To honor the legacy of beloved filmmaker Lynn Shelton, who passed away in May, Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum, alongside Duplass Brothers Productions, are launching the Lynn Shelton “Of a Certain Age” Grant. The $25,000 unrestricted cash grant will be awarded each year to a US-based woman or non-binary filmmaker, age 39 or older, who has yet to direct a narrative feature.
Shelton often spoke of feeling inspired after seeing filmmaker Claire Denis speak at Northwest Film Forum and learning that Denis did not make her first feature until age 40. Shelton went on to make her own first feature film (We Go Way Back) at the age of 39. In the years since, she built a prolific canon of feature and television work and made an indelible mark on the landscape of American cinema.
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“This grant seeks to reinforce that great filmmakers can emerge at any age, and to elevate the voices of a segment of the filmmaking community who have precious few resources dedicated to supporting them yet plenty of stories to tell,” explains Megan Griffiths, Shelton’s longtime friend and collaborator, who is working in her capacity as a member of the board of Northwest Film Forum to help establish the grant. “Lynn was 39 when I met her on her first feature, and I watched her grow as an artist and become more certain in her path with every passing year. She wore her ‘late bloomer’ status as a badge of honor and we know she would be thrilled that this grant exists in her name.”
The grant fund was spearheaded by Duplass Brothers Productions, which includes Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass, and Mel Eslyn, and has since been bolstered by many others, including Washington-based production company COLOR, Tracy Rector, Eliza Flug, Marc Maron, Joshua Leonard & Alison Pill, Michaela Watkins & Fred Kramer, CB Shamah, Chris & Philip Wohlstetter, and Jennessa & Robert West. It will be stewarded by Northwest Film Forum, one of Shelton’s favorite non-profit organizations and a community film center that supported her in her early years and throughout her career.
“In an industry where women, non-binary, and trans individuals have historically had less success and visibility, hearing Lynn Shelton’s story of coming into film at an older age has been extremely inspiring,” said Vivian Hua, Executive Director of Northwest Film Forum. “The scope of this grant will ensure a positive impact on the lives of future recipients for years to come.”
Mel Eslyn, president of Duplass Brothers Productions, added: “There was an appreciation and an immediacy to the way Lynn approached her film and TV career, which she openly credited to her ‘late start.’ Now finding myself approaching the same age Lynn got started, I find it comical to think we call 39 a ‘late start.’ But the reality is there is just not enough representation of women over a ‘certain age’ in media, in front of, but even more so, behind the camera. We hope that this grant can be a meaningful step towards helping to change that.”
Nominations for the Lynn Shelton “Of a Certain Age” Grant are being sought from a national Advisory Committee made up of film programmers, filmmakers, and arts leaders, demonstrating expertise on the current filmmaking landscape and knowledge of emerging filmmakers from around the country. Some of these names are: Beth Barrett (Seattle International Film Festival), Emily Best (Seed & Spark), Effie Brown (Gamechanger Films), Kat Candler (filmmaker), Amy Dotson (Northwest Film Center), Miranda July (filmmaker), Mynette Louie (producer), Leah Meyerhoff (Film Fatales), Lucy Mukerjee (Tribeca Film Festival), Janet Pierson (SXSW Film Festival), Mike Plante (Sundance Film Festival), Rishi Rajani (Hillman Grad), and Tracy Rector (filmmaker/activist), among others. An Award Selection Committee will determine the recipient of the grant. Northwest Film Forum will award the inaugural grant in 2020.
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Shelton emerged from her hometown of Seattle to become a major force in American independent cinema and a prolific television director. She was a vibrant, kind, creative human being. Her work drew acclaim for its compassion, humor, unique voice, and wonderful performances. Shelton directed eight features including Humpday (2009), Your Sister’s Sister (2011), Outside In (2018), and last year’s Sword of Trust. Shelton also worked in television, directing memorable episodes of acclaimed series, including Mad Men, GLOW, The Mindy Project, and Little Fires Everywhere.
For those looking to give in her honor, donations to the Shelton/Seal Family Fund for the Northwest School for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children, or Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum are encouraged.
(Photo by Jeff Vespa/WireImage via Getty Images)