On Friday April 22nd, during Tribeca Film Festival®, TFI hosted the Sloan Works-In-Progress Reading. This event is part of a partnership the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and TFI formed in 2003 to develop and produce new feature films with science and technology themes and characters. This year the reading included selections from five films from 12 featured filmmakers. The actors performed scenes from each film with director/ screenwriter/ actor Paul Schneider directing.
The excitement was palpable as Vice President and Program Director at the Sloan Foundation Doron Weber gave the introduction to the event. The filmmakers were in the audience eagerly waiting to hear their scripts read out loud for the first time. The actors were reviewing their scripts one last time after a quick rehearsal process – Schneider started going over the scenes with the actors just three hours before the reading, and the rehearsal went right up until the start of the event.
Emer O’Callaghan cast an impressive ensemble of actors for the reading. Featured actors included: Nadia Dajani, Wayne Duvall, Ato Essandoh, Phil Ettinger, Frankie Faison, Sakina Jaffrey, Jason Kravits, Ismenia Mendes, Colby Minifie, Adam Mucci, Brenna Palughi. Lillian Isabella read stage directions.
The scripts covered a wide range of topics, from a film that explores the true story of ripped-from-the-headlines rape victim Jennifer Thompson and her wrongfully identified rapist working together to improve the justice system, to a film about a Hasidic cantor who obsesses over how his dead wife’s body will decay. Each brought an element of science to the script, whether a scientist character or a theme that explores a scientific process.
Scripts read from at the Sloan Works-In-Progress reading included:
THE BURNING SEASON – Jenny Halper, WRITER; Claire McCarthy, DIRECTOR; Kate Sharp, PRODUCER. A primatologist brings her daughter to a remote region of Madagascar, where her determination to save endangered lemurs puts their relationship – and safety- at risk.
FAMILY BREW – Jennifer Edwards, WRITER; Jennifer Miller, PRODUCER. When Allison Daniels, 22, a microbiologist, has to leave her prestigious fellowship studying fermentation to go home to care for her dying father. She enters a beer-brewing contest and finds there’s more to family than she realized.
HUMAN TERRAIN – Parisa Barani, DIRECTOR, PRODUCER; Jennifer Blackmer, WRITER; Sarena Khan, PRODUCER. An American anthropologist working in Iraq for The Human Terrain System, a military initiative that embeds social scientists in combat units, is accused of treason for befriending an Iraqi woman and helping her survive.
PICKING COTTON – Tony Mosher, WRITER; Jessica Sanders, DIRECTOR, PRODUCER. The true story of Jennifer Thompson who was raped and Ronald Cotton whom she wrongfully identified as her rapist. After 11 years in prison, Cotton’s name is cleared by DNA. The two are now best friends, working together to improve the justice system.
TO DUST – Shawn Snyder, WRITER, DIRECTOR; Jason Begue, WRITER. Shmuel, a Hasidic cantor in Upstate New York, distraught by the untimely death of his wife, struggles to find religious solace, while secretly obsessing over how her body will decay. As a clandestine partnership develops with Albert, a local community college biology professor, the two embark on a darkly comic and increasingly literal undertaking into the underworld.
The featured selections were short and the audience alternatingly laughed, held their breath, and eagerly went along for the ride. It definitely whet their appetites to experience more of the scripts, and we can’t wait to continue to share these filmmakers’ journeys with you. Stay tuned for more!