Jan 17, 2020
Newly Expanded Funding Pipeline Champions Narrative Feature Screenplays Based on Recent Landmark Scientific Discoveries and Remarkable Published Stories
San Francisco, CA – SFFILM has announced the four screenwriting teams that have been selected to receive funding through the Sloan Stories of Science Development Fund, which was launched in 2019 to support the development of narrative feature screenplays adapted from the stories behind recent scientific discoveries. Produced in partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Sloan Stories of Science Development Fund grants are part of the organization’s efforts to support programs that cultivate and champion films exploring scientific or technological themes and characters. Managed under the auspices of SFFILM’s artist development program, SFFILM Makers, this new fund is designed to ensure that narrative feature films that tell compelling stories about the worlds of science and technology continue to be made and seen.
The review committee consisted of Brad Balukjian, Ph.D., Director of Natural History & Sustainability Program, Merritt College; Sara Bender, Ph.D., Program Officer, Science, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation; Sophie Gunther, SFFILM Artist Development Manager, Filmmaker Funds; Patrick House, Ph.D., Fellow at the Allen Institute for Brain Science; Lauren Kushner, SFFILM Interim Director of Artist Development; and Indre Viskontas, Ph.D, Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of San Francisco.
The committee noted in a statement: “It has been an honor to select the inaugural recipients of the SFFILM Sloan Stories of Science Development Fund, whose approach echoes the spirit of discovery in the scientific and technological communities. SFFILM is grateful to the Sloan Foundation for their continued and unparalleled leadership in this arena and for championing bold stories from our past and immediate present, all of which inform the future of the public understanding of science and technology.”
“We’re thrilled to partner with SFFILM in awarding the inaugural grants through the Sloan Stories of Science Development Fund to these four talented filmmakers,” said Doron Weber, Vice President & Program Director of the Sloan Foundation. “This pilot program is designed to encourage filmmakers to develop new films based on the most important scientific discoveries each year, as well as on notable published stories featuring scientific themes or characters, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the exciting results in this first group.”
The Sloan Stories of Science Development Fund supports the screen adaptation of specific scientific articles and discoveries, catalogued in the Sloan Stories of Science Sourcebook as inspiration for filmmakers. The Sourcebook library featured articles from outlets such as Wired magazine, the New York Times Magazine, the Verge, Discover magazine, The Atlantic, and the New Yorker, as well as a list of recent momentous scientific and technological discoveries, whose stories are well suited to be adapted into feature film screenplays.
These inaugural winners each receive a $10,000 cash grant and access to a two-day filmmaker retreat. designed to provide guidance and mentorship from scientists, science and tech journalists, and film industry professionals to help them shape their storytelling vision; and from producers and legal advisors to help navigate adapting true stories to the screen.
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Tasha Van Zandt, writer/director
A world-renowned marine biologist risked his reputation and welfare on his lifelong obsessive hunt for the sea’s most elusive creature. Now, retired and far from his life of adventure, he enters a new chapter after being told he will soon lose his eyesight due to a rare degenerative condition. In a race against time, he must decide if he is willing to risk it all again and embark on one last expedition to capture the giant squid.
Shawn Snyder, co-writer/director; Jason Begue, co-writer
The Futurist depicts the rise and maddening descent of a scientist once on the cutting edge but now on the outer fringes. When the scientific community abandons him, a neurologist takes matters into his own brain—using himself for cyborgian research. Recovering from experimental brain surgery, he embarks on a journey of the mind that reaches back into his personal and professional obsessions and forward into man’s distant future, all in search of connection and a lasting legacy.
Sort You Out
Isabel Shill, writer
It’s the Swinging Sixties in East London. A spinster opens a marriage bureau and enlists the help of the chip shop lady to design the world’s first computerized matchmaking machine.
Start a Fire
William Moran, writer
A Calistoga artist runs an art exhibit based on the DNA sampling of his community. Unknown to the locals, he is also uploading their DNA profiles to an ancestry website with the hope of identifying a serial arsonist who started the fire that killed his wife. His actions unleash police investigations, secret DNA collections, and suspicion throughout the community.
The Stories of Science Development Fund is part of SFFILM and the Sloan Foundation’s year-round Science in Cinema initiative, which is designed to develop and present new feature films and episodic content that portray fully-drawn scientist and technologist characters; immerse audiences in the challenges and rewards of scientific discovery; and sharpen public awareness of the intersection of science, technology and our daily lives. Leveraging its position in the heart of the innovation capital of the world, SFFILM seeks to forge meaningful connections between the artistic and scientific communities through a suite of programs. In addition to this program, the initiative also features the Sloan Science in Cinema Filmmaker Fellowship, which also supports the development of narrative feature screenplays; Sloan Science in Cinema Prize, which celebrates a finished narrative feature film each fall; and Sloan Science on Screen, a spotlight program at the San Francisco International Film Festival that debuted in 2016.
For more information, visit sffilm.org.
SFFILM Makers (formerly “Filmmaker360”), the organization’s artist development program, provides significant financial and creative resources to independent filmmakers through grants, fellowships, residencies, fiscal sponsorship, and more. Since 2009, over $7 million has been disbursed to more than 200 film projects in various stages of production. Highlights include the SFFILM Rainin Grant and the SFFILM Westridge Grant, which together distribute the most nonprofit funding for narrative features in the United States; a joint effort with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to cultivate stories rooted in science and technology; and the Documentary Film Fund, a partnership with the Jenerosity Foundation. For more information, visit sffilm.org/makers.
SFFILM is a nonprofit organization with a mission to champion the world’s finest films and filmmakers through programs anchored in and inspired by the spirit and values of the San Francisco Bay Area. Presenter of the San Francisco International Film Festival (April 8–21, 2020), SFFILM is a year-round organization delivering screenings and events to more than 75,000 film lovers and media education programs to more than 12,000 students and teachers annually. In addition to its public programs, SFFILM supports the careers of independent filmmakers from the Bay Area and beyond with grants, residencies, and other creative development services. For more information visit sffilm.org.
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
The 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 bridge the two cultures of science and the humanities. The Foundation works with over a dozen film school and film festival partners and has supported over 620 film projects, including over 25 feature films. For more information visit sloan.org or follow @SloanPublic on Twitter or Facebook.