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Winners of the 2022 Sloan Student Prizes

A jury of scientists and film industry professionals has selected two winners of the 2022 Sloan Student Prizes, who will each receive $20,000 plus year-round mentorship from Museum of the Moving Image and film and science professionals. The winners were announced in Variety. They will be honored at a January 5 event at MoMI and their screenplays featured in a works-in-progress reading during MoMI's annual First Look Festival in March. The jury was comprised of: Dr. Kate Biberdorf, aka Kate the Chemist (University of Texas); producer Jessica Hargrave (GOOD NIGHT OPPY); actor/playwright Naomi Lorrain (ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK); Dr. Hannah Landecker (UCLA); Dr. Anita Perr (NYU); and writer/producer Franklin jin Rho (PACHINKO).

The winner of the 2022 Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize, which represents the best screenplay selected from among those schools with which the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation parnters year-round is:
UNTIL THEN WE KEEP BREATHING by Samantha Sewell (Pilot) — UCLA
Logline: Based in truth, UNTIL THEN WE KEEP BREATHING is a six-part limited series chronicling the life of a boy diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis in 1963. From birth, to his first love, to the death of his parents, to several near-death experiences along the way, UNTIL THEN WE KEEP BREATHING presents one man’s will to live a full and normal life despite the limitations of his congenital illness and the uncertainty of his eventual demise.

About the filmmaker: Originally from New York City (currently based in LA), Samantha received her B.A. in Psychology at UCLA in 2019, before returning to UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television (MFA ’22). Her motivation to write is rooted in two fascinations: the observation of people and how they relate, and the oddities and absurdities inherent to systems of order and interaction. Her work dances across various genres, formats, tones, and themes—mental/physical health, family, friendship, love, co-dependence—but tends to evoke themes pertaining to social or political commentary and/or exploration.

Jury citation: “For its eloquent and heartfelt depiction of a man’s life with illness–interweaving developments in medical technologies and treatments with changes both personal and familial over time–we are pleased to award the 2022 Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize to Samantha Sewell for her limited series UNTIL THEN WE KEEP BREATHING.”

The winner of the 2022 Sloan Student Discovery Prize, an expansion of Sloan's film program to nominations from six public universities, is:
WOODSIDE by Gerard Shaka (Feature) — Florida State University
Logline: While struggling to cope with an abusive father and a complacent mother, a queer Bahamian boy discovers self-love through his experiences replanting mangroves with a marine conservationist.

About the filmmaker: Gerard Shaka is a queer, Bahamian-American filmmaker and actor, having spent half of his live in Nassau and the other in Ft. Lauderdale, meaning he knows humidity on the most intimate of levels. After working years of retail while finishing his BA in English, Gerard transitioned into the classroom, teaching middle school English for a few years. During those years, he completed his first full manuscript of his fantasy novel, currently in the works. Shortly after, Gerard enrolled in Florida State University’s MFA Film program, focusing on Writing and Producing. He also acted in shorts and hosted events during his time there. Gerard is a 2022 OutFest Screenwriting Lab Notable Writer, and winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Student Science Discovery Award. Gerard is now based in Atlanta, where he just wrapped work in the production office on Netflix’s upcoming series A MAN IN FULL. He’s now turned his attention to independently creating projects with his team.

Jury citation: “We are delighted to award the 2022 Sloan Student Discovery Prize to Gerard Shaka for his feature script WOODSIDE, an emotional story strongly rooted in place–with rich visual potential–of a teen boy navigating his identity while learning to care for mangroves in the Bahamas.”

The jury also awarded honorable mention to Anika Benkov for their feature script WHEN IT THAWS and to Catherine Loerke for her series IN VITRO VERITAS.