Women in Film Unite at Fusion Film Festival

NYU’s annual film festival, run by students through the Tisch School of the Arts, elevates the voices of female-identifying filmmakers

A group of women who participated in the Fusion Film Festival.

For 18 years, the Fusion Film Festival has celebrated the incredible contributions of women in film, television, and new media at NYU. The three-day festival consists of competitions in 12 categories. It also features talks and panels with industry insiders, master classes with filmmakers and artists, networking events, and screenings. What’s more, the festival is now an allied partner of the Sundance Institute and Women In Film’s Female Filmmakers Initiative.

In recent years, acclaimed artists like Reed Morano, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Amy Emmerich, and many more have come to share their wisdom and experience with the next generation of creators. Fusion also hosts a number of other events—like roundtables and screenings—throughout the year. Each one showcases the incredible work women do behind the camera.

“Equality for women in film is a cause that is extremely important to me as a woman who hopes to operate in the industry,” says Tisch senior and festival codirector Jori Johnson. “Empowering women at the school level encourages women to keep fighting for opportunities—hopefully leading to the inclusion of more women in the industry.”

Many members of the Fusion Film Festival.

Bringing the Initiative to Life

Want to get involved? Fusion has 13 departments. From alumni relations and finance to public relations and sponsorship, students do it all. Together, they collaborate to bring the main festival to life. And Jori and her fellow codirectors, Tisch seniors Amelia Xanthe Boscov and Bernie Torres, oversee them all. The festival departments recruit across campus every the fall. Students from any school and of any gender are welcome to apply. The only thing every member must share is a passion for supporting projects by women in film. Something that, even in 2020, is unfortunately not the default.

“I recently learned that there are other film schools who have not even had a thesis film made by an all women–led team before,” Amelia says. “I strongly believe Fusion has made women-led films at NYU more commonplace.” The organization does this both by raising awareness throughout the campus community and through their submission guidelines. To participate in the festival, a project must have a woman in at least one of the following roles: director, codirector, cinematographer, editor, writer, or cowriter.

Fusion also provides a space to highlight careers in the industry that historically welcome an even smaller percentage of women. In the fall, Fusion brought together a panel of female directors of photography, gaffers, and electrics. Men still fill these roles at least 90 percent of the time in Hollywood’s top films.

“It was really special to focus on a specific department known for being incredibly male-dominated,” Amelia says.

A large group of Fusion Film Festival participants.

A Culture of Support

The Fusion Film Festival runs like a competition. But at its heart, it’s a celebration of what women can do when they work together to make their voices heard. Last year’s festival culminated in the recognition of more than 60 projects as finalists or honorable mentions. Furthermore, the organization offers a great mentoring program to aid members in their own mastery of the industry.

“Fusion is an incredible community of talented people working together to support under-recognized creatives,” Amelia says.

Jori agrees. “Through the festival, we hope to uplift the voices of female filmmakers on campus. We want to empower them to continue working despite the obstacles they will face going into the industry,” she says. “Seeing so much talent and so many female-driven stories in one room gives me hope for the future.”

This year’s festival, which is free and open to NYU students and the public alike, will take place between April 2 and April 4. To explore the full program, check out the Fusion website in March.