Lynn Shelton "Of a Certain Age" Grant

The Lynn Shelton “Of a Certain Age” Grant is a project-based award that provides $25,000 to an individual woman, non-binary, and/or transgender U.S. filmmaker, age 39 or older, who is working on their first narrative feature (65 minutes or over) as a director.

This grant seeks to recognize a film director for their distinct vision, storytelling, and singularity.

In 2020, The Lynn Shelton “Of a Certain Age” Grant was established by Northwest Film Forum alongside Duplass Brothers Productions, and with major support from COLOR, Eliza Flug and CB Shamah, to honor Seattle filmmaker Lynn Shelton, who passed away on May 16th, 2020. Lynn 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.



  • Eligible filmmakers must have “director” credit on at least one short film or feature documentary and have a desire to work in the narrative space. Filmmakers with “director” credit on a feature-length (70+ min) narrative film will not be considered.
  • Filmmaker should be a woman, non-binary, and/or transgender individual, and be 39 years or older at the time of their application.
  • Filmmaker must be able to receive income in the U.S.
  • Filmmaker should be at a point in their career where such recognition would be meaningful and provide needed support.
  • We strongly encourage filmmakers to apply who identify as either disabled, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, Person of Color), LGBTQ2IA+, or who live in rural areas.


Ineligible applicants for this grant are:

  • Members of the NWFF Board of Trustees, their business partners, or family members
  • Northwest Film Forum staff members, interns, their business partners, or family members
  • Members of the current year Award Selection Committee
  • Past recipient of the Lynn Shelton “Of a Certain Age” Grant
  • Individuals who have received a Northwest Film Forum grant in the same calendar year
  • Filmmakers with “director” credit on a feature-length (65+ min) narrative film


  • Applicant must be the director of the proposed project
  • Projects must be in pre-production or in development by the time of application
  • Proposed film project must be a narrative feature NOT a documentary, short film, or episodic series
  • Proposed project may not be work for hire
  • Applicant must have creative control and rights of the proposed project
  • Film must be consistent with Northwest Film Forum’s mission and values


To be eligible for this grant, applicants are required to submit the following materials:

  • Biography (150 words or less) – Tell the story of you and your work as a filmmaker and/or director
  • Logline (75 words or less) – Distill the central conflict and important elements of your screenplay
  • Film Résumé or CV (5 pages or less) – Upload your film résumé or CV
  • Director Statement (300 words or less) – Articulate your filmmaking voice/philosophy and what about you and your process or work makes you singular as a director
  • Film Project Overview (300 words or less) – A holistic summary of your pre-production or in-development narrative feature film that articulates the story, vision, and scope of the film, and gives the reader a feel for its main characters, plot, and themes. It should clearly describe what your film is about and give readers a reason to want to watch it
  • Past Project Work Sample (2-3 minutes) – Provide a URL link to a video sample from a completed work (not a rough cut or work-in-progress) that you have directed within the last 10 years. If you are submitting links to platforms like Vimeo or Youtube make sure you include a password, if applicable. Indicate your start and stop time for the excerpt (e.g., “Start at 3:30 and end at 5:30”). If no start and stop time is provided, panelists will begin watching at the beginning and will watch for a maximum of three (3) minutes
  • Narrative Feature (Proposed Project) Work Sample – Provide a URL link to one (1) of the following materials from your narrative film project that you are directing: ten (10) pages of your script (can be from any portion), a pitch deck, or clip (2 minutes or less)
  • Work Sample Context (50 words or less each) – Provide 1-2 sentence explanations for both your completed project and your current project that provide context for the reviewers for where we are in the story when your work sample starts.


Once notified, finalists will have two (2) weeks to submit the following materials:

  • Extended Work Sample (10-15 minutes) – Share a video that best demonstrates your directing and narrative work. This can be an extended clip of the film that was excerpted for round one, the project you are applying for, OR could be something completely different.
  • Extended Statement (300 words or less) – What made you want to direct this story and why is now the right time for you to tell it?

For video submissions, submit a URL link to your video overview (max 2 minutes). Please do not include introductions or additional information outside of the prompt.


