New award will aid female filmmakers

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Erik Kandefer

Lauren Tracy, left, and Marlee Coulter, RIT film students, on location at Sonnenberg Gardens for the making of Tracy's thesis film.

At this year’s 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 fourth-year student in RIT’s School of Film and Animation, 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.

“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. It will be handed out at a reception to be held during the annual Rochester High Falls International Film Festival, May 13-18.

Tracy started the X-Factor Fund with her father, Rick Tracy, a Boston-area graphic designer. They’ve launched the X-Factor Filmmakers Web site,, 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 fund. The goal for sales is $5,000.

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.”

“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.”

Despite notable talents like Kasi Lemmons, Julie Taymor and Sarah Polley, 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.