L–R: Sara Crow, Lizzi Oyebode, Sam Zuchero, Andy Zuchero, Emily Everhard, Daniel Rafailedes.
L–R: Sara Crow, Lizzi Oyebode, Sam Zuchero, Andy Zuchero, Emily Everhard, Daniel Rafailedes.

Sloan Foundation & Sundance Institute Announce Feature Film Prize & Grant Recipients

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Sundance Institute Announce Recipients of Science-In-Film Initiative’s Feature Film Prize and Three Artist Grants

Juried Feature Film Prize Awarded to Love Me; Directors Sam and Andy Zuchero,
Plus Four Grantees, Honored at Reception at 2024 Sundance Film Festival

PARK CITY, UTAH, January 22, 2024 — Today at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival, the nonprofit Sundance Institute and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s joint Science-In-Film Initiative honored Love Me, from filmmaker duo Sam and Andy Zuchero, with this year’s juried Feature Film Prize. Also announced today were the recipients of three artist grants aimed at supporting projects currently in development: Emily Everhard received the Sloan Episodic Fellowship for Tektite, Sara Crow and Daniel Rafailedes received the Sloan Development Fellowship for Satoshi,and Lizzi Oyebodereceived theSloan Commissioning Grant for Inverses. The filmmakers received a total of $84,000 in cash awards and were celebrated today at a reception hosted by the Foundation in Park City. Prior to the reception, the Feature Film Prize winners participated in a Sloan Foundation–sponsored Beyond Film event, The Big Conversation: Screen of Consciousness,where they discussed cinema’s portrayal of artificial intelligence.

“The connection between art and science, while indelible, is also ever-changing. Each year, thanks to our long-standing partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, we are able to imagine with greater nuance how science can bolster art, and vice versa,” said Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente. “Through the Science-In-Film Initiative’s Feature Film Prize and the artist grants, we are honored to recognize the artists pioneering how this relationship is explored and uplifted in media. We are thrilled to celebrate this year’s recipients and to have created a space to further discourse on this compelling topic at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.”

“We are delighted to honor Sam and Andy Zuchero’s Love Me, an original and wildly imaginative film about the nature of human identity and our connection to each other in a post-human world mediated through artificial intelligence,” said Doron Weber, Vice President and Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “In a year when Chris Nolan’s great-man-of-science biopic, Oppenheimer, based on the Sloan book American Prometheus, broke box office records and garnered acclaim, we are especially pleased to award three screenwriting fellowships to four outstanding writers who dramatize the unique obstacles and underappreciated contributions of exceptional women in science and technology. This year’s winners are wonderful additions to the nationwide Sloan film program and further proof of the vitality of our pioneering, two-decade partnership with Sundance.”

Ahead of the Feature Film Prize reception, guests attended a Beyond Film talk, The Big Conversation: Screen of Consciousness, hosted by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, that centered on the themes explored in Love Me, this year’s Feature Film Prize winner. Moderated by neuroscientist and clinical psychologist Dr. Heather Berlin and featuring Love Me directors Sam and Andy Zuchero, delved into cinema’s portrayals of artificial intelligence, including the emotional connection humans build with it, and the complexities of sentience and consciousness.

For over 20 years, the Science-in-Film initiative has supported emerging filmmakers whose work heightens public awareness of science in our culture, portrays the full range of humanity engaged in scientific and technological pursuit, illustrates the vital and unique role of scientists and their work in our society, and highlights the special possibilities of communicating through independent film. In addition to the prize, the Sloan-funded initiative underwrites the development of projects with science and technology themes through the Sloan Commissioning Grant, the Sloan Episodic Fellowship in the Sundance Institute Episodic Program, and the Sloan Development Fellowship in the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program. Fifty scripts have been developed or are currently in development through this program, with numerous feature films produced and released theatrically. The initiative also expands public discourse about science and cinema through a dedicated panel at the Sundance Film Festival. Panelists and jurors over the past 21 years have included Alan Alda, Paula Apsell, Darren Aronofsky, Kerry Bishé, Mike Cahill, Sean Carroll, Antonio Damasio, Ann Druyan, Jim Gaffigan, Brian Greene, Clark Gregg, Tenoch Huerta, Clifford V. Johnson, Margaret Leone, Flora Lichtman, Brit Marling, Marvin Minsky, Jonathan Nolan, Sev Ohanian, Alex Rivera, Octavia Spencer, Shawn Snyder, and John Underkoffler.

