Ethan Hawke appears in Tesla by Michael Almereyda, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Cara Howe.
Ethan Hawke appears in Tesla by Michael Almereyda, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Cara Howe.

At a reception at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, Sundance Institute and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation awarded $70,000 in grants. Doron Weber, Vice President and Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation presented the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize to Tesla and announced the new winners: Tim Delaney for The Plutonians (Sundance Institute | Sloan Commissioning Grant); Kiran Deol for Tidal Disruption (Sundance Institute | Sloan Development Fellowship); and Courtney Smith for Higher (Sundance Institute | Sloan Episodic Fellowship). Michael Almereyda’s Tesla was formally presented with a $20,000 check for winning the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize.

“Science is key in bridging the gap between the real and the potential, and seeing stories of science told boldly, independently, and with creative vision can spark our own imaginations.” said Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute. “With the aid of the Sloan Foundation, works that tell these stories can enlighten us on the progress we’ve made and help to inspire us to take on the challenges of the future.”

“We are thrilled to partner with Sundance Institute for our 18th year in a row and to honor Michael Almereyda’s Tesla with Ethan Hawke in the title role as our juried feature film prize winner,”said Doron Weber, Vice President and Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “Nicola Tesla was a technological pioneer far ahead of his time and this highly original film for the first time in movie history does both technological and poetic justice to this enduringly fascinating and enigmatic figure. We are equally thrilled to develop with Sundance an exciting pipeline of new screenplays and teleplays including The Plutonians, Tidal Disruption and Higher, encompassing a brilliant satire about astronomy and truth, a psychological drama about sexual harassment in science and a social and historical epic about the construction of the Empire State Building. These three new winning scripts along with many previous Sundance winners still in development—and dozens more projects with our five other film partners across the country—comprise one of the best lists in the film industry and show yet again the science makes for great storytelling and great characters.”

Tesla: Winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize

Tesla has been awarded the 2020 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize and received a $20,000 cash award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation at today’s reception. The Prize is selected by a jury of film and science professionals and presented to an outstanding feature film focusing on science or technology as a theme, or depicting a scientist, engineer or mathematician as a major character, and will be included in the 2020 Sundance Film Festival closing Awards Night.

The jury stated, “For its bold and original approach to cinematic storytelling, and for its beautifully shot portrayal of a technological pioneer and visionary futurist who foresaw our age 100 years ago, the 2020 Alfred. P. Sloan Feature Film Prize goes to Michael Almereyda’s Tesla.”

Tesla / United States (Director and screenwriter: Michael Almereyda, Producers: Avi Lerner, Jeffery Greenstein, Uri Singer, Christa Campbell, Lati Grobman, Isen Robbins) — Highlighting the Promethean struggles of Nikola Tesla, as he attempts to transcend entrenched technology–including his own previous work–by pioneering a system of wireless energy that will change the world. Cast: Ethan Hawke, Kyle Maclachlan, Eve Hewson, Jim Gaffigan, Hannah Gross, Josh Hamilton

Michael Almereyda’s films include features, documentaries, and shorts. Marjorie Prime premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, where it was awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize. Experimenter premiered at the 2015 Festival. Almereyda’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline premiered at the 2014 Venice International Film Festival.

Sundance Institute / Sloan Commissioning Grant

Tim Delaney will receive a $25,000 cash award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival for The Plutonians. Previous winners include Alex Rivera’s La Vida Robot and Robert Edwards’s American Prometheus.

The Plutonians (U.S.A.) / Tim Delaney (Director, Screenwriter) — When the redefinition of planethood threatens to exclude Pluto, a motley coalition of astronomers and outsiders conspires to defend it by any means necessary, challenging what it means to be special in an indifferent universe.

Tim Delaney is a writer and director from Bronxville, NY. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was awarded Best Undergraduate Screenplay, and currently resides in New York where he attends NYU’s Graduate Filmmaking Program as both a thesis student and an adjunct professor.

Sundance Institute / Sloan Development Fellowship

Kiran Deol will receive a $15,000 cash award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival for Tidal Disruption. Previous winners include Logan Kibens’s Operator, Darcy Brislin and Dyana Winkler’s Bell and Rob Meyer’s A Birder’s Guide to Everything.

Tidal Disruption (U.S.A.) / Kiran Deol (Director, Screenwriter) — A starry eyed graduate student desperately struggles to maneuver between her passion for astronomy and her charismatic mentor’s advances in this claustrophobic psychological thriller.

Kiran Deol is a filmmaker, comedian, and actor based in Los Angeles. Her first film, Woman Rebel, a documentary about women rebel soldiers, was nominated for an Emmy, shortlisted for an Oscar and distributed by HBO. She currently stars in as ‘Mallory’ in the new NBC/Hulu series Sunnyside from Mike Schur and Kal Penn, tours nationally as a standup comedian and can be heard on the Crooked Media’s Hysteria podcast. Tidal Disruption is her first feature film.

Sundance Institute / Sloan Episodic Fellowship

Courtney Smith will receive an $10,000 cash award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival for Higher.

Higher (U.S.A.) / Courtney Smith (Screenwriter) — The Empire State Building, a symbol of American can-do, is a dream that nearly was not. Sparked by the Roaring Twenties and fueled by New York’s “Race to the Sky,” the building was birthed right into the Wall Street Crash of 1929. This upstairs/downstairs drama will explore the lives of those brave men and women — immigrants, investors and industrialists — who risked it all to raise the rafters on the world’s tallest building while the world around them fell apart.

Courtney A. Smith, an NYU/ Tisch grad, is a screenwriter living in Los Angeles. She was a Second Round Finalist at the Austin Film Festival (2015) and her feature film Archangel (co-written by Patrick Massett) received offers from Blumhouse, Sony International and IM Global. She is currently working on Swagger for Apple TV+ and has worked in writer’s departments on shows including Friday Night Lights, The Get Down and The Blacklist.

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