"Insecure" co-creator Issa Rae will hold a masterclass, moderated by journalist Lovia Gyarkye, for NYU Tisch’s premiere student film festival celebrating women creators in film, TV, and new media

Issa Rae


The Fusion Film Festival—NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ premier student film festival celebrating women and non-binary creators in film, TV, and new media—has named the Emmy- and Golden Globe- nominated co-creator and star of HBO’s Insecure, Issa Rae, “Woman of the Year” for 2021. Rae will hold a masterclass moderated by culture critic Lovia Gyarkye, on Friday, April 2. The three-day virtual festival will also feature a masterclass by film distribution guru, Mia Bruno, who guides filmmakers for Sundance Labs and IFP, and a documentary panel led by Brown Girls Doc Mafia founder Iyabo Boyd. All events are free of charge and open to the public.

Issa Rae’s masterclass will explore the process of creating Insecure, how the pandemic has changed the way she works and writes, the nuances of collaboration, the universality of self-doubt, and much more. Previous winners of Fusion’s “Woman of the Year” award include Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning creator of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Amy Sherman-Palladino; Grammy-winning music video director Melina Matsoukas; Oscar-winning screenwriter Lucy Alibar; Oscar-winning independent film producer Christine Vachon; and acclaimed cinematographer/director Reed Morano.

With her own unique flare and infectious sense of humor, Rae first garnered attention for her award-winning web series and the accompanying New York Times best-seller, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. She created and stars in the hit HBO show, Insecure, for which she has received multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. Rae made her film debut in the acclaimed drama, The Hate U Give. In 2020, she starred in Netflix's The Lovebirds, a romantic comedy and the HBO political-satire drama, Coastal Elites.

“One of the greatest joys at Fusion this year is seeing the return of Fusion alumni as their careers launch,” said Susan Sandler, Fusion faculty advisor, filmmaker, and Tisch film and TV professor. “We are so proud to welcome Iyabo Boyd, a former Fusion Co-Director, and now founder of the powerful collective Brown Girls Doc Mafia, as well as  filmmakers Emory Parker, Denise Zhou, and Gabrielle Moses sharing their films as part of our Distribution Workshop.”

Tisch alumnae—such as Matsoukas, Alibar, and Morano—are part of a growing Fusion mentorship network designed to help foster the next generation of female storytellers. In 2002, when the Fusion Film Festival was first launched, male students outnumbered female students at the Tisch undergraduate film program by a ratio of 2 to 1. By 2017, thanks to the concerted efforts of the undergraduate film and television department, programs such as Fusion, and Tisch’s ongoing commitment to fight unconscious biases and elevate underrepresented minorities, Tisch undergraduate film reached the milestone of equal enrollment among male and female students, and remains so today.

“I am honored to be working alongside the incredible students on the Fusion Film Festival team and under the guidance of Susan Sandler. As the future leaders of the entertainment industry, we all care so deeply about making a difference on the student level. We strive to provide a space where we can learn and uplift each other, and it has been so rewarding to have this community during virtual classes,” said Roni Polsgrove, co-director of the 2021 Fusion Film Festival and current student in the undergraduate film and television program at NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

This year’s Fusion Film Festival will open on Thursday, April 1st with a distribution masterclass led by Mia Bruno and Fourth Act Film. Bruno’s work at Fourth Act Film has helped filmmakers navigate the evolving world of distribution by designing unique and engaging campaigns to attract audiences. Bruno has worked with companies such as The Sierra Club and Sundance Institute and has created campaigns for the films The Assistant (2019) and Coded Bias (2020), along with many others. The event will premiere virtually at 8 p.m. EST.

On Friday, April 2, Issa Rae will be presented Fusion’s “Woman of the Year'' award by Dean of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Allyson Green. Rae will participate in a moderated Q&A with culture critic and New York Times journalist Lovia Gyarkye and answer questions submitted via social media.

Saturday, April 3rd, kicks off at 4 p.m. EST with a documentary panel featuring Iyabo Boyd and her foundation Brown Girls Doc Mafia. The event has been organized in conjunction with Focus Film Festival and will center on Boyd’s work within the world of documentaries and the achievements of Black Girls Doc Mafia.

That evening, Fusion Film Festival’s final event, the 2021 Awards Ceremony, commences at 8 p.m. EST online through YouTube. Throughout the evening, finalists and winners will be announced in categories Best Undergraduate Film, Graduate Film, Music Video, Documentary, Sight & Sound Film, Freshman Rising Star, Graduate Feature Script, Undergraduate Feature Script, Animation, and Half-Hour Pilot Script. The category winners, who are judged by NYU faculty and alumni and industry professionals, will take home over $20,000 in prizes and rewards from Final Draft, Epidemic Sound, Canon, and Adobe Photoshop.

