At NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2003, film students Emma Heald and Gina Abatemarco were sick of living in the shadows. Most directors and cinematographers were male, they noticed, and as a result many female moviemakers were getting overlooked.
In order to do their part on the NYU campus, Heald and Abatemarco created the Fusion Film Festival, an annual student-run event dedicated to promoting female moviemakers and the cooperation between genders in film.
“We felt that seeing successful women working in those roles would encourage and inspire young students that a great filmmaker can be any artist who excels at their craft, and not necessarily the stereotypical grizzled guy in the baseball cap.” says Heald.
Five years later, the festival continues to gain prestige with the help of new festival directors Rebecca Bellotto and Grettel Batoon. In addition to the three annual student competitions (short film, screenplay, and documentary pitch), this year’s three-day event, held February 28 to March 1, will feature industry panels, a retrospective of women in the television industry and a master class with Denise Di Novi, producer of 30 features, including The Nightmare Before Christmas and Little Women.
On February 28th, there will also be a sneak peek screening of Stop-Loss, directed by Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry) and starring Ryan Phillippe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
To maintain a festival that aims to be more than just a student film festival, the new directors have their work cut out for them. “Although we always manage to pull it together, sometimes it can be a bit stressful to figure out how we’re going to create a professional festival on a student budget,” says Bellotto.
Yet despite the difficulties, Bellotto, Batoon and the Fusion Film Festival are staying put. “I would definitely love to see this festival grow and gain a larger reputation outside of NYU,” says Batoon. “But I do think that it is important that it stay a student-run event, as I feel that that is where a lot of the festival’s drive, dedication and success come from.”