Applicants will be evaluated based on:

  • Background and professional experience as a filmmaker and/or director
  • Authentic storytelling and artistic “voice” as a director
  • Ability to clearly articulate their project vision and singularity as a director
  • Skillful execution of boldness, proficiency, and originality as a director
  • Compelling use of techniques (structure, pace, development, style, cinematography, etc.) to depict narrative and meaning as a director
  • Significance of impact that funding and recognition would provide for the director’s career

Following the submission deadline, NWFF will conduct an administrative check to ensure that applications are complete and adhere to the guidelines. Only applications that pass the administrative check will be processed. First-round applications will be reviewed and scored by NWFF staff. Applicants who advance into the second round will be reviewed and scored by our Award Selection Committee made up of five established industry professionals in narrative film, with varying expertise and backgrounds, and who live and work within the U.S. The names and associations of the Award Selection Committee panelists will be announced when the recipient is announced.


Panelists are strongly encouraged to review and make their decisions using a lens of equity, considering the factor of how an applicant’s race, gender identity, and/or status as a LGBTQ2IA+, disabled, immigrant, refugee, or undocumented artist may affect their ability to gain recognition or access to institutional support and resources, both now and historically, within and outside of the film world.


As an applicant, the information you share will be viewed by Northwest Film Forum staff and the Award Selection Committee. We will publicly announce the grant recipient. The names of the panelists will be announced with the recipients.


  • Tuesday, June 27 – Application opens – APPLY
  • Tuesday, July 18 – Info Session from 1 p.m. – 2 p.m. PST – RSVP
  • Tuesday, August 1 – Application closes at 11:59 p.m. PST
  • Wednesday, September 20 – Finalists’ Notified
  • Wednesday, October 4 – Finalists’ Extended Materials Due
  • October – Recipient Announced!


Contact Grants Manager, Mikayla Nicholson at for any questions you have about applying.

Full grant guidelines + application:

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, Eliza Flug, Tracy Rector, Joshua Leonard & Alison Pill, Marc Maron, CB Shamah, Michaela Watkins & Fred Kramer, Jennessa & Robert West.

Supporters of the inaugural grant also included Chris & Philip Wohlstetter.


Why is this grant open to women, nonbinary, and/or transgender individuals?

In her life, Lynn Shelton aligned herself with not just women and trans women filmmakers, but with gender non-conforming and trans men as well. Transgender filmmakers served by this grant include any filmmmaker on the transgender spectrum, including transgender men. We wanted to center the grant around those Lynn aligned herself with in the fight for equal representation.

Why is this grant only open to those who are 39 years or older?

Lynn was 39 years old when she directed her first feature We Go Way Back. She 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 build a prolific canon of feature and television work and made an indelible mark on the landscape of American cinema. 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.

Why is it called the “Of a Certain Age” grant?

The poet Byron in 1817 wrote, “She was not old, nor young, nor at the years / Which certain people call a certain age / Which yet the most uncertain age appears.” The Oxford English Dictionary defined certain, when used in this context, as “which it is not polite or necessary further to define.” In naming the grant, we hoped to reclaim the phrase and imbue it with a sense of power and positivity. Lynn wore her “late bloomer” status as a badge of honor, and there was an appreciation and an immediacy to the way Lynn approached her film and TV career which she openly credited to the fact that she got a later start than most. She specialized in humane comedy, and this grant name is a nod to both her life and her humor.

Grant News Archive

October 2020 News: Inaugural Lynn Shelton “Of A Certain Age” Grant Awarded to Miami-Based Caribbean-American Filmaker Keisha Rae Witherspoon

“Keisha Rae Witherspoon is one of those filmmakers that make you excited about what’s possible. The way she conveys characters that are at once both completely unique yet also familiar–like people who you actually know but no one you’ve ever met. To me, I see a direct connection to the work of Lynn Shelton there,” says [juror Nahnatchka] Khan, who collaborated with Shelton on Fresh Off the Boat. “The way Lynn was able to drop you into the lives of people who felt real and true and then take you on a journey to show you how everyone is totally unique. Keisha continues in that tradition by also blurring the lines between reality and fiction and playing with tone in a way that makes you feel rooted in something and also slightly off-balance at the same time. I imagine Lynn would be delighted to discover the work of this talented new storyteller.”

2020 Lynn Shelton’s Of A Certain Age Grant Nominees: 25 Women & Non-Binary Filmmakers Over 39 to Watch

2020’s Of A Certain Age grant nominees are a truly talented collection of filmmakers from around the United States — and like Shelton, they have singular, powerful voices the world needs to hear. Though this list does not encompass every nominee, read on to meet 25 of them and watch samples of their work. And make sure you scroll to the bottom, where they each offer inspiring words of advice to up-and-coming filmmakers.

Read full article via REDEFINE magazine.

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