Fusion offers programming throughout the school year, culminating in a three day spring festival of screenings, industry panels, master classes, retrospectives, networking events, and competitions in fourteen categories all focused on women’s voices and work behind the camera. For 2021, Fusion Film Festival has pivoted to the virtual format because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, yet continues its work mentoring and inspiring the next generation of great storytellers.

Below is a full list of programming and events for the 2021 festival. All events are free and open to the public. For Fusion Film Festival 2021 updates, please visit @fusionfilmfest on Instagram and @fusionfilmfestival on Facebook.

Fusion thanks our major sponsors: Final Draft, Avid, Adobe, and Canon.

Visit https://fusion21.carrd.co/ for a virtual festival brochure, which contains RSVP links for all events.



Thursday, April 1, 8 p.m. ET

Using active projects in the pipeline by Fusion alumni as case studies https://fusion21.carrd.co/#mia-bruno

Mia Bruno
Mia Bruno combines an intricate knowledge of film distribution and sales with a skill for innovative and effective marketing strategies. Mia works with filmmakers and content-creators as a distribution strategist and grassroots marketer/impact producer, marrying a nuanced understanding of the marketplace with creative campaigns designed to connect with audiences meaningfully.  Some of her recent work include Shalini Kantayya's CODED BIAS, James Cameron's THE GAME CHANGERS, and Netflix's THE GREAT HACK.  Mia has worked with film organizations Sundance, Cinereach, IFP, and DOC NYC, consults on content strategy for brands like AAA and Meow Wolf, and currently works with New York's Metrograph theater on marketing and distribution.

Emory Parker
Emory Parker is an NYU Tisch graduate and proud recipient of the Horizon Award founded by Cassian Elwes, Christine Vachon, and Lynette Howell Taylor. Her work has been featured in TimeOut, The New York Post, Billboard, and in countless festivals worldwide. In 2017, Emory founded Blue Slate, a production company that brings queer, female-driven stories to the forefront. Since being named a winner of the Governor's #NewYorkTough PSA contest and a finalist in the Curbside Shorts Film Challenge sponsored by ReFrame, Women in Film LA, and IMDB Pro, Emory has been producing content for companies like NASDAQ and Condé Nast, as well as working on several of her own creative projects.

Denise Zhou
Denise Zhou is a CA-raised, NYC-based filmmaker. Since graduating from Tisch in 2019, she has been working at Soledad O'Brien Productions, a documentary development & production company. Her previous films have screened at Tribeca Film Festival and she recently worked as an Assistant Editor on Lulu Wang’s The Farewell. Denise is passionate about centering BIPOC voices through storytelling and cultivating community spaces that resist systems of power.

Gabriella Moses
Gabriella A. Moses is an award-winning director, writer, and production designer based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has received support from 2016 Sundance Institute’s Creative Producing Lab, the 2017 NYWIFT "From Script to Pre-Production" Workshop, 2018 Sundance Screenwriter's Intensive, 2018 Tribeca Film Institute All Access Lab and 2018 Gabriel Figueroa Film Fund program.  She most recently was a  TFI x Chanel Through Her Lens Fellow. Principal photography on Leche is scheduled for summer 2021. She believes in sharing stories with underrepresented protagonists that test viewer’s perceptions of identity and their imaginations.

Friday, April 2, 8 p.m. ET

Moderated by the journalist Lovia Gyarkye

Saturday, April 3, 4 p.m. ET
BROWN GIRLS DOC MAFIA PANEL: With Founder Iyabo Boyd, plus Emily Cohen Ibañez, Toni Kamau, & Ashley O’Shayhttps://fusion21.carrd.co/#iyabo-boyd

Iyabo Boyd
Iyabo is a writer, director, and producer that strives to tell stories from under-explored perspectives, and to reflect the dynamic humanity of women and people of color. Her short ME TIME, a black feminist comedy about self care and masturbation, played over 25 festivals including Blackstar, Rooftop Films, and Miami Shorts Fest, and won 9 awards including Best Director at the Atlanta Comedy Film Festival. Her feature screenplay, KAYLA & EDDIE EN FRANÇAIS, a collaboration with her dad, is about an estranged Black father and daughter reconnecting in Paris. For this project, Iyabo was a fellow in the Sundance Film Festival’s Talent Forum, the Sundance Film Institute’s Screenwriting Intensive, IFP’s No Borders Project Forum, and was awarded a SFFILM Rainin Screenwriting Grant. Iyabo is also the founder of Brown Girls Doc Mafia, a collective for women filmmakers of color, which has 4,500 members globally. Iyabo was a Ford Foundation JustFilms Fellow, and is a recipient of DocNYC’s New Leader award. Iyabo was a founding team member and later a Co-Director of NYU's Fusion Film Festival. She graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts for film, and currently resides in the Bronx, NY.

