A Banner Week for Sloan-USC Grantees

At the university level and beyond, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation endeavors to support diverse, emerging filmmakers interested in science storytelling from screenwriting, to production, to distribution. This week in particular has been a robust one for Sloan partner, University of Southern California. Before the 27th LA Shorts International Film Festival draws to a close on July 30th, Los Angeles cinephiles can catch two Sloan-supported projects from recent USC graduates. First, Guillermo Casarin’s BALAM, which won a 2021 Animation Grant, will screen as part of the festival’s Program 32. On the closing day of the festival, 2020 production grant winner Shicong Zhu’s HEATHER’S VOICE will screen in Program 45.

About the films:

Itzel, a young girl who cares more about her phone than her past, must reconnect with her Mayan roots to survive the dangers of the jungle.

A young scientist is faced with the ethics of her actions when she uses Artificial Intelligence to recreate the image and voice of a young girl who recently passed away.

USC has also announced a new crop of promising filmmakers whose projects were awarded 2023 Sloan grants, setting them on a path to follow in their predecessors' footsteps. These are $20,000 prizes that go towards the production of a short, narrative film.

Winners of the 2023 USC Production Awards:

SILENCE = DEATH by Trace Pope
On May 21, 1990, over 1,000 activists and members of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) congregated in Washington DC to "STORM THE NIH" and demand inclusion in their clinical research programs. Over the course of this pivotal day in history, the head of the NIH, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is forced to reckon with his power and privilege.

THE DEMON CORE by John Zachary Thurman
Reckless scientist Louis Slotin sacrifices his own life to save his colleagues during a critical incident in 1946 involving a plutonium core known as ‘the demon core.’

Sloan also supports USC storytellers working in interactive media. The annual $12,500 prize supports the development and production of a science-focused game currently at the prototype phase.

Winner of the 2023 USC Game Development Award:

CARDS OF HEART by Marielle Brady
CARDS OF HEART is a cozy digital collectible card game + top-down RPG where you play as Amalia, a young woman living in a small fantasy town who must confront her inner Shadows that have arisen following the loss of her best friend. Through Amalia’s journey, the player experiences the heartache and hope of encountering and overcoming mental health challenges while exploring concepts like self-acceptance, resilience, and the importance of social connections through a story and mechanics grounded in real psychotherapeutic techniques.

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