Previous recipients of the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize include Sophie Barthes’ The Pod Generation (2023), Kogonada’s After Yang (2022), Alexis Gambis’ Son of Monarchs (2021), Michael Almereyda’s Tesla (2020), Chiwetel Ejiofor’s The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2019), Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian’s Searching (2018), Michael Almereyda’s Marjorie Prime(2017), Ciro Guerra’s Embrace of the Serpent (2016), Kyle Patrick Alvarez and Tim Talbott’s The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015), Mike Cahill’s I Origins (2014), Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess (2013), Jake Schreier and Christopher D. Ford’s Robot & Frank (2012), Musa Syeed’s Valley of Saints (2012), Mike Cahill’s Another Earth (2011), Diane Bell’s Obselidia (2010), Max Mayer’s Adam (2009), Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer (2008), Chen Shi-Zheng’s Dark Matter (2007); Andrucha Waddington’s The House of Sand (2006), Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man (2005), Shane Carruth’s Primer (2004), and Mark Decena’s Dopamine (2003).

Directors and Screenwriters: Sam Zuchero, Andy Zuchero, Producers: Kevin Rowe, Luca Borghese, Ben Howe, Shivani Rawat, Julie Goldstein
Love Me
Sam Zuchero and Andy Zuchero, director of Love Me, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Love Me has been awarded the 2024 Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize and received a $25,000 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. The 2024 jury for the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize included Dr. Mandë HolfordDr. Nia ImaraMatt JohnsonTheresa Park, and Courtney Stephens.

 

The jury shared that the Zucheros’ Love Me was selected “for its ambitious and formally inventive portrayal of a post-human Earth in which two machine-learning ‘life forms’ search for the cure to loneliness in the digital rubble of civilization, and for its original direction and engaging performances.”

 

Love Me / U.S.A. (Directors and Screenwriters: Sam Zuchero, Andy Zuchero, Producers: Kevin Rowe, Luca Borghese, Ben Howe, Shivani Rawat, Julie Goldstein) — Long after humanity’s extinction, a buoy and a satellite meet online and fall in love. Cast: Kristen Stewart, Steven Yeun. Sam and Andy Zuchero are a filmmaking team from Topanga, California. They have been making art together since their teens, and Love Meis their feature debut.
Emily Everhard (writer)
Tektite

Emily Everhard (writer) will receive a $17,000 cash award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for Tektite through the Sundance Institute / Sloan Episodic Fellowship. Previous recipients of the Sundance Institute / Sloan Episodic Fellowship include: The Professor and the Spy, Our Dark Lady, The Harvard Computers, and Higher.

Emily Everhard is an actress, writer, and director. After studying History at Dartmouth College, Everhard worked on documentaries for Netflix, AMC/Sundance TV, and PBS. Emily’s narrative projects are inspired by true stories told through a queer, female perspective. She is completing her MFA in Screenwriting at Columbia University.

 

Tektite / U.S.A. In 1970, five elite female scientists arrive in the U.S. Virgin Islands to join NASA’s aquatic mission, “Tektite.” While NASA secretly psychologically surveils the aquanauts, the women must unite to survive life-threatening obstacles in the depths of the ocean.
Sara Crow and Daniel Rafailedes (co-writers and co-directors)
Satoshi
Sara Crow is a Brooklyn-based writer-director and an MFA candidate at NYU’s Graduate Film Program, where she is a Martin Scorsese Scholar. David Rafailedes is a New York City–based writer-director from Canton, Ohio. He is currently in NYU’s Graduate Film Program pursuing an MFA/MBA. Rafailedes is the co-playwright of Cellino v. Barnes.

