Sloan Student Prizewinning Script Readings at First Look 2024

Following their January celebration event, the winners of 2023 Sloan Student Prizes –Justine Beed of USC for LA FORZA and Lara Palmqvist of University of Texas at Austin for THE GARDEN– returned to Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) for the museum’s annual film festival, First Look. A cornerstone of the festival is the Working on It program, which offers a lab-like environment for works-in-progress and discussions about the artistic process. In the spirit of that program, staged readings of scenes from Beed and Palmqvist’s scripts were presented on March 16, followed by a conversation with the writers.

Since January, both filmmakers have worked with acclaimed playwright Mêlisa Annis to prepare the readings. For the third year in a row, Annis produced the readings and assembled a stellar cast including David Alan Basche, Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy, Yuval Boim, Kendell Cafaro, Craig Wesley Devino, Vivia Font, Sarah Matteucci, Nick Ong, and Kyle June Williams. Moving forward, both Beed and Palmqvist will each work with an industry advisor and a science advisor to further develop their scripts with scientific accuracy and clear a path toward production.

Below, read more about the winning projects and check out photos from the occasion.

LA FORZA by Justine Beed - Winner of the 2023 Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize
Logline: “A semi-historical, romantic dramedy about the electric life of physicist Laura Bassi—the first female professor—and the husband who was her assistant.”

THE GARDEN by Lara Palmqvist - Winner of the 2023 Sloan Student Discovery Prize
Logline: “Drawing on timely concerns of climate change, biodiversity loss, and agricultural innovation, THE GARDEN follows a passionate plant breeder as he tries to secure his family’s future by developing genetically enhanced seeds while working for a controlling socialite who wants to transplant an elaborate garden onto her Kentucky estate. An ecological drama interested in interconnection, drawing links between social and environmental justice; opulence and exploitation; and food and the people who bring it to our plates.”

Mêlisa Annis, Justine Beed and Lara Palmqvist. Photo Credit: Thanassi Karageorgiou.

Kendell Cafaro and Nick Ong. Photo Credit: Thanassi Karageorgiou.

Craig Wesley Divino, foreground. Photo Credit: Thanassi Karageorgiou.

Vivia Font and Yuval Boim, foreground. Photo Credit: Thanassi Karageorgiou.

Nick Ong and Kyle June Williams. Photo Credit: Thanassi Karageorgiou.

David Alan Basche and Craig Wesley Divino. Photo Credit: Thanassi Karageorgiou.

The full cast takes their curtain call: Sarah Matteucci, Kendell Cafaro, Vivia Font, Yuval Boim, Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy, David Alan Basche, Craig Wesley Devino, Nick Ong and Kyle June Williams. Photo Credit: Thanassi Karageorgiou.

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