Toni Kamau

Toni Kamau is the youngest female African documentary producer to be invited as a member of the Academy for Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences - Documentary Branch. As an award winning producer, writer and founder of We Are Not the Machine, a Nairobi-based production company, she tells stories of outsiders, rebels and change makers. Her past credits include half-hour documentaries for Al Jazeera, MTV Europe and BBC Africa.

The Sundance Special Jury prize winner and POV co-production “Softie”, produced by Toni and directed by Sam Soko, premiered at Sundance in 2020 in the World Cinema Documentary Feature Competition, was selected as the opening night film at Hot Docs 2020, won the Oscar qualifying best African Documentary award at Durban Film Festival and the Documentary Silver Prize at El Gouna Film festival. “I am Samuel”, a feature produced by Toni and directed by 2019 Rory Peck winner Pete Murimi recently had its world premiere at the 2020 edition of Hot Docs and its European premiere at BFI London Film Festival.

Toni is currently in production on a feature documentary about home and belonging and in development on a couple of documentary series and stand alone shorts.

Emily Cohen Ibañez
Emily Cohen Ibañez (producer/director/cinematographer/writer) is a Latinx filmmaker with Colombian and Syrian Jewish heritage. She earned her doctorate in Anthropology (2011) with a certificate in Culture and Media at New York University. Her film work pairs lyricism with social activism, advocating for labor, environmental, and health justice. Her directorial feature documentary debut, FRUITS OF LABOR will be having its World Premiere at SXSW 2021. Emily was a Fulbright Scholar in 2007-2008 based in Colombia, South America; she screened her film Bodies at War in 22 rural Colombian municipalities affected by landmines in partnership with the Colombian Campaign Against Landmines. Emily regularly makes commissioned short films for venues like The Guardian, The Intercept, and Independent Lens. She also contributes cinematography to independent films including Bronx Obama (2014) directed by Ryan Murdock which won a “Best in Fest” award at AFI Docs. She is recipient of multiple fellowships and grants including JustFilms Ford Foundation, Firelight Doc Lab, 4th World Indigenous Media Lab, and Field of Vision amongst others.

Ashley O’Shay
Ashley O’Shay is a DP and documentarian based in Chicago, IL, whose work focuses on illuminating marginalized voices. She has produced work for national brands, including Lifetime, Nike, KQED, and Dr. Martens. She filmed the final episode of Dr. Martens' "Tough As You" series, starring the band Phony Ppl, accruing over 65K views on social and web. In 2019, she co-produced the Chicago episode of KQED’s award-winning series “If Cities Could Dance,” which became one of their most viewed episodes to date. Her work also appeared in the critically-acclaimed Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly. Most recently, she premiered her debut feature, Unapologetic, a deep look into the Movement for Black Lives in Chicago, told through the experiences of two young, Black queer women. The film premiered at the 2020 BlackStar Film Festival, and was shortlisted for the International Documentary Association Awards.

Saturday, April 3, 8 p.m. ET

Finalists and winners will be announced for all categories in a YouTube Premiere. Finalist films will be available to stream from March 27th-April 10th as a part of Fusion’s Vimeo Showcase.


About Fusion Film Festival
The Fusion Film Festival is NYU Tisch’s premiere festival dedicated to celebrating the work of women in film, television and new media, from student to icon. In the 18 years since its launch, the student-run festival has ben proud to attract accomplished artists such as Julie Taymor, Kasi Lemmons, Christine Vachon,  Miranda July, Stella Meghie,  Amy Sherman Palladino, Reed Morano, Barbara Kopple,  Eliza HItmann  and Jane Campion. Fusion is proud to be an Allied Partner of the Sundance Women’s Initiative. Beyond the multi-day annual showcase of work, Fusion offers year round events, building a vital artistic community for both current students and alumni, exploring ways to break down barriers that separate men and women in film and television, while creating valuable opportunities for collaboration, cross-promotion and mentorship.  For more information, visit www.FusionFilmFestival.com


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