Sundance Film Fest 2009: Mayer's Adam Wins Alfred P. Sloan Prize

Jan 23, 2009–The 2009 Sundance Film Festival has announced that Adam, directed by Max Mayer, is the recipient of this year’s Alfred P. Sloan Prize. The Prize, which carries a $20,000 cash award to the filmmaker provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, is 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.

Adam is a love story between a man with Asperger's Syndrome (Hugh Dancy) and the woman who moves into his apartment building (Rose Byrne) who has just had her heart broken. It is about making the strange familiar and the obstacles we all face when we try to love intimately. The film, which screened in Dramatic Competition, was selected “for its credible and moving portrayal of an engineer with Asperger's Syndrome whose passion for science helps him in his struggle to achieve a meaningful relationship.”
Director Max Mayer is a Founder and Producing Director of New York Stage and Film which has presented twenty-four summer seasons of original plays at the Powerhouse Theatre at Vassar College. Mayer has directed over fifty new plays including world or US premieres by writers such as John Patrick Shanley, Lee Blessing, Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros, Richard Nelson, George F. Walker and Eric Overmyer. His productions have opened both Off-Broadway and in regional theatres including Arena Stage, Long Wharf and Steppenwolf in Chicago. For television, Mayer has directed episodes of NBC’s THE WEST WING, ABC’s ALIAS and CBS’s FAMILY LAW. Mayer directed his first feature film, Better Living, starring Roy Scheider, Olympia Dukakis and Edward Hermann which opened theatrically in 2000. Last year, Adam was chosen as a winner of the 12th Annual Writers’ Network Fiction and Screenplay Competition. Adam is his second feature film.
The Alfred P. Sloan Prize is a major component of the Sundance Science-in-Film Initiative, which is made possible by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The Initiative supports the development and exhibition of new independent film projects that explore science and technology themes or that depict scientists, engineers and mathematicians in engaging and innovative ways. In addition to the Prize, the Initiative presents a panel discussion at the Festival that brings together scientists and filmmakers to explore compelling, contemporary issues regarding science in film; and, in the Sundance Feature Film
Program, the Initiative supports the Sloan Commissioning Fund, which provides resources for Initiative projects early in the development phase; and the Sloan Fellowship, which develops eligible projects at the Sundance Feature Film Labs towards production. This Initiative blends the Sloan Foundation’s goal of enhancing public understanding of science and technology with Sundance Institute’s mission to foster independent voices and compelling storytelling in film.
Previous Alfred P. Sloan Prize Winners include: Alex Rivera, Sleep Dealer (2008); Shi-Zheng Chen, Dark Matter (2007); Andrucha Waddington, The House of Sand (2006); Werner Herzog, Grizzly Man (2005) and Shane Carruth, Primer (2004).

The winning film was selected by a committee of film and science professionals based on the quality of the film’s presentation of science and technology themes and/or characters. This year’s Alfred P. Sloan jury members include:
Fran Bagenal – Fran Bagenal’s research interests are in the magnetic fields of planets, planetary plasmas and the interaction of planetary objects – from Jupiter down to comets – with the solar wind or magnetospheric plasmas. She works with data from planetary missions (Galileo, Deep Space 1, New Horizons) as well as emissions observed remotely with telescopes (HST, Cassini) Selected Recent Publications: Jupiter: The Planet, Satellites and Magnetosphere, Fran Bagenal, Bill McKinnon, Tim Dowling (eds), Cambridge University Press 2004 Modeling temporal variability of plasma conditions in the Io plasma torus during the Cassini era, Peter Delamere, Andrew Steffl and Fran Bagenal, J. Geophys. Res., 109, A10216, 2004 Pluto's kinetic interaction with the solar wind, Peter Delamere and Fran Bagenal, Geophys. Res. Lett., 31, L04807, 2004
Rodney Brooks — In addition to his multiple roles at MIT, Rodney Brooks is Chairman and Chief Technical Officer of iRobot Corporation. He received degrees in pure mathematics from the Flinders University of South Australia and the Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1981. Brooks is a Founding Fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Raymond Gesteland — Raymond Gesteland earned his Ph. D from Harvard University. He was working in Geneva as a postdoc in Alfred Tissieres' and Pierce Barrs' lab, when he began looking for work back in the US. John Cairns hired him in Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 1967 where he began work as Assistant Director for Research with Jim Watson. His research in the lab involved working on translation and trying to understand the regulation of translation of HT4 infected cells. He then began more research work into translation systems for eukaryotic cells to begin understanding the genes in alden adeno replicaton. Gesteland is a Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Utah.
Jeffrey Nachmanoff – Jeffrey Nachmanoff studied Art and English Literature at Harvard University before attending USC film school. He edited documentaries until Paramount optioned his first screenplay.  Since then he has worked as a studio screenwriter on everything from science fiction to action comedy. In 2004 he penned the script for the ecological disaster film, The Day After Tomorrow with Roland Emmerich. In 2008 he wrote and directed Traitor, a political thriller starring Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce.
Alex Rivera — Alex Rivera is a New York based digital media artist and filmmaker.  His first feature film, Sleep Dealer premiered at Sundance 2008, and won two awards, including the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award.  Rivera is a Sundance Fellow and a Rockefeller Fellow. His work, which addresses concerns of the Latino community through a language of humor, satire, and metaphor, has also been screened at The Berlin International Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, The Guggenheim Museum, PBS, Telluride, and other international venues.
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
This Sloan-Sundance partnership forms part of a broader national program by the Alfred P. 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, engineers, and mathematicians 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 first-feature award for alumni. The Foundation has also started an annual Sloan Feature Film Prize at the Hamptons International Film Festival and initiated new screenwriting workshops at the Hamptons and TriBeca Film Festival. In addition, it continues to work with leading writer/producers and major studios to create more films, TV shows and TV movies featuring scientists, mathematicians and engineers.

The New York-based Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, founded in 1934, makes grants in science, technology, economic performance and the quality of American life. The Foundation’s program in public understanding of science, directed by Program Director Doron Weber, supports books, radio, film, television, and theatre, including not only Proof, Copenhagen, and Alan Alda’s QED, but dozens of new plays from the Ensemble Studio Theatre, the Manhattan Theater Club, Playwrights Horizons and the Magic Theater.