March 17, 2008

Voice of the Next Generation: The Fusion Film Festival

Women & Hollywood is dedicated to get a diverse group of voices out to the community. Today marks our first guest post by Rebecca Bellotto, who with Grettel Batoon was the co-directors of the Fusion Film Festival, a student-run film festival dedicated to the work of female filmmakers.

The Fusion Film Festival, New York University and Tisch School of the Arts’ only student-run film festival dedicated to the work of women, wrapped its three-day schedule of events on Saturday, March 1 with a retrospective on the work of the late writer, director, and actress Adrienne Shelly. The event was led by Shelly’s husband and Executive Director of the Adrienne Shelly Foundation Andy Ostroy and featured producer Peter Newman and actors Lara Harris, Ally Sheedy, and Paul Rudd as guest speakers – each spoke about Shelly’s life and work before playing a selected clip from one of her shorts or features.

As this year’s Festival’s co-directors, Grettel Batoon and I could not have been more pleased with the Adrienne Shelly Retrospective as Fusion’s closing event. The speakers’ messages were all resoundingly positive, paying loving tribute to the late artist and reminding the packed audience that Ms. Shelly’s example as a woman who gave all of herself in her work and never let the label of gender get in her way is one that should inspire and encourage all other women filmmakers. Fusion’s goals have always been to support aspiring female filmmakers and promote the work of established women – as well as to encourage artistic collaboration between the sexes – so we were incredibly proud that our closing event communicated such a strong message in support of our mission.

The Fusion Film Festival was founded in 2003 by then-students Gina Abatemarco and Emma Mason Heald, women who wanted to create an event that would celebrate the work of female student filmmakers and women in the industry at large. They were also interested in putting together a film festival that would be completely student-run. Fusion has gone through a different set of leaders each year since then, but each program has done a spectacular job of continuing the mission of promoting and encouraging women and collaboration as well as putting together an amazing line-up events through the sheer hard work and determination of undergraduate, graduate, and even some alumni students.

This year's events included a Master Class with uber-producer Denise Di Novi; a sneak preview screening of Kimberly Peirce’s upcoming film Stop-Loss; a day devoted to the winners of our student documentary pitch, screenplay, and short film competitions; panels on Women in Television and How to Get an Agent; and the Adrienne Shelly Retrospective.

In my opinion, Fusion has grown so strongly in the last five years mainly because of its incredible importance and relevance to students - especially the women - at Tisch. Though women have certainly made and will continue to make gains in the film industry especially as producers and executives, there are still far fewer women working as directors, cinematographers, screenwriters, and other on-set positions. It is vital that we spotlight women who are filling these roles as a way to set examples for the many female students who might be anxious about their chances in the industry.

As an aspiring screenwriter, I have found the atmosphere at Tisch to be very supportive, but it can be disheartening at times to see that men write the overwhelming majority of major movies. But as Grettel says, one of the greatest things about Fusion is the fact that so many successful, inspiring women from all fields come to speak and encourage female students at Tisch to keep working towards their dreams.

We are incredibly proud of what we believe was Fusion’s most successful year yet – we can’t wait to see what next year’s co-directors come up with for Fusion’s sixth year!
Rebecca Bellotto and Grettel Batoon, Fusion Film Festival Co-Directors and undergraduate students at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts

More info Fusion Film Festival

(Photo credit: Martin Bentsen)