Watkins Student Earns Place at American Film Institute

Sarah E. Southern will be one of only 20 to study in AFI's rigorous screenwriting program.

Watkins Film, Sarah Southern

Sarah E. Southern, graduate of Watkins’s bachelor of arts film program, will attend the screenwriting program at the American Film Institute (AFI) in Los Angeles. Southern was only one of 20 students accepted into this rigorous program that counts many accomplished screenwriters in its ranks, including Brad Falchuk (American Horror Story) and Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich), as well as directors Terence Malick and David Lynch.

“At Watkins, I focused more on film editing and thought that would be the direction in which I took my career,” says Southern, whose student film is depicted in the still photographs here. “I’d always liked writing, but a career in editing felt less like a pipe dream.

“I didn’t recognize that the right path was staring me in the face until a connection I made through an internship sat me down and told me, ‘If you’re serious about being in the film industry, move out to Los Angeles, and chase a career as far as you can go.’ The moment she said the words, they struck a chord in me. I knew that if I was going to take the leap and move out to Los Angeles, it might as well be for the thing that I loved.

Susannah Grant

“I applied to the American Film Institute and was thrilled when I was admitted to begin my masters in screenwriting this coming fall. Wanting to be a writer in the film industry is a wild dream, but my time at Watkins burned into me the lesson that with the proper planning and dedication, wild dreams can most certainly come true. Watkins lit the spark of my passion for screenwriting and the American Film Institute will fan the flames. I hope to chase this dream as far as I can go and write, write, write until my fingers bleed.”

Watkins offers both bachelor and master degrees in film, with a focus on narrative filmmaking. Southern noted that, in her AFI interview, the committee praised the versatility of her undergraduate experience — learning the many roles in cinema — and how that was critical in her candidacy.

To learn more about Watkins’s film program, visit the Film area in our Academics section.