Michael Almereyda
Michael Almereyda

The San Francisco Film Society has selected Michael Almereyda as the inaugural recipient of the Sloan Science in Cinema Filmmaker Fellowship, which will support the development of the screenplay for his upcoming narrative feature project about Nikola Tesla. The Sloan Science in Cinema Filmmaker Fellowship is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation as part of their support of programs that cultivate and champion films that explore scientific or technological themes and characters. Under the auspices of its Artist Development program, the SF Film Society will award fellowships to filmmakers developing screenplays that tell stories related to science or technology.

The Sloan Science in Cinema Filmmaker Fellowship will be awarded twice annually, and include a $35,000 cash grant and a two-month residency at FilmHouse, the Film Society’s suite of production offices for local and visiting independent filmmakers. Fellows will gain free office space alongside access to weekly consulting services and professional development opportunities. The Film Society will connect each fellow to a science advisor with expertise in the scientific or technological subjects at the center of their screenplays, as well as leaders in the Bay Area’s science and technology communities. In addition to the residency and grant, the Film Society’s Artist Development team will offer industry introductions to producers and casting, financing, and creative advisors — investing in fellows from early script development stages through to release. Additional filmmaker support programs include the SF Film Society / Kenneth Rainin Foundation Filmmaking Grant, the Documentary Film Fund and full-year FilmHouse residencies.

“I’m grateful for the ongoing support and encouragement of the San Francisco Film Society and the Sloan Foundation,” said Almereyda. “I’m looking forward to spending time in San Francisco, meeting with advisors in the area and having access to the city’s rich cultural resources.”

Michael Almereyda dropped out of college to pursue filmmaking, and wrote his first screenplay about Nikola Tesla, the very subject he returns to now. His films have alternated between fiction and documentary, and (with very few exceptions) have been self-generated, independent productions. Almereyda has received numerous awards and prizes, including a Guggenheim Fellowship for film/video in 2005, and a Creative Capital Grant for filmmaking in 2014. He has participated in five residencies at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, most recently in 2015. Almereyda’s writing on film has appeared in the New York Times, Film Comment, Artforum, and booklets for the Criterion Collection. His film credits include Hamlet (2000), William Eggleston in the Real World (2005), Paradise (2009), Experimenter (2015), and Marjorie Prime, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and was awarded the Sloan Feature Prize.

Tesla tracks the struggles and achievements of Nikola Tesla — one of the most brilliant and innovative scientific minds of his time — from his arrival in the US in 1884 to his solitary death in a New York hotel room in 1943. The story chronicles Tesla’s earliest patents and prototypes, his manufacturing partnership with George Westinghouse, and the fierce “Battle of the Currents” that brought Tesla’s ideas for alternating current head to head with the direct current system favored by Thomas Edison. Celebratory exhibitions at the 1893 World’s Fair lead to a coveted commission to design the titanic power station harnessing the force of Niagara Falls. Yet even at the peak of his fame and success, Tesla sets out to explore more radical ideas — the first applications of radio and radio-controlled machines, and the transmission of energy without wires. The film will highlight the glorious possibilities brought forth by technological advances while also admitting their limits, measured against the abiding mysteries of human feelings and desires.

Applications are now being accepted for the next round of the Sloan Science in Cinema Filmmaker Fellowship. The early deadline for applications is April 18; the final deadline is April 25. Visit San Francisco Film Society for more details.

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