TFI and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Announce Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize

« Back to Press Releases

Barnett Brettler of UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and Television to Receive Financial Support, Supervision and Guidance from the Tribeca Film Institute as the Winner of Sloan’s Prize for Science-Themed Screenplay

Sloan Has Awarded over $3.5 Million in Direct Grants to Film Students Since 1997


[New York, NY – April 9, 2013] – The Tribeca Film Institute (TFI) today announced the recipient of the 2013 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Student Grand Jury Prize for Screenwriting. Waking Hours by Barnett Brettler of UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and Television, was selected as the “best-of-the-best” screenplay from the winning scripts at six leading film schools participating in Sloan’s National Film Program. 

The $50,000 grant was created in 2011 by the Sloan Foundation to recognize exceptional feature screenplays that dramatize science and technology themes and/or that portray scientists, engineers, or mathematicians in prominent character roles.  Barnett Brettler, from Long Island, New York, will receive a $30,000 cash prize.  The award includes year-round support from TFI, including mentorship and guidance from scientific and film industry professionals, networking opportunities, and industry exposure, as well as an additional $20,000 allocated to support the project over the course of the year. Brettler will also attend this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, taking place April 17-28, and participate in the TFI Filmmaker Industry Meetings which provide filmmakers the opportunity to network with industry leaders to help advance their projects toward completion.

Waking Hours was selected by an awards committee comprised of actress Sarita Choudhury (Lady in the Water, “Homeland”); author Brent Hoff; director and writer Joshua Marston; and neuroscientist Heather Berlin.  Additional input came from the Sloan Foundation. Barnett Brettler’s screenplay was chosen from nominees that had previously won Sloan prizes at the Foundation’s six affiliated film school programs: UCLA (School of Theatre, Film and Television), NYU (Tisch School of the Arts), USC (School of Cinematic Arts), Carnegie Mellon (School of Drama), AFI (America’s Conservatory for Filmmakers), and Columbia (School of the Arts).  Capturing the Stars, the true story of Williamina Flemings, by Kate Mickere of Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama, received honorable mention.

Waking Hours is a feature screenplay set in a dystopian world where people are losing the ability to sleep. The story follows a British border agent as he leaves the safety of his country to search for the woman that he loves. 

Last year’s prize went to Grainger David of NYU for his work Penny Stock, about a community college geology professor who risks everything on a bold new theory in the race to discover an epic diamond pipe in the Northwest Territories.  This past year, David’s short film, The Chair, was the only American short in competition at Cannes, and won the Narrative Shorts award at South by Southwest.

“Partnering with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for the third year to champion student filmmakers who are raising awareness of science and technology is very rewarding,” said Tamir Muhammad, Director of Feature Programming, TFI.  “The Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize and our annual TFI Sloan Filmmaker Fund give talented filmmakers like Barnett the year-round support and funding they need to bring realistic depictions of science-related themes to the screen.  We are grateful for Sloan’s vision and continued commitment and support.”

“We are excited to partner with Tribeca in selecting Waking Hours as this year’s winner of the Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize, an award created to provide enhanced visibility, financial support and mentorship for the “best-of-the-best” student screenplay from our six participating film school partners ,” said Doron Weber, Vice President, Programs at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.  “Last year two projects that received our support beginning in film school—Robot and Frank and Valley of Saints—were completed and won awards at film festivals before being released theatrically, and we fully expect Waking Hours to join past Grand Jury Prize winners Penny Stock and Bystander in reaching theater audiences and demonstrating how science and technology provide a new generation of filmmakers with great, untold stories and wonderful, under-explored characters.”

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 story.  Since 1997, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has given more than $3.5 million in direct grants to film students throughout the country, including $1.75 million in prize money to student screenwriters and more than $1.75 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 award was presented at an evening reception in New York City on Tuesday, April 9, 2013.

About the Tribeca Film Institute:
The Tribeca Film Institute is a 501(c)3 year round nonprofit arts organization founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff in the wake of September 11, 2001. TFI empowers filmmakers through grants and professional development, and is a resource and advocate for individual artists in the field. The Institute’s educational programming leverages an extensive film community network to help underserved New York City students learn filmmaking and gain the media skills necessary to be productive citizens and creative individuals in the 21st century. Administering a dozen major programs annually, TFI is a critical contributor to the fabric of filmmaking and aids in protecting the livelihood of filmmakers and media artists.

For more information and a list of all TFI programs visit

Follow us on Twitter @TribecaFilmIns.  Join the conversation #scienceandfilm.

About the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation:
The New York based Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, founded in 1934, makes grants in science, technology, and economic performance.  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. 

Sloan’s film program encourages filmmakers to create more realistic and accurate stories about science and technology and to challenge existing stereotypes about scientists and engineers in the popular imagination. Over the past decade, the Foundation has partnered with some of the top film schools in the country – including AFI, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, NYU, UCLA, and USC – and established annual awards in screenwriting and film production and an annual best-of-the-best Student Grand Jury Prize that Tribeca administers. Sloan also supports Screenplay Development Programs at Sundance,  Hamptons International Film Festival, Film Independent and Tribeca  and has developed such film projects as Future Weather, a coming of age story about a young woman who finds personal meaning in science, starring Lili Taylor and Amy Madigan (which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival); Valley of Saints and Robot and Frank both of which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and shared the Sloan Feature Film Prize; A Birder’s Guide to Everything which will premiere at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival; and Computer Chess, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and will be released in theatres this summer.

The Foundation awards annual Science and Technology Feature Film Prizes and has honored feature films such as The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Grizzly Man, Obselidia, Agora and Another Earth. Sloan also partners with Ensemble Studio Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club in support of new science plays such as Isaac’s Eye about the rivalry between Isaac Newton and Robert Hooke and the upcoming world premiere of The Explorers Club, a witty satire about gender bias in science.  For more information about the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation please visit

9 Apr 2013