The American Film Institute is a dream job for many MFA students.

Recently, that dream came true for four Stephens College Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in TV + Screenwriting candidates who learned that they have earned a career-shaping opportunity. 

Alyce HyderSally Herndon, and Micky Small were offered remote summer internships with the American Film Institute (AFI), which is based in Los Angeles. Another Stephens MFA candidate, Elise Cumberland, has earned a fall internship with AFI as well.

The students will be working on the prestigious gender parity initiative highlighting women’s early film industry involvement. As research interns, they will learn how to historically research and catalog women's participation in the world’s most authoritative and comprehensive database of American film.


Stephens College MFA + AFI

This incredible opportunity with the film institute began a few years ago when then-MFA candidate Tara Lynn Diveley Watts reached out to AFI Catalog Manager Sarah Clothier for assistance with her first-year research studies on writer Betty Burbridge.

"Through correspondence, I learned [Clothier's] department was looking for interns to assist with the Women They Talk About project. I was offered the internship," Watts recalls. "I couldn't believe it. At the time, I was about to embark on a journey with one of the most prestigious institutions."

Watts, who graduated with her MFA in 2021, was well-prepared for the internship. "I devoured each minute while researching silent films from 1916-1919," she says. "I asked as many questions as I could and spent every waking hour digging through film history to help Sarah and her team of historians/writers."

She did such a great job during her time in the position that Clothier wanted to work with more Stephens students. 

Executive Director of the Stephens College MFA in TV + Screenwriting program Dr. Rosanne Welch attributes the continued opportunities with AFI at least in part to Watt's initial success. "It’s the quality of Tara's work that had the AFI director ask me to send more of our MFA candidates their way," Welch said. "Because they had such a positive first experience with a Stephens MFA-er, that established a rapport and symbiotic working relationship and gave our program instant credibility with AFI."

This year's AFI interns can expect to receive training regarding the ongoing preservation of American films and to get hands-on experience while contributing to a high-profile, federally funded inclusion initiative. 

“The AFI Catalog has been truly honored to have hosted some great interns from Stephens over the years, and we hope to continue our relationship with Dr. Welch’s MFA students into the future," said Clothier. "Our programs are mission-aligned to study the widely forgotten women pioneers of the film industry, and to bring their names and work into the historical canon for posterity, once and for all."

The internship opportunity is mutually beneficial. Watts concludes, "If it wasn't for the research and Rosanne opening our eyes to the women before us, I wouldn't have stumbled upon one of the best experiences of my life. I wish I could go back and relive my time with Stephens and AFI, because I'd do it all over again."


About AFI

The American Film Institute is a nonprofit dedicated to celebrating excellence in the art form and to creating national education initiatives that inspire artists and audiences alike.


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