Lynn Shelton "Of a Certain Age" Grant

The Lynn Shelton "Of a Certain Age" Grant was established by Northwest Film Forum alongside Duplass Brothers Productions to honor Seattle filmmaker Lynn Shelton, who passed away tragically on May 16th, 2020. The $25,000 unrestricted cash grant will be awarded each year to a woman or non-binary U.S. filmmaker, age 39 or older, who has yet to direct a narrative feature.

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.


  • Eligibility will be by nomination only.
  • 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 or non-binary individual and be 39 years or older at the time of nomination.
  • Filmmaker must be either a U.S. citizen OR based in the U.S.
  • Filmmaker should be at a point in their career where such recognition would be meaningful and provide needed support.
  • In a directing team, both directors must meet above criteria.

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, and Chris & Philip Wohlstetter.

We will seek annual nominations from a national Advisory Committee and Award Selection Committee will determine the recipient of the grant, to be awarded once a year beginning in 2020.


Beth Barrett (Seattle International Film Festival), Emily Best (Seed & Spark), Virginia Bogert (WIF/Seattle), Linda Bove (actor), Effie Brown (Gamechanger Films), Kat Candler (filmmaker), Amy Dotson (Northwest Film Center), Claudette Godfrey (SXSW), Miranda July (filmmaker), Mynette Louie (The Population), Leah Meyerhoff (Film Fatales), Lucy Mukerjee (Tribeca Film Festival), Janet Pierson (SXSW Film Festival), Mike Plante (Sundance Film Festival), Rishi Rajani (Hillman Grad), Tracy Rector (filmmaker/activist), and Ligiah Villalobos (writer/producer)


Why is this grant nomination-based, rather than open to applicants?

Northwest Film Forum operates with a small staff, and during coronavirus pandemic closures, which have been hard on many arts organizations, we do not have the bandwidth available to give adequate attention to the amount of materials that would result from an open application process. Because our Selection Committee is volunteering their time, we do not believe that degree of additional labor would be a fair ask to make of them either. We made every effort to build a diverse Advisory Committee with expertise on the current filmmaking landscape and knowledge of emerging filmmakers from around the country, whose nominations would be representative of the multiplicity of identities, lived experiences, and talent of this large group of eligible filmmakers, including the underrepresented voices of BIPOC filmmakers, LGBTQ+ filmmakers, filmmakers with disabilities, and those at the intersection of these groups.

Why is this grant open to both women and non-binary 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. 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.

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