NYU Tisch School the Arts’s $100,000 Sloan First Feature Film Prize was awarded to graduate film student Shawn Snyder to produce his screenplay, TO DUST. The NYU-Sloan prize is awarded annually to a student project that portrays intellectually engaging and entertaining images of scientists and their work. Snyder conceived TO DUST with the intent to find the emotion in science. The main character is a Hassidic synagogue cantor who becomes obsessed with his wife’s death. Out of a need to understand how her body will decay, he finds an ally—a college biology professor. This narrative feature centers on the theme of decomposition, and features a biologist as a central character. This darkly comedic buddy film has a tone reminiscent of a Coen Brothers movie. TO DUST will be Snyder’s first feature film.

Shawn Snyder is an ex-troubadour. Music has been a central theme in the two short films he has written, directed, edited, and starred in. He is an accomplished performer.

Snyder’s previous shorts are called LULU and FESTUS. They have played at festivals such as the Palm Spring International ShortFest, the Montreal World Film Festival, and the Brussels Short Film Festival. FESTUS was winner of the CINE Golden Eagle Special Jury Prize for Best Student Drama in 2015. It is about a man nervous about playing at a bar’s open mic night. LULU centers on a musician and a paralegal, and is a romantic drama that Snyder made in collaboration with the independent filmmaker Jason Begue. Begue is collaborating with Snyder on TO DUST.

Shawn Snyder is currently enrolled in NYU Tisch’s graduate film program. The NYU-Sloan program awards screenplay, production, and feature film prizes to students whose work explores science and technology themes and characters. Previous winners of the $100,000 prize are Frances Bodomo for AFRONAUTS, and Brittany Shaw and Ginny Mohler for RADIUM GIRLS. Keep an eye out for an upcoming Science & Film interview with Shawn Snyder.