Anderson Cook, a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, was recognized with the Sloan Student Grand Jury Prize for his screenplay, “James Thomas Thinks The Earth is Flat.” The film follows a 12 year-old aspiring physicist, Noah Roberson, who forms an unlikely partnership with NBA All-star James Thomas (known for his infamous flat-earth conspiracy theories) to convince the young boy’s neighbors to care more about science.
The Student Grand Jury prize celebrates the “best of the best” screenplays submitted by six of the leading film schools as part of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s nationwide program that encourages student filmmakers to create science and tech-based films.
“This year’s winners represent new storytellers integrating scientific themes into the most urgent subjects of the day that inform the cultural conversation,” said Doron Weber, VP and program director at the Sloan Foundation.
Andrew Rodriguez, currently in his final year in the Film Conservatory at SUNY Purchase, was awarded the Sloan Student Discovery Award for his series, “Plus.” Like Cook’s film, Rodriguez’s story is also a coming-of-age story. His movie follows a queer person of color college student Zaire Ruiz in New York City as he struggles with a sudden HIV diagnosis and the condition’s attached social stigmas. Rodriguez is the first student to be awarded with the Student Discovery Award, which launched this year in the Sloan Foundation’s efforts to find more stories from diverse backgrounds and voices.
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Jamil Munoz, current MFA candidate in directing at Columbia University, was recognized with the Sloan Student Honorable Mention for his series, “Baretia.” It tells the true story of Jeanne Baret, the first woman to successfully endeavor on a circumnavigation of the world — all while disguised as a man.
Each recipient was chosen by a jury of seasoned science and industry veterans, including Anne Hubbell, VP of Motion Picture at Kodak; Janna Levin, the director of sciences and chair of the science studios at Pioneer Works, and also the Claire Tow professor of physics and astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia.
In addition to awards, the programs provides film students with grants up to $20,000. The Sloan Foundation has awarded more than $4.75 million in grants to students nationwide to date.