Fiji vows to raise $100K for AFI female directors

Director and Women of the Now cofounder Layne Marie Williams (photo: Stephanie Jensen)

Director and Women of the Now founder Layne Marie Williams (photo: Stephanie Jensen)

Despite Patty Jenkins directing one of the highest grossing films of 2017, Wonder Woman, or Dee Rees getting huge buzz for her debut film, Mudbound, or Greta Gerwig having the highest reviewed film of 2017 in Lady Bird, not one of them were nominated for a Golden Globe. Only Gerwig was nominated for a DGA award.

What was the Hollywood Foreign Press drinking?

Apparently, it wasn’t FIJI® Water, America’s No. 1 premium imported bottled water.

Now, Santa Monica-based The Wonderful Company and Fiji are out to change things up by committing support to the American Film Institute’s (AFI) Directing Workshop for Women (DWW).

Titled, One Sip Forward, the campaign is the brainchild of Wonderful agency team copywriter Dana Tiel and junior art director Michelle John.

Michelle John and Dana Tiel
Michelle John and Dana Tiel

The initiative, which kicked off at the Golden Globes on January 7, aims to raise up to $100,000 for the dynamic program’s mission to educate and mentor female filmmakers and increase the number of women working professionally as directors in film and television.

The AFI Directing Workshop for Women (DWW) is a hands-on training program offered by the AFI Conservatory committed to increasing the number of women working professionally in screen directing. Each participant is required to complete a short film or series by the end of the program. Though the program is tuition-free, participants are responsible for raising the funds for their projects.

Prominent alumnae of the AFI Directing Workshop for Women include Maya Angelou, Anne Bancroft, Neema Barnette, Pippa Bianco, Tricia Brock, Ellen Burstyn, Jennifer Getzinger, Lesli Linka Glatter, Nancy Malone, Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, Cicely Tyson, and many more.



“We were looking at this year’s award-show season and getting ready to do the kind of same stuff that we’d always do, but it’s kind of hard to ignore the fact that there’s so much more going on … what’s happening in Hollywood and how females are not only treated personally but also professionally, how underrepresented they are in some of the creative categories in particular,” said Darren Moran, Chief Creative Officer at The Wonderful Agency.

He added, “This was one of the first assignments, and it wasn’t even the ask,” he said. “As soon as I saw it, I knew it was the right idea. We quickly pivoted from doing social posts to doing something much bigger, bolder.”

“We all know great talent is out there, and we want to help support female filmmakers,” said Clarence Chia vice president of marketing at Fiji. “We’re teaming up with the AFI to launch the Fiji Water One Sip Forward program to support their Directing Workshop for Women.”

Chia is correct. The female talent is in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and North Dakota. The program is something that gives all budding female directors hope, as Chicago-area director, and founder and Executive Director of Women of the Now, Layne Marie Williams told The Reel.

“The fact that AFI is creating opportunities for female directors in response to the lack of representation in the upcoming award ceremony nominations is a really rad thing,” she explained. “I’m just like, tell me more how can I and the other women around me get involved! Sign us up.”

Additionally, during the campaign, FIJI Water will provide a platform for AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women class of 2018 to help them raise funds for their projects through FIJI Water’s social media channels and website, as fundraising is a key component of their 2018 project.

The support on the red carpet doesn’t stop there. Chicago fans and directors can get involved in the One Sip Forward movement by posting a photo on social media sipping FIJI Water and using the hashtag #OneSipForward and tagging @FIJIWater.

Traditionally, award show attendees have enjoyed drinking FIJI Water through the iconic FIJI Water Straw on the red carpet. Now, FIJI Water Straws are available for purchase online at the FIJI Water store where 100 percent of FIJI Water Straw sales during awards season will also go to the AFI Directing Workshop for Women. For more information on the program click here.

Contact Colin Costello at or follow him on Twitter @colincostello10.