Tribeca Film Institute awards $50,000 to screenwriter

NEW YORK, USA – The Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) today announced the recipient of the inaugural Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Student Grand Jury Prize for Screenwriting. The best-of-the-best screenplay was selected from the winning scripts at six leading film schools participating in Sloan s decade-long National Film Program.

Bystander by Robert Cohen of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, has been selected for a new $50,000 annual grant created to recognize exceptional feature screenplays that dramatize science and technology themes and/or that portray scientists, engineers, or mathematicians in prominent character roles. Cohen will receive a $30,000 cash prize, an additional $20,000 to be used in direct support of the project, and year-round support from TFI, including mentorship and guidance from scientific and film industry professionals, networking opportunities, and industry exposure.

Bystander was selected by an awards committee comprised of Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman; Academy Award-winning screenwriter Eric Roth; Len Amato, President, HBO Films; Dr. Darcy Kelley, Columbia University; Dr. Dudley Herschbach, 1986 Nobel Laureate, Harvard University. Additional input came from the Sloan Foundation and its four partners in screenplay development: the Tribeca Film Institute, Film Independent, the Hamptons International Film Festival and Sundance Institute. Cohen s screenplay was chosen from nominees that had earlier won Sloan prizes at the Foundation s six affiliated film school programs: AFI Conservatory, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, New York University, University of California Los Angeles, and University of Southern California.

Bystander is about the rape and murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964 outside an apartment complex in Queens while 37 witnesses looked on. Though the attack lasted over 30 minutes, none of the witnesses called the police or intervened until she was already dead. In 1968, John Darley and Bibb Latan published a psychological study on the “Bystander Effect” explaining the inaction of the witnesses. It became one of the most conclusive and replicable effects in the field of psychology.  Bystander is a fictional account of the aftermath of this attack, but the scientific research and theories it includes are historically and psychologically accurate.

The Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize was created to recognize the very best student screenplay in the nation that uses science and technology themes or characters to tell an engaging and entertaining story.    Since 1997, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has given over $3 million dollars in direct grants to film students throughout the country, including $1.5 million in prize money to student screenwriters and more than $1.5 million to student directors and producers. Established as part of Sloan s increasing commitment to support science and technology films through to commercial production, the Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize will boost development of the winning project, and introduce the work and its writer to the industry at large.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has become an integral part of the Tribeca community through our annual TFI Sloan Filmmaker Fund, providing the crucial funding and year-round support that allows filmmakers to create and distribute their science and mathematics related films, said Jane Rosenthal, Co-Chairman of the Board, TFI.   The new Sloan Student Grand Jury prize is the next step in our partnership, and we are grateful for Sloan s continued support and the opportunity to continue to nurture and encourage student filmmaking.

We are delighted to establish this inaugural award honoring the year s single most outstanding science screenplay from our film school partners. We see this as the next stage in our decade-plus commitment to influencing the next generation of filmmakers and expanding the types of stories and range of characters that can make for great films, said Doron Weber, Vice President, Programs for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. With over 250 student film projects funded by Sloan, plus dozens more from our screenplay development partners, we have one of the richest pipelines of scripts anywhere and I’ve read every one so I can attest to their remarkable quality. This year alone we have half a dozen projects that have been shot or are going into production and we hope that Robert Cohen s  Bystander, aided by TFI’s stellar experience and expertise, Tribeca has been an exceptional partner for Sloan will soon join their ranks.

The award will be presented at a reception in New York on March 3, 2011.

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