Women behind the camera are rarely acknowledged in the film industry. As a reader of Women and Hollywood, you already know this. In fact, we all know the sad statistics generated by the recent Sundance Institute studies. The playing field remains uneven, yet women filmmakers are urgently working against the tide and producing great work. This is what the Fusion Film Festival at NYU is all about: shining a light on what is bubbling up from the new work all around us, and celebrating the work of women we deeply admire, who are giving us reasons to hope that we can find our way once we leave the sheltered world of a film school.
Though every film in our competition is either shot by a woman or directed by a woman, Fusion doesn't wave the banner of an exclusive girl's club. The field evens out very quickly at Fusion. That's what the real world should look like. That's what we demand it looks like.
So the male-dominated field of Directors of Photography becomes just as gender-equitable as the Directing field. The discussions between director and DP become more fluid and open. There's a true incentive for exposure and experience when Tisch students feel encouraged to join in a creative vision with another artist of the opposite sex.
The women of Fusion -- those who submit inspiring work as well as those who work to bring the festival to life in every rung of festival management, from programming to press (my corner of the staff) -- grow as artists and leaders throughout the process.
Last year's Fusion winner for Best Undergraduate Film, writer-director Erin Sanger, continues to evolve as a filmmaker. Her winning short "Bombshell," which has played extensively in prestigious festivals across the country, tells the gripping story of a young suburban girl caught up in the dizzying confusion of peer pressure that results in a hate crime. Since her debut film, Sanger has embraced more adult issues that affect men and women alike. Her current documentary project follows a double-amputee bomb-disposal specialist and his wife as they grapple with his injuries and try to adjust to a new way of life.
Reflecting on her 2013 Fusion experience, Sanger says that watching Fusion's Docs-In-The-Works pitch competition ignited her passion for documentary. "All of the work was very strong and it was a good venue for me as an undergraduate student to see work that I wouldn't normally see. It was thrilling to be exposed to the documentary work being done at NYU, which I was somewhat isolated from as a narrative filmmaker," Sanger says.
Fusion's Docs-In-The-Works competition remains a yearly institution at Fusion. It asks filmmakers to engage an audience with their in-progress documentaries and receive insightful critiques from a panel of seasoned producers from HBO, Independent Film Project, the History Channel, Chicken and Egg Pictures, and POV. The filmmakers compete for the tools and funding to complete their documentary, but, like all Fusion events, the competition is also an opportunity for all of the women involved to mature and hone their craft. Award-winning documentarian Nilita Vachani, who organizes the event, describes it as "a doorway into the real world" with high stakes.
This year's program at Fusion showcases the work of women who continue to adapt to the changing climate of the industry. The opening-night industry screening on March 6th will feature the Sundance Award-winning short Gregory Go Boom by NYU/Tisch alum Janicza Bravo, who graduated with a theatre degree focusing on directing and design. "I am deeply grateful for my theatre background at Tisch," Janicza says, "It influences all of my choices from framing to blocking to casting. I like scenes to play out and breathe. There are no cutaways in theatre. Sometimes I wish I knew what everything on a film set was called but ultimately that's not the kind of filmmaker I am."
Lucy Ross, one of our Co-Directors, puts it simply, "Fusion's master classes, screenings, panels always leave me feeling inspired and hopeful as a filmmaker and as a filmmaker who happens to be a woman."
The Fusion Film Festival will take place at New York University on March 6-8. All events are free. Visit the festival's site for a full schedule.
Danielle Massie is the Public Relations Chair for Fusion and a Film & Television sophomore at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts.