To honor the legacy of beloved filmmaker Lynn Shelton, Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum and Duplass Brothers Productions have today announced the launch of the Lynn Shelton “Of a Certain Age” Grant. The $25,000 unrestricted cash grant will be awarded each year to a U.S.-based woman or non-binary filmmaker, age 39 or older, who has yet to direct a narrative feature.
Shelton, who passed away in May, was among the leading voices of American independent film, working on all sides of the camera on such films as “Humpday,” “Your Sister’s Sister,” “Outside In,” and “Sword of Trust.” Like the filmmakers the grant is intended to help, Shelton didn’t direct her own first feature (“We Go Way Back”) until she was 39. In the 15 years that followed, Shelton built a prolific and respected canon of both feature and television work.
“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,” explained 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, in a statement. “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,” added Vivian Hua, Executive Director of Northwest Film Forum, in her own statement. “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.” Members include 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. 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.