MoMI Hosts Second Sloan Virtual Film Summit

As part of its commitment to providing ongoing support for its numerous film grantees, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, in partnership with Film Independent, hosts the Sloan Film Summit in Los Angeles every three years. Uniting filmmakers, scientists, and representatives from the many film schools and organizations Sloan partners with year-round, the Summit includes screenings, talks, case studies, and networking opportunities. As Sloan's pioneering film program continues to flourish and grow, Museum of the Moving Image launched the Sloan Virtual Film Summit in 2023 to bridge the gap between in-person summits and further support the community of Sloan-support filmmakers that we track on Sloan Science & Film.

Earlier this month, recipients of Sloan film grants were welcomed to the second Sloan Virtual Film Summit. Following remarks from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s Vice President and Program Director Doron Weber and Museum of the Moving Image’s Curator of Science and Technology Sonia Epstein, attendees heard from Athena Film Festival, the Black List, Film Independent, SFFILM, Sundance Institute, and Toronto International Film Festival about upcoming grant opportunities before hearing from one another.

Each year, the Summit includes a filmmaker spotlight, celebrating the talent and determination of a grantee who has harnessed Sloan’s pipeline of support from development to distribution. This year, attendees heard from Nicholas Ma, whose film MABEL earned two Sloan grants back-to-back in 2019 and 2020 before going on to make its world premiere at SFFILM in April 2024. Starring Lexi Perkel and Judy Greer, the film tells the story of a bright young girl named Callie (Perkel) whose best friend is a plant named Mabel. The friendship leads Callie’s teacher (Greer) to inspire a love of botany in her student, which buoys Callie through adolescence.

Speaking about seeing his work come to fruition after the COVID-19 pandemic ground things to a halt, Ma said “It's remarkable. . . we were at the Film Independent Screenwriters Lab in January of 2020 and planning to shoot that summer. Then everything fell apart, but the one thing that didn't fall apart was the support from Sloan. It allowed us to get back on our feet and make this film.”

Even before hearing from his fellow grantees, Ma expressed a sentiment that would recur throughout the evening: gratitude for not only Sloan’s support financially, but the emotional support these grants can inspire.

“We all need these boosts, as artists, to keep going,” Ma remarked. ”Yes, we all need financial boosts all the time, but we need emotional boosts as well. That's where Eric Brenner came in as my [science] advisor. . . the enthusiasm he brought to the table meant there was always an infusion of energy into the project.”

After hearing from Ma, nearly 30 filmmakers elected to share news of their projects’ progress, from talent attachments to festival premieres. Watch this space for more details on these inspiring developments as they move from confidential to public information.

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