 

Satoshi / U.S.A. The potentially true story of a teenage anime-obsessed hacktivist who, after losing her scholarship to Stanford, returns home to Arizona to become the mysterious inventor of a new digital currency called Bitcoin.
Lizzi Oyebode (writer-director)
Inverses

Lizzi Oyebode (writer-director) will receive a $25,000 cash award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for Inverses through the Sundance Institute / Sloan Commissioning Grant. Previous winners of the Sundance Institute / Sloan Commissioning Grant include:Incompleteness, The Futurist, Pharmacopeia, The Plutonians, and Challenger.

Lizzi Oyebode is a filmmaker and writer from Washington, D.C. Her debut film project, Tween the Ropes, was awarded an Academy Nicholl Fellowship. Her historical work has been honored by the Writers Guild of America West, Fox, SFFILM Rainin, and The Black List. Her prior career was in STEM.

 

Inverses / U.S.A. The story of the Nazi takeover of the world’s leading university math department and the lone Jewish woman professor central to the resistance: Emmy Noether.
WHO

The Sundance Film Festival®
The Sundance Film Festival, a program of the nonprofit Sundance Institute, is the preeminentgathering of original storytellers and audiences seeking new voices and fresh perspectives. Since 1985, hundreds of films launched at the Festival have gone on to gain critical acclaim and reach new audiences worldwide. The Festival has introduced some of the most groundbreaking films and episodic works of the past three decades, including Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, Fair Play, A Thousand and One, Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields, Rye Lane, Navalny, Fire of Love, Flee, CODA, Passing, Summer Of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Minari, Clemency, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Zola, O.J.: Made in America, On the Record, Boys State, The Farewell, Honeyland, One Child Nation, The Souvenir, The Infiltrators, Sorry to Bother You, Top of the Lake, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, Call Me by Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Mudbound, Fruitvale Station, Whiplash, Brooklyn, Precious, The Cove, Little Miss Sunshine, An Inconvenient Truth, Napoleon Dynamite, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Reservoir Dogs, and sex, lies, and videotape. The program consists of fiction and nonfiction features and short films, series and episodic content, innovative storytelling, and performances, as well as conversations and other events. The Festival takes place in person in Utah, as well as online, connecting audiences to bold new artists and films. The 2024 Festival will be held January 18–28, 2024. Be a part of the Festival at festival.sundance.org and follow the Festival on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter), and YouTube.

The Festival is a program of the nonprofit Sundance Institute. To date 2024 Festival sponsors include: Presenting Sponsors – Acura, AMC+, Chase Sapphire®, Adobe; Leadership Sponsors –Audible, Hulu, DIRECTV, Omnicom Group, Ketel One Vodka, Shutterstock, United Airlines; Sustaining Sponsors – Canon U.S.A., Inc., Cotopaxi, DoorDash, Dropbox, Element[AL] Wines, World of Hyatt®, IMDb, MACRO, Rabbit Hole Bourbon & Rye, University of Utah Health, White Claw Hard Seltzer; Media Sponsors – Deadline Hollywood, IndieWire, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, NPR, Variety, Vulture. Sundance Institute recognizes critical support from the State of Utah as Festival Host State. The support of these organizations helps offset the Festival’s costs and sustain the Institute’s year round programs for independent artists. Please visit festival.sundance.org for more.

