Marisa Torelli-Pedevska's Starlight Wins Student Grand Jury Prize

Museum of the Moving Image and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation have announced the recipient of the 2021 Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize: Marisa Torelli-Pedevska for her scripted series Starlight. As the press release reads: "Created to celebrate outstanding feature film screenplays or series that integrate science or technology into realistic, compelling, and timely stories, the Sloan Student Prizes also aim to support film development and advance the careers of diverse, emerging filmmakers as they transition out of graduate school and into the film industry.The Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize is awarded to the best-of-the-best science-themed screenplay from those nominated by six of the nation’s top film schools—American Film Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, New York University, University of Southern California, and University of California, Los Angeles—that have year-round awards programs with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for narrative works dramatizing scientific or technological themes and characters. Each school nominates one prior Sloan-winning screenplay for consideration for the Grand Jury Prize.

Marisa Torelli-Pedevska will receive a $20,000 prize, industry exposure, and year-round mentorship from both a science advisor and film industry professional. This is the first Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize awarded under the stewardship of Museum of the Moving Image, which will host an awards ceremony on January 12, 2022.

The winner of the 2021 SLOAN STUDENT GRAND JURY PRIZE:

Screenwriter: Marisa Torelli-Pedevska (University of Southern California, School of Cinematic Arts)
Logline: When a young female scientist arrives at the University of Cambridge in 1919, she must choose whether to follow the rules or change the game altogether. Inspired by the life and career of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin.
About the filmmaker: Torelli-Pedevska is a USC MFA screenwriting candidate who writes about belonging—the thing we’re all searching for. She is a Jay Roach Endowed Scholar, recipient of the USC Sloan Screenwriting Award, and the co-founder of Inevitable Foundation, a nonprofit that funds and mentors disabled screenwriters. She will never admit that her favorite pastime is endlessly rewatching TV shows from the early 2000s that stole her heart and inspired her to become a storyteller

The jury also awarded Honorable Mention to:

Screenwriter: Steven Kreager (New York University, Tisch School of the Arts)
Logline: When a young and inexperienced SFX artist is hired to provide effects for his first Hollywood film, he must invent a new camera system to match the demands of the impossible-to-film screenplay: The Star Wars. Based on a true story.
About the filmmaker: Steven Kreager is a writer, filmmaker, and comedian based out of Los Angeles. In 2021, he graduated from NYU’s Dramatic Writing MFA program and won its Sloan Screenwriting Grant. He is currently sending his first feature film to festivals and continues to have nightmares about the B-minus from his “Intro to Creative Writing” class. It will forever haunt him.

The winner was selected last week by a jury of esteemed film and science professionals who for the first time were all women. The 2021 jury included: actress Cara Seymour (Radium Girls, The Knick); producer Natalie Qasabian (Searching, Run); Cinetic’s Head of Tracking Alexis Galfas; Princeton University Historian of Technology Dr. Emily Thompson; Cornell Tech Interaction Design Specialist Dr. Wendy Ju; and marine biochemist Dr. Bethanie Edwards of University of California, Berkeley. The jury said, 'Marisa Torelli-Pedevska's Starlight is an exciting and necessary feminist story of a scientist—Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin—who changed our understanding of what the universe is made of, determined to excel despite the obstacles women faced in a male-dominated field at the turn of the nineteenth century. For its well-researched portrayal of a strong character who has been buried by history, we are pleased to award the 2021 Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize to STARLIGHT.'

'We are thrilled to award the Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize to Marisa Torelli-Pedevska's STARLIGHT and to expand our partnership with Museum of the Moving Image to continue this important award,' said Doron Weber, Vice President and Program Director at the Sloan Foundation. 'STARLIGHT tells the moving story of a little-known woman astronomer and astrophysicist who overcame gender discrimination to make foundational contributions to our understanding of stars, joining many other scripts about ‘hidden’ or underappreciated figures in the Sloan pipeline comprising hundreds of film projects.'

'We had an incredibly strong selection of candidates in contention for this year’s Sloan Student Prize, and an outstanding jury of smart women who fell in love with STARLIGHT,' said the Museum’s Associate Curator of Science and Film Sonia Epstein. 'We are looking forward to working with Marisa to further refine her series and bring this compelling story to the attention of the industry.'

Industry members wishing to inquire about the recognized filmmakers and their projects should contact Project Coordinator Sarah Luciano at

This program is made possible with the support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation."

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