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NYU Student Wins $50,000 from Tribeca & Sloan Foundation in Second Annual Best Screenplay Prize

Photo of Bryce J. Renninger By Bryce J. Renninger | Indiewire April 9, 2012 at 3:16PM

At a special awards ceremony cohosted by the Tribeca Film Institute and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, it was announced that NYU student Grainger David was selected as the second annual Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize for Screenplay, a contest that names the best science-themed screenplay from any of six participating film schools.
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Tribeca Film Institute

At a special awards ceremony cohosted by the Tribeca Film Institute and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, it was announced that NYU student Grainger David was selected as the second annual Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize for Screenplay, a contest that names the best science-themed screenplay from any of six participating film schools.

David's script centers on a community college geology professor who thinks he's found a large diamond mind in the Northwest Territories.  For winning, David will receive a $50,000 prize, $20,000 of which goes to the support of the project.

The full press release is below:

TRIBECA FILM INSTITUTE AND THE ALFRED P. SLOAN FOUNDATION ANNOUNCE

WINNER OF $50,000 SLOAN STUDENT GRAND JURY PRIZE FOR SCREENWRITING

***

Grainger David of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts to Receive Financial Support, Supervision and Guidance from the Tribeca Film Institute as the Winner

of Sloan’s Prize for Science-Themed Screenplay

Sloan Has Awarded over $3.5 Million in Direct Grants to Film Students Since 1997

[New York, NY – April 5, 2012] – The Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) today announced the recipient of the 2012 Alfred P. SloanFoundation Student Grand Jury Prize for Screenwriting. Penny Stock by Grainger David of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts was selected as the “best-of-the-best” screenplay from the winning scripts at six leading film schools participating in Sloan’s decade-long National Film Program. 

The $50,000 grant was created last year by the Sloan Foundation to recognize exceptional feature screenplays that dramatize science and technology themes and/or that portray scientists, engineers, or mathematicians in prominent character roles. Grainger David from Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina will receive a $30,000 cash prize, as well as an additional $20,000 to be used in direct support of the project.  The award includes year-round support from TFI, including mentorship and guidance from scientific and film industry professionals, networking opportunities, and industry exposure.

Penny Stock was selected by an awards committee comprised of actress Ally Sheedy (The Breakfast Club, High Art); director John Badham (Saturday Night Fever, WarGames); actress Rachael Leigh Cook (She's All That); scientist and bioweaponeer Sergei Popov, and neurobiologist Ricardo Gil da Costa (Fringe).  Additional input came from the Sloan Foundation and its four partners in screenplay development: the Tribeca Film Institute, Film Independent, the Hamptons International Film Festival and Sundance Institute. Grainger David’s screenplay was chosen from nominees that had previously won Sloan prizes at the Foundation’s six affiliated film school programs: UCLA (School of Theatre, Film and Television), NYU (Tisch School of the Arts), USC (School of Cinematic Arts), Carnegie Mellon  (School of Drama), AFI (America’s Conservatory for Filmmakers), and Columbia  (School of the Arts). 

Penny Stock is a feature screenplay about a community college geology professor, who risks everything on a bold new theory in the race to discover an epic diamond pipe in the Northwest Territories. Becoming a mining prospector was never in the professor’s plans – or his family’s – but he feels that he is on the cusp of discovering something great, and he’s willing to risk everything to prove it. 

Last year’s inaugural prize went to Robert Cohen of NYU for his work Bystander, which is based on the 1964 rape and murder of Kitty Genovese in Queens. Though the attack lasted over 30 minutes, none of the 37 witnesses called the police or intervened until she was already dead.  Four years later, a groundbreaking psychological study on the "Bystander Effect" explained the inaction of the witnesses. Though a fictional account of the attack’s aftermath, the scientific research and theories in the script are historically and psychologically accurate.  Since winning, Cohen has been paired with an industry mentor, producer Alexis Alexanian (Pieces of April, Tadpole), who has helped him with re-writes and feedback on option agreements he has received. TFI is also providing a social psychologist who will serve as a mentor to help Cohen maintain the authenticity of the science.

“We are pleased to once again join The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to nurture and encourage student filmmaking,” said Tamir Muhammad, Director of Feature Programming, TFI.  “The Sloan Student Grand Jury prize and our annual TFI Sloan Filmmaker Fund allow films that promote a greater understanding of science and mathematics to get the year-round support and funding they need to reach their full potential.  Sloan is an integral part of the Tribeca community and we are grateful for their continued support.”

“We are delighted to partner with Tribeca in selecting Penny Stock, the thrilling tale of an Indiana Jones-type geology professor in a race to discover diamonds, as this year’s winner of the Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize,” said Doron Weber, Vice President of Programs for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  “For over a decade, Sloan has supported six of the nation’s leading film schools with annual awards in screenwriting and film production for films that dramatize science and technology’s themes and characters.  This year several of those projects like Robot and Frank and Valley of Saints, have been successfully shot and released into the festival circuit.  With Tribeca’s skillful mentoring, we expect Penny Stock to speed its way into theaters and demonstrate yet again how films about science and technology can appeal to audiences everywhere.”

The Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize was created to recognize the very best student screenplay in the nation that uses science and technology themes or characters to tell an engaging story.  Since 1997, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has given more than $3.5 million in direct grants to film students throughout the country, including $1.75 million in prize money to student screenwriters and more than $1.75 million to student directors and producers. Established as part of Sloan’s increasing commitment to support science and technology films through to commercial production, the Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize will boost development of the winning project, and introduce the work and its writer to the industry at large.

The award was presented at an evening reception in New York City on Thursday, April 5, 2012.