Congratulations to A. Sayeeda Moreno and Micah Schaffer, winners of this year’s SFFS / Hearst Screenwriting Grant! The team will receive $15,000 to develop their sci-fi script-in-progress, White. The SFFS / Hearst Screenwriting Grant is awarded in the fall of each year to U.S.-based writers who have been practicing for at least five years and who have previously written at least one feature screenplay. The panelists who reviewed the finalists’ submissions were Noah Cowan, SFFS executive director; filmmaker Ian Hendrie; and Michele Turnure-Salleo, SFFS director of Filmmaker360.
A. Sayeeda Moreno is a dedicated director and proud native New Yorker. Her short film White—inspiration for her Hearst-winning feature-length script—was funded by ITVS for Futurestates.tv and is also on PBS.org. White screened at SXSW, Tribeca and BAMcinemaFest, with Precious at the Tri-Continental Film Festival and with Spike Lee’s Crooklyn at the Brooklyn Bridge Film Series. Moreno's award-winning short Sin Salida aired on HBO/HBOLatino for two years. Her short The Grey Woman premiered at Lincoln Center and won the Hallmark short film competition. Moreno received an MFA in Film from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where she was a Dean’s Fellow. She is a Film Independent Fellow for her collaborative screenplay I’m Not Down.
Moreno’s partner on this script, Micah Schaffer, is a writer, filmmaker and educator whose work focuses on forging unexpected connections between people and finding humanity in unforeseen places. Schaffer’s first feature documentary Death of Two Sons was awarded the HBO “Life Through Your Lens” Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award and was distributed through Netflix. He attended the MFA program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he wrote and directed several narrative shorts. Shaffer has written three feature screenplays, including Treble–a finalist for an Alfred P. Sloan screenwriting award and a selection at Independent Film Week’s Emerging Narrative Forum. He recently completed a fellowship at the Cinema Research Institute, where he studied the future of the cross-border financing and coproduction.
Jump into their film, White: It’s another sweltering 120-degree winter day with five more days to Christmas and hot is the only season left. The best protection from the sun remains the naturally occurring melanin in one’s skin. Like many valuable natural resources, in this future it is coveted, extracted, bought, sold and stolen. Bato, who is black, enters into a race against time to save his daughter as he is forced to bargain with the new currency of this world.
Our jurors were totally taken with the script. All agreed: "Science fiction has a special ability to explore the issues of today by showing us a possible tomorrow. The boldness of this project’s attempt to demonstrate something new about race and class and climate change through a particular dystopian worldview was very impressive. As society becomes more concerned with advances in technology and science, we need stories like these to help contextualize changes in the world around us."
The SFFS / Hearst Screenwriting Grant, supported by a gift from William R. Hearst III, is a component of the prestigious grants program administered through Filmmaker360, the Film Society’s robust filmmaker services department.
Filmmaker360 oversees one of the largest film grant programs in the country, which disperses nearly $1 million annually to incubate and support innovative and exceptional films at every stage of production. Other elements of Filmmaker360 include our FilmHouse Residencies and project development & fiscal sponsorship consultation. Additional screenwriting initiatives include the Djerassi Residency Award / SFFS Screenwriting Fellowship, the SFFS / Kenneth Rainin Foundation Filmmaking Grant and Off the Page, a program that provides private script-reading sessions with celebrated actors for filmmakers with screenplays in development.