The Fusion Film Festival was founded five years ago by Gina Abatemarco (Tisch Film and TV '03) and Emma Heald (Tisch Film and TV '04), Film and TV majors who were frustrated by the lack of opportunity for female students to fill roles traditionally dominated by men, such as director or cinematographer. In the winter of 2003, they began to conceive of a film festival that would celebrate the work of female students and bring in examples of strong, successful women in the film industry. By the following fall semester, they had begun work on what would become the First Annual Fusion Film Festival.

Fusion's first year boasted incredible events and incredible guests, as well as the inaugural student filmmaking competition. The competition's main requirement was that all films at least be directed or shot by a woman, thus ensuring that all entrants would have the experience of filling roles that have historically been dominated by men. The competition, the kick-off event of the three-day festival, was hosted by writer/director and Tisch alum Amy Heckerling. Highlights of from the 2004 Festival Schedule:

  • Screening of Dogfight followed by Q&A with director Nancy Savoca.
  • "Breaking In" Panel featuring Rachael Horovistz (About Schmidt), producer Sarah Green (Frida, Girlfight), producer Lisa Muskat (All the Real Girls), director Jessica Sharzer (Wormhole), and director Julie Taymor (Friday, Across the Universe).
  • Cinematographer and Director Panel featuring critic Amy Taubin, cinematographer Ellen Kuras (The Eternal Sunshinse of the Spotless Mind), director Nanette Burstein (The Kid Stays in the Picture), director Chris Hegedus (Al Franken: God Spoke) and director Rebecca Miller (Personal Velocity).

In order to keep the Festival and its mission alive, Gina and Emma decided to transform Fusion into a club at Tisch in order to give it a framework in which to continue. Monica Hoenig-Torok took over as Executive Director for the year 2005, building on the success of the previous year's filmmaking competition by creating Fusion's first screenwriting competition, with categories for both shorts and feature-length scripts. Highlights from the 2005 Festival Schedule:

  • Masterclass: "Directing Actors with Rebecca Miller" featuring previous Fusion guest Rebecca Miller, writer and director of Personal Velocity and The Ballad of Jack & Rose.
  • "An Eye on Surrealist Cinema: The Works of Germaine Dulac" retrospective and cine-club style discussion.
  • "Menage-A-Trois: The Relationship between Writer, Director, and Producer" panel featuring producer Holly Becker (Me and You and Everyone We Know), producer Eva Kolodner (Boys Don't Cry), director Mary Harron (American Psycho), director Debra Granik (Down to the Bone), and talent agent Joan Scott, founder of the Writers and Artists Agency.
  • Screening of Me and You and Everyone We Know followed by Q&A with writer, director, and actor Miranda July.
  • "Recording Reality: Portraits of Society in Narrative and Documentary" panel featuring director Nicole Kassell (The Woodsman), director Kristi Jacobson (American Standoff), and director Maryann DeLeo (Chernobyl Heart).

Iyabo Boyd (Film and TV '06) and Rita Esquenazi (Film and TV '05) took over as Festival Directors forFusion's third year in 2006. They continued the work of past directors in bringing groundbreaking females working in all aspects of the film industry and expanding on the filmmaking and screenwriting competitions. They also created a new event in which students pitched their documentaries-in-progress to a panel of industry guests, a very popular event which gave participants a chance to hear professional criticism of their proposals. Highlights of the 2006 Festival Schedule:

  • "An Evening with Karyn Kusama" panel featuring director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight, Aeon Flux).
  • "Joining Forces: Collaborative Filmmaking" panel featuring director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight, Aeon Flux), writing partners Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (Aeon Flux), director Marilyn Agrelo (Mad Hot Ballroom), and cinematographer Claudia Raschke-Robinson (Mad Hot Ballroom).
  • Screening of Red Doors followed by Q&A with producer Jane Chen.
  • "Girls Behaving Badly: Retrospective on the Works of Vera Chytilova" followed the screening of Daisies.

For the Fourth Annual Fusion Film Festival, Jennifer Orta (Tisch Cinema Studies '07), Michelle Malley-Campos (Tisch Film and TV '07), and Andrea Wong (Tisch Film and TV '05) took over as Festival Directors. They put together a Launch Event "One Festival Mentors Another" Luncheon at which Nantucket Film Festival Executive Director Jill Burkhart and Artistic Director Mystelle Brabbee spoke about the challenges of directing a real-world festival and offered advice to the assembled audience on the making of the Fourth Annual Festival the best year yet. Nantucket continued their involvement for two events at the February festival. In addition, the three co-director built on the success of the previous year's documentary pitch event by transforming it into a third student competition. Highlights from the 2007 Festival Schedule:

  • Screening of Shut Up & Sing followed by Q&A with director Barbara Kopple.
  • Screening of Highway Courtesans followed by Q&A with Nantucket Film Festival Artistic Director and director Mystelle Brabbee.
  • "From Nickelodeon to the Oscars: Women Animating the World" panel featuring Jennifer Oxley ("Little Bill", "Wonder Pets"), animator and director Candy Kugel ("Nothing at All", "Life"), animator and director Debra Solomon ("Mrs. Matisse", "Everybody's Pregnant"), and writer and producer Peggy Stern ("The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation").
  • "Shorts from the Nantucket Film Festival: Women in the Festival Circuit" panel featuring writer and director Sophie Barthes ("Happiness"), cinematographer Andrij Parekh (Half Nelson), writer and director Kellen Hertz ("Why Don't You Dance?"), and Tribeca Film Festival Short Film Programmer Sharon Badal.

2008 marks a historic fifth year for the Fusion Film Festival. Since its inception by co-founders Gina Abatemarco and Emma Heald in 2003, Fusion has represented the only completely student-run film festival at Tisch dedicated to the work of women. It is our goal to build on the great work that has gone on in the past four years and make Fusion's fifth anniversary the greatest year yet for this unique film festival.