Northwest Film Forum Opens Applications for the Second Installment of the Lynn Shelton “Of A Certain Age” Grant

August 10, 2021

Awards $25,000 To One Woman, Non-Binary, and/or Transgender Filmmaker Age 39 Or Older Working on Their First Narrative Feature

Seattle, WA – August 10, 2021 – In 2020, Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum (NWFF), alongside Duplass Brothers Productions and with major support from COLOR, launched their inaugural Lynn Shelton “Of a Certain Age” Grant to honor the legacy of beloved late filmmaker Lynn Shelton. Shelton often spoke of seeing filmmaker Claire Denis at NWFF and feeling inspired that Denis did not make her first feature until age 40. At age 39, Shelton then went on to make her own first feature film (We Go Way Back); she followed it with a prolific canon of feature and television work which made an indelible mark on the landscape of American cinema.

Now in its second year, the Lynn Shelton “Of a Certain Age” grant awards $25,000 to a US-based woman, non-binary, or transgender filmmaker, age 39 or older, who has yet to direct a narrative feature. The recipient of the 2020 Lynn Shelton “Of A Certain Age” grant was Keisha Rae Witherspoon, a Caribbean-American filmmaker based in Miami.

“After nearly two decades of self-discovery, coursing—most often as a voyeur, through exclusive and often intimidating creative communities—and finally piecing together my career and creative identity from limited optics and examples, I’ve arrived at this new existence as a ‘40-year-old emerging filmmaker,’” explains Keisha Rae Witherspoon in her 2020 letter to the Award Selection Committee. “I’ve often been my own source of strength to push through these spaces, because I had to—because my unheard voice was my community’s, and it deserves more.”

Megan Griffiths, a NWFF board member and Shelton’s longtime friend and collaborator, helped establish the grant last summer. She explains, “As last year’s process revealed, this grant fills a void in our industry. The large number of talented individuals whose materials were viewed by last year’s award selection committee was truly inspiring, and showcased just how overlooked this population of filmmakers has been. Lynn demonstrated through her life and work that great filmmakers can emerge at any age, and this grant seeks to reinforce that idea and put real institutional weight behind helping them do it.”

The 2021 installment includes developments which aim to increase access, including a national open call—rather than 2020’s nomination-based process—and eligibility is open to all transgender filmmakers.

“We have thought long and hard about how to make a more equitable grantmaking process for the second year of this affirming opportunity, and that includes an open application process to lower barriers for those who have been traditionally underserved,” explains Vivian Hua, Executive Director of NWFF.

“This grant has already shed light on a plethora of unique voices that, for various reasons, have yet to direct their first feature,” remarks Mel Eslyn, president of Duplass Brothers Productions. “I was blown away by the inaugural years’ applicants—so many talented filmmakers that I can’t wait to see more from. Hopefully I get to collaborate with a few of them as well!”

Reflecting on the inaugural year, Eslyn adds, “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.”

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 Sword of Trust (2019). She directed memorable episodes of acclaimed television 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.

The Lynn Shelton “Of a Certain Age” Grant was spearheaded by Duplass Brothers Productions, which includes Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass and Mel Eslyn, and 2021’s installment is funded 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, and Jennessa & Robert West.

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