The Time Warner Foundation has presented the American Film Institute (AFI) with a grant to fund five Time Warner Foundation Fellowships to the AFI Conservatory. These are full-tuition awards intended for applicants from communities traditionally under-represented in the film and television industries. 

Aspiring artists accepted into the AFI Conservatory are mentored by film and television professionals in a hands-on environment. The program places a strong emphasis on storytelling and personal expression, and classes are designed to mirror a real production environment.

The first Time Warner Foundation Fellowship was awarded to Adriana González-Vega (left), currently a first-year Directing Fellow at the AFI Conservatory.

Adriana discovered her passion for filmmaking by way of theater. During a high school acting workshop, she was drawn to the relationship between a director and an actor. “It was my first time taking acting classes. I was very interested in this idea of creating a character with an actor,” says Adriana. “Making it come alive with the different choices that the actor will have or will make in order to make this character unique.” Adriana favored working with the actors on character development over performing herself, and became interested in directing. She would go on to attend Syracuse University to study filmmaking.

During her undergrad years, Adriana was one of nine students chosen for a study abroad program at the Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts in the Czech Republic. Excited to be working with 35 mm film for the first time, Adriana and two classmates shot a short film about a teenage male who becomes obsessed with his neighbor, an older woman.  After graduating, Adriana embarked on an impressive film and entertainment career, which included Mandalay Entertainment Group, the sitcom Rules of Engagement,  and the film Fast and Furious: Fast Five. Her thesis film, Frente al Mar (Oceanfront), is based on a true event about a poor fishing family living on the coast of Puerto Rico in 1980, struggling to defend their home against an eviction order. The film won the Renée Crown University Honors' Orlin Prize, Best Student Film at Carmel Art and Film Festival and was an official selection at the Montreal World Film Festival. Adriana draws inspiration from a wide range of filmmakers, such as Luis Buñuel, Satyajit Ray, Sally Potter, Alfred Hitchcock and Pedro Almodóvar. “Pedro Almodóvar has always been one of my favorite filmmakers…The stories that he tells are usually about marginalized people; stories (and) characters that we really haven’t seen in movies, at least not in the mainstream cinema. He has influenced my work in that regard.”

Today, Adriana is focused on the projects she’s working on for her AFI Conservatory program, as well as polishing her skills as a director. “(I’m) learning the techniques and the tools that every great director knows how to use…and making sure that I’m telling stories that are more focused, and in an effective way.” She’s also editing her film, Junito, based on a story with the same name from the book Mundo Cruel: Stories by Puerto Rican author Luis Negrón. The film follows the struggle of José, a father who believes his son may be gay. After witnessing the mistreatment his neighbor, Junito, receives from their community for being gay, José feels he must decide whether to continue living in a conservative society or move to a country that is more liberal.

Through its New Works/New Voices initiatives, the Time Warner Foundation aims to partner with nonprofit groups, like AFI, to find innovative and powerful ways to discover, nurture and celebrate the next generation of storytellers.