Twentieth Century Fox Film and the American Film Institute have formed a partnership to help increase the number of female directors working on major studio films.

The initiative will provide alumnae of the AFI Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women the opportunity to helm short films based on Fox’s film franchises. 20th Century Fox Film Chairman and CEO Stacey Snider made the announcement Thursday.

Under the program, the filmmakers will be invited to contribute to building the narrative world of Fox’s movie franchises, and in the process, create sample work in genres, particularly action and science fiction — areas in which female filmmakers are often underrepresented.

“The dearth of female directors is not a matter of passion or talent,” Snider said. “Instead, it’s often a question of access and resources. We’re excited to offer these to talented women filmmakers who then can build upon this practical work experience.”

Fox will finance, produce, and distribute the short films. The directors will be able to add the projects to their portfolios and pitch Fox feature films unrelated to the shorts in the future.

“AFI believes that the future of this American art form is a true symphony of voices,” said Bob Gazzale, AFI president and CEO. “We have been committed to this issue from our founding, and we look forward to this landmark collaboration with Fox to impact the art and entertainment landscape in a profound way.”

Fox and AFI plan to select 35 to 50 graduates for the initiative. Ten finalists will present original pitches to senior executives at Fox, and one or more filmmakers will be chosen to make their concept into a short film.