By Ziyad Saadi | Indiewire February 27, 2014 at 11:37AM
It's been three years since the Tribeca Film Institute began bestowing student grants to aspiring filmmakers. Now the organization continues its charitable work in the independent film community by awarding Laura Alsum with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Student Grand Jury Prize in Screenwriting for her science-themed screenplay "Survival of the Fittest."
Alsum, who attends UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and Television has had her script selected as the best-of-the-best from the winning scripts, submitted by six leading film schools (AFI, Carnegie-Mellon, Columbia, NYU, UCLA and USC) participating in Sloan’s National Film Program. Catering to the grant's requirement of science and technology themes, "Survival of the Fittest" follows the story of 12-year-old Charlie, whose progressive neuromuscular disease prevents him from engaging in sports and therefore forces him to prove to his school that he still belongs by winning the last competition of the year – the science fair.
In addition to the hefty $30,000 cash prize, the Tribeca Film Institute also provides mentorship, industry exposure and an additional $20,000 administered by the organization towards year-round support, all of which will ultimately give the lucky winner a great career opportunity. “Fostering emerging filmmakers who will excel at raising awareness of science and technology in partnership with Sloan is incredibly rewarding for Tribeca Film Institute,” said Tamir Muhammad, TFI’s Director of Feature Programming.
This year's jury was comprised of Amy Ryan ("The Office," "Gone Baby Gone"); producer Emma Tillinger Koskoff ("Wolf of Wall Stree); biological anthropologist Helen Fisher; screenwriter/director/producer Nancy Savoca; actor Rae Dawn Chong ("Jeff Who Lives at Home," "Commando"); director/screenwriter Deepa Mehta ("Heaven on Earth"); physicist Gabriel Cwilich; and actor Matthew Modine ("Dark Knight Rises," "Full Metal Jacket").
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 $3.8 million in direct grants to film students throughout the country.