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Tribeca Film Fest Announces Tribeca/Sloan Screenplay Winners

By Tribeca Film Festival
Mar 1, 2005, 09:29

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Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, co-chairs of the Tribeca Film Institute, and Madelyn Wils, Institute president, joined the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to announce Shawn Lawrence Otto and Penny Penniston as the winning screenwriters in the highly competitive Tribeca/Sloan Screenplay Development Program, a screenwriting program launched in early 2002 to develop scripts with scientific and technological themes and/or characters.

The screenplays, "Hubble" (Otto), and "Love is Brilliant" (Penniston), were selected by a committee consisting of film development and science professionals. Each writer will be provided with financial support and will be mentored by a renowned screenwriter and scientists who will work with them to develop their scripts to their full potential.

In "Hubble," a young graduate student must evaluate cosmology's most towering and troubled figure, Edwin Hubble, as well as his arch-rival, Harlow Shapley, to determine if the Nobel Committee should make an exception to award Hubble the Nobel Prize. The story is a biography about Edwin Hubble, father of the Big Bang Theory, based on original research conducted at Huntington Library and Caltech, as well as the book Edwin Hubble: Mariner of the Nebulae.

Syntax Entertainment, principal Brantley Dunaway, has optioned feature rights to the Hubble biography and will produce the project.

Penniston shows "Love is Brilliant" with her original script, in which two physicists who work together for a prestigious physics prize fall in love, despite one physicist’s husband, the other’s neuroses and their firm collective belief that there is no such thing as destiny.

The screenplay was originally written for the stage and titled "now then again." The play received critical acclaim and secured a Joseph Jefferson citation for “Best Adaptation.” It is being produced this season by the University of California Santa Barbara, featured as part of a conference titled “Science, Theatre, Audience, Reader: Theoretical Physics in Drama and Narrative.” Both projects will be showcased at events during the Tribeca Film Festival this spring.

The winning projects from last year’s program, "Face Value" and "The Broken Code," both are moving toward production. Tribeca Productions has optioned Face Value and is reaching out to prospective cast, and Ismail Merchant is on board as executive producer of "The Broken Code."

“This year’s winners of the Tribeca/Sloan Program, Shawn Lawrence Otto and Penny Penniston, are bright new screenwriters whose talents we will nurture through hands-on mentoring by top screenwriters and scientists,” said Jane Rosenthal, co-founder of the Tribeca Film Institute.

“We are thrilled with this year's winning screenplays from the Tribeca/Sloan program--a study of flawed genius and a romantic comedy about two screwball physicists--which demonstrate yet again that science and technology offer great, untapped opportunities for filmmakers," said Doron Weber, Program Director at the Sloan Foundation. “The success of recent films like The Aviator, Kinsey and The Life Aquatic show the public's growing appetite for such subject matter and we fully expect Hubble and Love is Brilliant to take their place soon at a local cinema near you."

Otto graduated Magna Cum Laude from Macalester College where upon graduation he went on to found Fresh Paint Inc, a painting and restoration firm. In 1998 he became a screenwriter. To date, Otto has co-written and co-produced the critically acclaimed House of Sand and Fog, wrote and is currently producing Dreams of a Dying Heart, and wrote Shining White. Penniston currently serves as Head of the Playwriting Program at Northwestern University. She worked for five years as an advertising copywriter for EURO RSCG Tatham in Chicago after graduating with a Radio/TV/Film degree from Northwestern University in 1992. In 1998, she left Tatham to become a freelance copywriter and pursue an interest in playwriting and screenwriting. As a playwright, Penniston began by co-adapting The Roaring Girl, a 1611 comedy by Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker. Penniston’s second play was now then again, which received wide critical acclaim and has been developed into the screenplay "Love is Brilliant."

The Tribeca Film Institute creates innovative programs that draw on the unifying power of film to promote understanding, tolerance, and global awareness. The Institute is committed to educating, entertaining, and inspiring filmmakers and audiences alike while strengthening the artistic and economic fabric of New York City and its Lower Manhattan community. In addition to the screenwriting program and several science-themed films and panels at its festival, Tribeca will continue its partnership with Sloan this fall by hosting a three-day meeting and showcase for Sloan-supported artists and institutions from around the country.

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, directed by Doron Weber, supports books, radio, film, television and theater to reach a wide, non-specialized audience.

Sloan’s partnership with Tribeca forms part of a broader national program by the Sloan Foundation to stimulate leading artists in film, television and theater 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 ten years, Sloan has partnered with six of the top film schools in the country—AFI, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, NYU, UCLA and USC—and established annual awards in screenwriting and film production. Recently Sloan added awards in film animation and a first feature after graduation. The Foundation has also started annual Sloan Feature Film Prizes at the Hamptons International Film Festival, won this year by Bill Condon’s Kinsey, and at the Sundance Film Festival, where Werner Herzog‘s Grizzly Man took the prize this past January. In addition, the Foundation has initiated screenwriting workshops at Tribeca, the Hamptons and Sundance.

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