Sundance Institute
As a champion and curator of independent stories, the nonprofit Sundance Institute provides and preserves the space for artists across storytelling media to create and thrive. Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, the Institute’s signature labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. Sundance Collab, a digital community platform, brings a global cohort of working artists together to learn from Sundance advisors and connect with each other in a creative space, developing and sharing works in progress. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences and artists to ignite new ideas, discover original voices, and build a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Through the Sundance Institute artist programs, we have supported such projects as Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Big Sick, Bottle Rocket, Boys Don’t Cry, Boys State, Call Me by Your Name, Clemency, CODA, Drunktown’s Finest, The Farewell, Fire of Love, Flee, The Forty-Year-Old Version, Fruitvale Station, Get Out, Half Nelson, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Hereditary, Honeyland, The Infiltrators, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Little Woods, Love & Basketball, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Mudbound, Nanny, Navalny, O.J.: Made in America, One Child Nation, Pariah, Raising Victor Vargas,Requiem for a Dream, Reservoir Dogs, RBG, Sin Nombre, Sorry to Bother You, The Souvenir, Strong Island, Summer of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Swiss Army Man, Sydney, A Thousand and One, Top of the Lake, Walking and Talking, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and Zola. Through year-round artist programs, the Institute also nurtured the early careers of artists such as Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Gregg Araki, Darren Aronofsky, Lisa Cholodenko, Ryan Coogler, Nia DaCosta, The Daniels, David Gordon Green, Miranda July, James Mangold, John Cameron Mitchell, Kimberly Peirce, Boots Riley, Ira Sachs, Quentin Tarantino, Taika Waititi, Lulu Wang, and Chloé Zhao. Support Sundance Institute in our commitment to uplifting bold artists and powerful storytelling globally by making a donation at sundance.org/donate. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter), and YouTube.

About the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a New York-based, philanthropic, not-for-profit institution that makes grants in three areas: research in science, technology, and economics; quality and diversity of scientific institutions; and public engagement with science. Sloan’s program in Public Understanding of Science and Technology, directed by Doron Weber, supports books, radio, film, television, theater, and new media to reach a wide, non-specialized audience and to bridge the two cultures of science and the humanities.

Sloan’s Film Program encourages filmmakers to create more realistic and compelling stories about science and technology and to challenge existing stereotypes about scientists and engineers in the popular imagination. Over the past two decades, Sloan has partnered with top film schools in the country – including AFI, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, NYU, UCLA, and USC – and established annual awards in screenwriting and film production, along with an annual best-of-the-best Student Grand Jury Prize. The Foundation also supports screenplay development programs with the Sundance Institute, SFFILM, the Black List, the Athena Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, and Film Independent. The Foundation has supported over 800 film projects and has helped develop over 30 feature films, including Michael Almereyda’s Tesla, Lydia Dean Pilcher and Ginny Mohler’s Radium Girls, Thor Klein’s Adventures of a Mathematician, Jessica Oreck’s  One Man Dies a Million Times, Michael Tyburski’s The Sound of Silence, Shawn Snyder’s To Dust, Logan Kibens and Sharon Greene’s  Operator, Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game, and Matthew Brown’s  The Man Who Knew Infinity. The Foundation has supported feature documentaries such as Werner Herzog’s Theater of Thought, David France’s How to Survive a Pandemic, Sharon Shattuck and Ian Cheney’s Picture a Scientist, Shalini Kantayya’s Coded Bias, Noah Hutton’s In Silico, Ric Burns’ Oliver Sacks: His Own Life, Mark Levison’s The Bit Player, Alexandra Dean’s Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, Mark Levinson’s Particle Fever, and Jacques Perrin’s Oceans. It has also given early award recognition to stand-out films such as Oppenheimer, BlackBerry, Don’t Look Up, Linoleum, Ammonite, The Aeronauts, The Martian, First Man, and Hidden Figures.

The Foundation has an active theater program and commissions about 20 science plays each year from the Ensemble Studio Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, and the National Theatre in London, while supporting select productions across the country and abroad. Recent grants from Sloan’s Theater Program have supported Mark Rylance’s Dr.Semmelweis, Anchuli Felicia King’s Golden Shield, Sam Chanse’s what you are now, Charly Evon Simpson’s Behind the Sheet, Lucy Kirkwood’s Mosquitoes, Chiara Atik’s Bump, Nick Payne’s Constellations, Lucas Hnath’s Isaac’s Eye, Anna Ziegler’s Photograph 51, David Auburn’s Proof, Leigh Fondakowski’s Spill, and Bess Wohl’s Continuity. The Foundation’s book program includes early support for Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, the best-selling book that became the highest grossing Oscar-nominated film of 2017, and Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin’s Pulitzer Prize–winning American Prometheus, adapted for the screen in Christopher Nolan’s hit film Oppenheimer.

For more information about the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, please visit  www.sloan.org or follow the Foundation at @SloanPublic on on Twitter and Facebook.

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