Winners of Commissioning Grant, Episodic Storytelling Grant and Lab Fellowship Revealed
Director-Screenwriter-Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor Honored
Park City, Utah — At a reception at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival today, the beneficiaries of $70,000 in grants from Sundance Institute and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation were revealed. Doron Weber, Sloan Vice President of Programs and Director of the Public Understanding of Science and Technology program, presented the Feature Film Prize to The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and announced the new winners: Skye Emerson for Challenger and Gillian Weeks for The New Miracle (Sundance Institute | Sloan Commissioning Grant); Anthony Onah for Goliath (Sundance Institute | Sloan Lab Fellowship); and Neilkanth Dave and Zachary Parris for DELTA-V (Sundance Institute | Sloan Episodic Storytelling Grant). Chiwetel Ejiofor’s The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind was formally presented with a $20,000 check for winning the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize, as previously announced.
The awards were presented at an evening cocktail reception at High West Distillery. These activities are part of the Sundance Institute Science-In-Film Initiative, which is made possible by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
“The stories we tell as a culture reveal what we value, help us make sense of the world, and allow us imagine our future more boldly,” said Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute. “When we as a people see relatable characters on screen participating in engaging jobs, we see new possibilities for ourselves. This is especially important for young people who are traditionally absent from these fields. I believe media can help change that, and Sloan’s support of these artists is at the vanguard of that effort.”
“We are thrilled to partner with Sundance for our sixteenth year in a row and to honor such inspirational, science-themed films as The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind while helping to develop new independent films such as The Sound of Silence, both making their world premieres here. And we are equally thrilled with our exciting pipeline of new scripts selected for development with Sundance this year including Challenger, The New Miracle, Goliath and Delta-V, which tell diverse, human stories about the challenges and triumphs of scientists and engineers pushing against the frontiers of knowledge,” said Doron Weber, Vice President of Programs and Director of the program in Public Understanding of Science and Technology at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “The success of recent films such as Hidden Figures, Searching and First Man show that science and technology offer many great, untold stories and fascinating characters for the boldest and most innovative filmmakers today.”
The sixteen-year partnership between the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Sundance Institute forms part of the Sloan Foundation’s nationwide Film Program, which includes support for six film schools and five screenwriting development partners and has resulted in over 20 completed feature films. In addition to Hidden Figures, originally supported by a Sloan book grant, the film program has long championed stories about women in science from Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story to stories about Rosalind Franklin, Marie Curie, Lise Meitner and Jane Goodall. The program has also supported many works about the role of technology in daily life, including the impact of machine learning, robotics and artificial intelligence. Beyond the Sloan-supported feature film, The Sound of Silence, which premiered this year at Sundance, Sloan has supported films such as To Dust, The Catcher Was a Spy, The Man Who Knew Infinity, The Imitation Game, Experimenter and Operator, along with several new projects, including episodic television, in development. The program has also given early recognition to stand-out films such as First Man, Searching, last year’s recipient of the Feature Film Prize, and The Martian.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind has been awarded the 2019 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize and received a $20,000 cash award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation at today’s reception. The Prize is selected by a jury of film and science professionals and presented to an outstanding feature film focusing on science or technology as a theme, or depicting a scientist, engineer or mathematician as a major character.
The 2019 Sloan Feature Film Prize Jury was named on January 17, 2019 and includes Dr. Mandë Holford, associate professor in chemistry at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of CUNY; theoretical astrophysicist Dr. Katie Mack; screenwriter and producer Sev Ohanian; Lydia Dean Pilcher, founder of Cine Mosaic; and actor Corey Stoll.
The jury stated, “For its inspirational and culturally nuanced true-life tale of the transformational power of science and the inventive spirit to improve everyday lives everywhere, and for its moving depiction of intra-family dynamics and a pivotal father-son relationship, the 2019 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize at the Sundance Film Festival goes to Chiwetel Ejiofor’s directorial debut The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.”
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind / United Kingdom (Director and Screenwriter: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Producers: Andrea Calderwood, Gail Egan) — Against all the odds, a 13-year-old boy in Malawi invents an unconventional way to save his family and village from famine. Based on the true story of William Kamkwamba. Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Maxwell Simba, Lily Banda, Noma Dumezweni, Aïssa Maïga, Joseph Marcell.
