The Tribeca Film Institute-Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize is awarded annually to the best screenplay from amongst those that have received a Sloan award during the year. Six graduate film programs award Sloan screenwriting grants. The Grand Jury Prize is a $30,000 cash prize plus $20,000 in mentoring from the Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) as well as from scientists and industry professionals.
On March 16, Annie Pulsipher from Carnegie Mellon University was awarded the prize for her script THE GLOWING GENE. Columbia University graduate student Christopher Abeel got honorable mention for his script A MOTIVATED MAN. A reception followed at The Park on 10th Avenue in Chelsea, which had specialty cocktails for each drink (“The Glowing Gene” had a fluorescent green straw.)
Annie Pulsipher’s THE GLOWING GENE centers on an Indian-born biogeneticist spearheading a project to eradicate mosquitoes using gene-editing techniques. Mosquitoes spread malaria, dengue fever, and other deadly diseases, but they also play an ecological role. Pulsipher was inspired by a Radiolab story she heard in 2014. She is studying dramatic writing at Carnegie Mellon. Her background is in playwriting; her play Voodoo You Do was produced at the Kensington Theatre Company.
When asked how she will use the $30,000, Pulsipher wrote to Science & Film, “What I am most excited about is using some of my grant money to travel to England and India (the two most prominent locations of THE GLOWING GENE) to do onsite science and cultural research. The religion of Jainism and how its non-violent tenants intersect with mosquito eradication efforts is a moral quandary that I'm dedicated to portraying with depth and accuracy. So the chance to travel to Jain cultural centers and talk to religious leaders will be invaluable.”
Christopher Abeel’s A MOTIVATED MAN, honorable mention for the prize, also deals with morality and science. It is the story of Fritz Haber, the German-Jewish chemist who discovered a means of artificially fixing nitrogen which was applied to soil and saved billions of lives, and also invented mustard gas, which was used by the Nazis during World War II to kill millions of people.
The six schools in contention for the Prize are NYU, Columbia University, Carnegie Mellon University, UCLA, USC, and the American Film Institute. The 2016 winner was NYU alumn Shawn Snyder for his script TO DUST. The story is about a Hasidic man who, despite religious and legal restrictions, goes on a quest to understand the decomposition of his late wife’s body. TO DUST is planning to shoot in May of 2017 in New York. Actress Emily Mortimer became attached as a producer after she helped to select TO DUST as the 2016 winner.