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AFI 2020 Writers’ Room Ready Awards


Program Pairs Winners with Industry Mentors


The American Film Institute (AFI) announced today the recipients of the 2020 Writers’ Room Ready Awards, which recognizes outstanding work by AFI Conservatory Screenwriting Fellows. The 2020 winners are: Haley Bartels, Christina Kingsleigh Licud, Kenda Greenwood Moran and Alessandro Pederzoli.


The selected recipients will be paired with mentors, giving them an opportunity to work directly with established artists. The mentors for 2020 include: LaToya Morgan (THE WALKING DEAD, INTO THE BADLANDS, PARENTHOOD and SHAMELESS), Andy Siara (LODGE 49, PALM SPRINGS), Christina Strain (THE MAGICIANS, FINDING OHANA) and Sheila Wilson (WARRIOR NUN). Siara, Strain and Wilson won the award during their time at the Conservatory and are now well-established in their own careers. The program was originally conceived by Andrew Hu (AFI Class of 2015), who wanted to recognize the great television writing being done by Screenwriting Fellows. Currently, 75% of the winners of the Writers’ Room Ready Award are staffed on shows.


“Beyond being a world-class training ground for filmmakers, AFI Conservatory also has a world-class network of industry professionals who always search for ways to lift up other alumni and newly graduated Fellows,” said Susan Ruskin, Dean of the AFI Conservatory and EVP of the American Film Institute. “This year’s award winners and mentors embody the skill, talent and groundbreaking artistry that AFI alumni are known for.”



LaToya Morgan (AFI Class of 2005) is a film and TV writer who has written and produced for shows including THE WALKING DEAD, INTO THE BADLANDS, TURN: WASHINGTON'S SPIES, PARENTHOOD and SHAMELESS. She spearheaded the creation of AMC's Inclusion Initiative and recently was a writing and producing advisor for the Sundance Institute's Episodic Lab.


Christina Strain (AFI Class of 2015) is a TV and feature writer, best known for her work on THE MAGICIANS. Her feature FINDING OHANA (directed by Jude Weng, starring Kelly Hu) is currently in post-production for Netflix and will be released in May.


Andy Siara (AFI Class of 2015) is a TV and feature writer, with credits on LODGE 49 and ANGELYNE (now in pre-production). His first feature, PALM SPRINGS, broke the record for the highest sale at the Sundance Film Festival – beating the previous record by 69 cents. The film stars Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti and was acquired by Neon and Hulu.


Sheila Wilson (AFI Class of 2017) has written on shows yet-to-be-announced for Netflix, Hulu and Marvel Entertainment. Most recently, she worked on Season 1 of the upcoming Netflix drama WARRIOR NUN.



24K (Half-hour comedy) – Written by Christina Kingsleigh Licud

After her childish parents split, a slacker half-Filipino teen at a predominantly Black high school must step up as mom to provide for her precocious little sister. When she learns that the highly competitive majorette squad is offering a full-ride college scholarship, she plots to earn a spot on the team. But her nemesis, the team captain, will do anything to stop her.


BARBARY (One-hour drama) – Written by Haley Bartels

San Francisco, 1896. When a shy postmortem photographer and a brazen actress-cum-mortician’s assistant are led to a grisly murder scene staged just for them, they must brave the city’s lawless Barbary Coast  – a viper’s nest of corrupt politicians, Chinese tongs, and dangerous brothels – to unravel a series of killings that hit increasingly close to home.


NARCOBRUJA (One-hour drama) – Written by Alessandro Pederzoli

The wife of a drug lord is left for dead after a rival cartel brutally murders her family. Found and cared for by an indigenous Witch, she learns Pre-Hispanic black magic and vows to take revenge against those that killed her family.


TAMMANY (One-hour drama) – Written by Kenda Greenwood Moran

New York City, 1868. A tenacious Irish Immigrant, desperate to protect and provide for her rebellious teenage sister, disguises herself as a man to get a job at the notoriously corrupt political organization Tammany Hall.



About the AFI Conservatory 

The AFI Conservatory opened its doors in 1969 to an inaugural class that included Terrence Malick, Caleb Deschanel and Paul Schrader. Today, the Conservatory offers a two-year MFA degree in six filmmaking disciplines: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design and Screenwriting. In a collaborative production environment, AFI Fellows learn to master the art of storytelling, collectively creating up to 175 films a year. Fellows actively participate in the entire life cycle of a film, from development through production and exhibition.


Alumni of this elite program, ranging from modern masters to bold new voices defining the state of the art form, include Andrea Arnold, Darren Aronofsky, Ari Aster, Sam Esmail, Brad Falchuk, Liz Hannah, Patty Jenkins, Janusz Kamiński, Matthew Libatique, David Lynch, Melina Matsoukas, Polly Morgan, Rachel Morrison and Wally Pfister, among others.


About the American Film Institute (AFI)
Established in 1967, the American Film Institute is the nation’s non-profit organization dedicated to educating and inspiring artists and audiences through initiatives that champion the past, present and future of the moving image. AFI’s pioneering programs include filmmaker training at the AFI Conservatory; year-round exhibition at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center and at AFI Festivals across the nation; workshops aimed at increasing diversity in the storytelling community; honoring today’s masters through the AFI Life Achievement Award and AFI AWARDS; and scholarly efforts such as the AFI Catalog of Feature Films that uphold film history for future generations. Read about all of these programs and more at and follow us on social media
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