Chiwetel Ejiofor is a BAFTA-winning actor whose recent credits include Steve McQueen’s Academy Award–winning 12 Years a Slave, Garth Davis’ Mary Magdalene and Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange. Ejiofor’s forthcoming projects include the CGI reimagining of The Lion King and the Disney sequel Maleficent 2. His much-anticipated directorial debut, an adaptation of the book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, is expected for March 2019.
Sundance Institute / Sloan Commissioning Grant
Skye Emerson and Gillian Weeks will each receive a $12,500 cash award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival for Challenger and The New Miracle. Previous winners include Alex Rivera’s La Vida Robot and Robert Edwards’s American Prometheus.
Challenger (U.S.A.) / Skye Emerson (screenwriter) — When guarded, yet brilliant astrophysicist Sally Ride joined the first astronaut class to include women, her fight to get to space seemed her greatest challenge, but Sally’s mission to find the truth about the Challenger explosion, and her own identity, would soon threaten her foundation, and her future with NASA.
Skye Emerson is an accomplished screenwriter and filmmaker, recently receiving her Master of Fine Arts at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film & Television. She is passionate about all things art and storytelling, emphasizing in her work strong female protagonists, as well as members of the world minority. She’s an advocate for the oppressed, a voice for the voiceless and believes that film has the power to change minds and lives. Skye’s lived multiple lives, including as a Project Manager, Sports App Developer and Volunteer Dog Walker. She shares her time between her homes in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, which means that her wardrobe is in constant flux between snow boots and stilettos. Skye loves to read suspense novels and watch true crime TV, both of which have contributed to her growing insomnia and fear of basements. Feel free to reach out any time, especially at night, as she’s usually awake. Awake and afraid.
The New Miracle (U.S.A) / Gillian Weeks (Screenwriter) — Bob Edwards, a brilliant underdog from Yorkshire, England, sets out to create the world’s first “test-tube baby” in 1978, defying the moral and medical establishment and leading to the birth of in vitro fertilization – and 8 million people (so far).
Gillian Weeks has turned to narrative film and television after a decade in the documentary world. In 2018, she received the Sloan Filmmaker Fund Grant from the Tribeca Film Institute for The New Miracle In addition, she has multiple features and series in various stages of development, including an original drama series with ABC Signature Studios and Erica Messer Productions. Another, based on her experience trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, is in development with Park Pictures. Previously, Gillian oversaw series development for Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions. Gillian graduated with a BA in Political Economy from Williams College and Oxford University.
Sundance Institute / Sloan Lab Fellowship
Anthony Onah will receive a $15,000 cash award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival for Goliath. Previous winners include Logan Kibens’s Operator, Michael Almereyda’s Experimenter and Marjorie Prime and Rob Meyer’s A Birder’s Guide to Everything.
Goliath (U.S.A.) / Anthony Onah (Director, Screenwriter) — The true story of a brilliant, outsider scientist—raised poor and black—who must prove the harmful effects of a popular weed killer before a chemical giant destroys him.
Anthony Onah is a Nigerian American filmmaker who grew up in the Philippines, England, Nigeria, Togo and the U.S. His debut feature, The Price, premiered at the 2017 SXSW Film Festival in the NarrativeFeature Competition, and was released in theaters in November 2017. Onah graduated from Harvard, where he studied biochemistry and neuroscience, then earned an MFA in film directing from UCLA. He was named to Filmmaker Magazine’s list of “25 New Faces of Film” in 2015, and is an alum of the Sundance Institute Catalyst Forum.
Sundance Institute / Sloan Episodic Storytelling Grant
Neilkanth Dave and Zachary Parris will receive an $10,000 cash award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival for DELTA-V.
DELTA-V (U.S.A.) / Neilkanth Dave and Zachary Parris (Writers, Creators) — Loosely inspired by the creators’ family histories, DELTA-V is set in and around NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas during crucial points in the development and life-cycle of the Space Shuttle program. It follows an immigrant propulsion theorist from India and his newly-wed wife as they navigate American culture as well as their own arranged marriage, all while building the future of manned spaceflight. Gaëlle Cintré and Devon Dolan will produce.
Neilkanth Dave is a screenwriter living in Los Angeles. Dave was a 2016 finalist at the Warner Brothers’ Television Workshop for his spec Master of None episode and original pilot Flacko. His feature script Asian Bad Boys was optioned by Unfound Content/Trimax Media in 2017. He’s a member of the Teamsters Local 399 and most recently wrapped production on Amazon Studios’ Goliath and Steven Soderbergh’s The Laundromat.
