New Grant Honoring Lynn Shelton Aims to Help First-Time Female Filmmakers Age 39+

Lynn Shelton
To honor its late, great, native independent Lynn Shelton, Seattle is putting its money where its mouth is. 

In partnership with Duplass Brothers Productions, Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum has started the Lynn Shelton “Of a Certain Age” Grant. In a press release, Northwest Film Forum said that the initiative will award $25,000 in unrestricted cash each year to a U.S.-based woman, trans, or non-binary filmmaker aged 39 or older who has yet to direct a narrative feature. 

Megan Griffiths, a friend and collaborator of Shelton’s, is a member of the board of Northwest Film Forum. Griffiths has been instrumental in establishing the grant and says that the breakout Shelton experienced later in her career inspired its creation. 

“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,” Griffiths said in the press release. “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.”

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." 

Lynn Shelton Marc Maron Joshua Leonard Humpday IFC Films
Lynn Shelton (C) with Humpday stars Mark Duplass (L) and Joshua Leonard (R).Credit: IFC Films

Shelton shot her debut feature, We Go Way Back, in Seattle in 2004, and two years later it earned both the Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature and the Kodak Vision Award at the 2006 Slamdance Film Festival. The film’s modest success paved the way for more locally filmed follow-ups, including the Mark Duplass-starring dramedy Humpday, which received the Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Independence and was acquired for national distribution by Magnolia Pictures at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. 

Beyond putting Seattle’s indie film scene on the map, Shelton also enjoyed a noteworthy run directing television, having helmed standout episodes of Mad Men, GLOW, and The Mindy Project. Her final film, Sword of Trust, starred Marc Maron. Both creative and romantic partners, Shelton and Maron also co-wrote the film, as well as another project that went unfinished at the time of her death in May.

Primary financial backers of the grant include Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass and Esyln, Tracy Rector, Eliza Flug, Maron, Joshua Leonard and Alison Pill, Michaela Watkins and Fred Kramer, CB Shamah, Chris and Philip Wohlstetter, and Jennessa and Robert West. Nominations will be determined by a national advisory committee that includes filmmakers Effie Brown, Miranda July, and Tracy Rector, along with a number of festival programmers and other leading figures in the arts. 

Some Seattle-based organizations are encouraging donations for those interested in honoring Shelton’s legacy. Both Shelton/Seal Family Fund for the Northwest School for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children and the Northwest Film Forum are currently accepting contributions.      

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