Last month, Savannah Reich was awarded the 2015 TFI Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize in Screenwriting for her script, Deep Sea Divers of 1929, after being first recognized by the Sloan Foundation with a Carnegie Mellon Screenwriting Grant in 2014. Sloan Science and Film talked with Savannah about her project and the next steps in bringing her story to the screen.
Sloan Science and Film: Can you tell our readers a little about yourself?
Savannah Reich: I'm currently in my last few weeks of the MFA program in Dramatic Writing at Carnegie Mellon University, which has been an amazing and life-changing experience. Before coming to CMU I lived in my hometown of Minneapolis, MN. I'm a playwright and I tend to produce my own work- I've always been interested in making shows in non-traditional spaces like warehouses, backyards, basements, and so on. I had never done any screenwriting before I came to the program.
SSF: What’s Deep Sea Divers of 1929 about?
SR: Deep Sea Divers of 1929 is based on the true story of Otis Barton and William Beebe, who invented the first deep-sea submarine in 1930. They went down nearly half a mile, and were the first people to see deep-sea creatures in their natural habitat. My film tells their story in the classic old Hollywood style of films from that time period, so there are lots of songs and tap dance numbers. I wrote it thinking of Fred Astaire.
SSF: What kind of science are we going to see in the film? Are you working with science advisors?
SR: I worked with a marine biologist, Dr. Pedro Medina Rosas, whose advice was incredibly helpful. The science in the film is mostly centered around the way that real scientists study the ocean. William Beebe was actually very ground-breaking in the way he approached his work - he chose to study one square mile of underwater habitat from the surface to the bottom, recognizing that it was all one ecosystem, just like the rainforest.
SSF: Tell me a little about some of the challenges you’re anticipating in bringing the film to the screen.
SR: I think my main challenge is my own inexperience! But I've already been learning so much, and I know that I will keep on going from here.
SSF: What are your next steps to get there? How have the funds from Sloan helped?
SR: I'm headed to the Tribeca Film Festival next week. The Sloan Foundation and the Festival very generously invite the Grand Jury winner to attend the festival and set up several days of one-on-one industry meetings. So I'm looking forward to meeting people at the festival and hearing their advice.