Zachary Parris is an American writer-director based in Singapore working in features, series, and video games. He has written for BAFTA award-winning video game studio Quantic Dream on Beyond: Two Souls starring Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, and their hit PlayStation 4 title Detroid: Become Human. His short Archetype was optioned by Davis Entertainment and 20th Century Fox in 2012 and his script, Executable, finished in the top 1.9% of the 2014 Nicholl Fellowship. His latest feature King is casting. Recently, he’s worked as a consultant and senior writer on 2019 Writers Guild Awards nominee Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.
The Sundance Film Festival®
The Sundance Film Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most groundbreaking films of the past three decades, including Sorry to Bother You, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Eighth Grade, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Precious, The Cove, Little Miss Sunshine, An Inconvenient Truth, Napoleon Dynamite, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Reservoir Dogs and sex, lies, and videotape. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute®. The Festival is a program of the non-profit Sundance Institute®. 2019 Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, SundanceTV, Chase Sapphire, YouTube; Leadership Sponsors – Adobe, Amazon Studios, AT&T, DIRECTV, Dropbox, Netflix, Omnicom, Stella Artois; Sustaining Sponsors – Ancestry, Canada Goose, Canon, Dell, Francis Ford Coppola Winery, GEICO, High West Distillery, IMDbPro, Lyft, RIMOWA, Unity Technologies, University of Utah Health; Media Sponsors – The Atlantic, IndieWire, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, VARIETY, The Wall Street Journal. Sundance Institute recognizes critical support from the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and the State of Utah as Festival Host State. The support of these organizations helps offset the Festival’s costs and sustain the Institute’s year-round programs for independent artists. Look for the Official Partner seal at their venues at the Festival. sundance.org/festival
Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and media to create and thrive. The Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences to artists in igniting new ideas, discovering original voices, and building a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as Sorry to Bother You, Eighth Grade, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, RBG, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Top of the Lake, Winter’s Bone, Dear White People, Brooklyn, Little Miss Sunshine, 20 Feet From Stardom, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, I’m Poppy, America to Me, Leimert Park, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
About the Sloan Foundation
The New York-based Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, founded in 1934, is a non-profit philanthropy that makes grants for original research and education in science, technology, and economic performance. Sloan’s program in Public Understanding of Science and Technology, directed by Doron Weber, supports books, radio, film, television, theater and new media to reach a wide, non-specialized audience and to bridge the two cultures of science and the humanities.
Sloan’s Film Program encourages filmmakers to create more realistic and compelling stories about science and technology and to challenge existing stereotypes about scientists and engineers in the popular imagination. Over the past two decades, Sloan has partnered with some of the top film schools in the country – including AFI, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, NYU, UCLA and USC – and established annual awards in screenwriting and film production, along with an annual best-of-the-best Student Grand Jury Prize administered by the Tribeca Film Institute. The Foundation also supports screenplay development programs with the Sundance Institute, Tribeca Film Institute, SFFILM, the Black List, and Film Independent’s Producing Lab and Fast Track program and has helped develop such film projects as Michael Tyburski’s The Sound of Silence which premiered this year at Sundance, Shawn Snyder’s To Dust, Ben Lewin’s The Catcher Was a Spy, Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game, Matthew Brown’s The Man Who Knew Infinity, and Michael Almereyda’s Experimenter. The Foundation has also supported theatrical documentaries such as The Bit Player, BOMBSHELL: The Hedy Lamarr Story, Particle Fever, and Jacques Perrin’s Oceans.
The Foundation has an active theater program and commissions about twenty science plays each year from the Ensemble Studio Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, and the National Theatre, as well as supporting select productions across the country and abroad. Recent grants have supported Charly Evon Simpson’s Behind the Sheet, Chiara Atik’s BUMP, Lucy Kirkwood’s Mosquitoes, Nick Payne’s Constellations, Lucas Hnath’s Isaac’s Eye, and Anna Ziegler’s Photograph 51. The Foundation’s book program includes early support for Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, the highest grossing Oscar-nominated film of 2017 and the recipient of the Sloan Science in Cinema Prize at the San Francisco Film Society in December 2016.
For more information on the Sloan Foundation, visit Sloan.org.
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