RIT Film Student Creates Award to Help Aspiring Women Filmmakers

Fund created in partnership with Rochester High Falls International Film Festival




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At this year’s Rochester High Falls International Film Festival in Rochester, one young female director hopes to draw attention to not just her films, but to the future of women in filmmaking.

Lauren Tracy, a senior at Rochester Institute of Technology’s School of Film and Animation, and whose work has been shown three times at the international film venue, has created a national filmmakers award for female film students called “The X-Factor Filmmakers Fund.”

There are not enough financial resources available for film students, says Tracy, who has struggled with the demands of making high quality films on top of tuition costs. So, she decided that it was time to take action.

“My creative goal is to make great films, but my professional goal is to help young women who have enormous talent, but not the financial resources to make headway in the film industry,” says Tracy.

X-Factor Filmmakers will fund an award for a female student attending RIT in 2009. It will be handed out at a reception to be held during the annual Rochester High Falls International Film Festival, May 13 to 18.

X-Factor Plans to Expand Award Fund through Creative Fundraising

Tracy started the X-Factor Fund with her father, Rick Tracy, a Boston-area graphic designer. The father-daughter team decided from the outset that the key to success would be a creative approach to raising money for the fund. They’ve launched the X-Factor Filmmakers Web site, www.xfactorfilm.com, which is selling T-shirts created by Tracy’s dad especially for the X-Factor Fund. Twenty-five percent of the sale of each shirt goes to the award. The goal for T-shirt sales is $5,000.

Tracy chose the Rochester International High Falls Film Festival to announce the winner because it is one of less than 40 film festivals in the world dedicated to featuring female filmmakers. “The film festival organizers share our desire to shine a light on the next generation of women filmmakers,” says Tracy. “I can’t think of a more appropriate partner to help us determine a talented recipient of the first X-Factor Filmmakers award.”

Rosie Taravella, executive director of the Rochester High Falls International Film Festival says: “While showcasing talented independent female filmmakers, we have discovered that women are still less likely than men to land lucrative studio contracts. We believe that if more women enroll in film school, this gender gap will one day close. The X-Factor Filmmakers Fund is one more step toward making this goal a reality, and we are proud to support it.”

Malcolm Spaull, administrative chair of RIT’s School of Film and Animation adds: “It is wonderful that the High Falls Film Festival, which recognizes great film work by women and demonstrates an ongoing faith in our school by each year screening a collection of our women student’s work, is now also supporting this new effort that invests in the RIT women film students of the future.”

“The X-Factor Fund is putting the spotlight on a very worthwhile cause: how can we encourage more women to enter the world of film?” says Jeffrey Blitz, film and television director. “We never know where the next unique voice in American film will come from, and if this fund helps even in a modest way then it’s much deserving of our support. And the shirts are pretty nifty, too.”

Women Filmmakers Still Battle to be Heard

Despite notable talents like Kasi Lemmons, Julie Taymor and Sarah Polley who at the young age of 28 directed Away from Her, only 7 percent of directors in the Directors Guild of America are female. No woman has ever won an Academy Award for Best Director and only three have ever been nominated. There is also a dearth of women in just about every area of filmmaking, most notably cinematography and directing.

Even prominent male filmmakers have expressed frustration with the lack of opportunities for women in the film industry. The late Anthony Minghella, Academy Award winning director, was quoted as saying: “It matters in every possible way who is making films…. There are as many points of views and sensibilities in women as there are in men. The fact is we simply do not hear enough of them.”

Tracy is struggling against the odds, while still a film student. Men outnumber women in film schools. Unlike other academic endeavors, film students can’t succeed by good grades alone. They must produce projects that are costly to produce. Currently working on her senior thesis film, Tracy estimates her 15-minute thesis film could cost up to $7,000. “I spend as much time trying to find sponsors and patrons for my films as I do creating them,” says Tracy. “I know many students simply have to give up on projects that they can’t afford to execute. I hope we can change that and bring more women to the world of film faster.”

NOTE: Lauren Tracy can be reached at lmt7749@rit.edu