers.

Sarah Gertrude Shapiro’s success as a result of her experience within the AFI DWW provides the backdrop and the inspiration behind the alliance. Her short film, Sequin Raze, was a product of her time at AFI and the driver for Lifetime to pilot and green light the hit drama UnREAL, the network’s most critically-acclaimed scripted series ever.

In addition to Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, AFI DWW alumnae and their projects created during the program have received many accolades this year. Pippa Bianco (AFI DWW, Class of 2014) was awarded the Cinéfondation First Prize at the 2015 Cannes International Film Festival for her AFI DWW short film SHARE. Sian Heder’s (AFI DWW, Class of 2005) first feature film TALLULAH, based on her AFI DWW short MOTHER (also a Cannes Cinéfondation winner), will premiere in dramatic competition at the Sundance Film Festival in 2016.

“To address what seems like an endless cycle of gender inequity in media, I believe we need to think beyond what our industry has already tried to do through mentorships and internships. We need to stop talking and start moving the needle, and one solution is to simply give women jobs. Our unprecedented alliance with the AFI Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women is just a first step and I and hope it will inspire others to join our charge,” stated Nancy Dubuc, President and CEO, A+E Networks.

“AFI has been a proud force in training female directors for more than four decades,” said Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO. “Our graduates to date have seen great success and made great strides for women in the community, and we are honored to join with A+E Networks’ Lifetime in furthering the careers of the next generation of great storytellers — in a world that needs them now more than ever.”

Since announcing the Broad Focus initiative, this year to date, 42% of Lifetime’s original movie directors have been women, accounting for the top five movies on the network in Total Viewers, Adults 25-54 and Women 25-54. Lifetime movies directed by women also account for three of the top five original movies in ad-supported cable with Adults 25-54, Women 25-54, Adults 18-49 and Women 18-49.