Hey Female Filmmakers, It's Time You Met the Adrienne Shelly Foundation

One of the most pressing issues in the world of film philanthropy is the dearth of women filmmakers and what grantmakters are doing about it. It's a subject we've covered in the past. For example, while looking at Sundance's efforts to promote gender equality in American cinema, we noted that just six percent of the 250 top grossing films last year were directed by women. (That's 15 films for those keeping track at home.)

Most fair-minded individuals would call this figure many things: Depressing. Alarming. Unfair. Andy Ostroy considers this figure "shameful." Who is Andy Ostroy? Ostroy is the Founder and executive director of the Adrienne Shelly Foundation.

Unlike Sundance, for whom various grants, programs, and workshops fall within a broader mission of supporting independent cinema, the Adrienne Shelly Foundation is committed to one solitary goal—supporting women filmmakers. The foundation was established in 2006 following the tragic death of its namesake, an actress, director, and screenwriter. Ostroy was also Adrienne's husband and he created the foundation to honor her legacy. According to Ostroy, Adrienne "stood tall in an industry where women face major challenges. But she did it, and on her own terms. She was able to successfully transition from actor to filmmaker, writing and directing three features."

And so the foundation supports women filmmakers by partnering closely with nationally renowned film programs and academic institutions, including the Sundance, AFI, IFP, Tribeca Film Institute, Nantucket Film Festival, Boston University, Columbia University, and Rooftop Films. This support comes in the form of scholarships, production grants, finishing funds, and living stipends. The foundation has handed out over 50 awards since its inception. One of its grant recipients, Cynthia Wade, won an Academy Award in 2008 for Freeheld, a short-subject documentary that the foundation funded.

Click here to see the foundation's various awards, given in tandem with its partners. Nine are listed, but rather than list them all, we'll highlight four.


  • The Adrienne Shelly Foundation Production Grant is given each spring to a participant at American Film Institute's Directing Workshop for Women, a hands-on training program committed to increasing the number of women working professionally in screen directing. The workshop is open to women with three or more years of professional experience in the arts. Application deadline is December 6th. Click here for more details.
  • The Adrienne Shelley Excellence in Filmmaking Award, totaling $5,000 is presented at the Nantucket Film Festival (NFF) each spring to a female writer/director who shows outstanding achievement in the art of filmmaking. All feature-length films in the NFF lineup are eligible.
  • The Adrienne Shelly Foundation Women Filmmakers Grant is awarded each July to a filmmaker coming out of the June Director’s Lab of the Sundance's Feature Film Program.
  • The Adrienne Shelly Screenwriting Fellowship is awarded each May at the annual Tribeca Film Festival.


Along with the Adrienne Shelly Foundation and Sundance, New York Women in Film and Television is another organization committed to supporting women in American cinema. Click here for an overview of its grant programs.