Sundance Institute and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation revealed the winners of $71,000 worth of grants today, and Aneesh Chaganty’s Search won the Feature Film Prize. John Cho and Debra Messing star in the film about a desperate father who breaks into his 16-year-old daughter’s laptop for clues after she goes missing. The thriller, which counts Timur Bekmambetov among its producers, unfolds entirely on computer screens.
Cherien Dabis’ What the Eyes Don’t See took the Sloan Commissioning Grant, and C. Wrenn Bell’s Katie Wright received the Sloan Lab Fellowship.
Here is the complete list of Sloan Foundation grant recipients, with descriptions provided by the Sundance Institute:
Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize ($20,000)
Search / U.S.A. (Director: Aneesh Chaganty, Screenwriters: Aneesh Chaganty, Sev Ohanian, Producers: Timur Bekmambetov, Sev Ohanian, Adam Sidman, Natalie Qasabian) — After his 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a desperate father breaks into her laptop to look for clues to find her. A thriller that unfolds entirely on computer screens. Cast: John Cho, Debra Messing.
Aneesh Chaganty is a 26-year-old writer/director whose two minute short film, a Google Glass spot called “Seeds”, became an internet sensation after garnering more than 1 million YouTube views in 24 hours. Following its success, Aneesh was invited to join the Google Creative Lab in New York City, where he spent two years developing, writing and directing Google commercials. He is a recipient of the Future of Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to only five young creatives around the world “who have demonstrated a fearlessness to tell stories in unconventional ways” and whose works “will be instrumental in shaping the future of storytelling.” Search is Aneesh’s first feature.
Sev Ohanian is a 30-year-old screenwriter and producer native to Los Angeles. At the age of 20, he produced and self-distributedMy Big Fat Armenian Family, a no-budget indie feature film that became popular with Armenian audiences around the world. Shortly after, he attended the USC School of Cinematic Arts MFA program — using the profits from his film to pay for tuition. Since graduating in 2012, he has been a producer on thirteen feature films, four of which have been Sundance Film Festival Official Selections. His first film, Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Andrew Bujalksi’s Resultspremiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and was acquired by Magnolia Pictures. Clea DuVall’s The Intervention premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and was acquired by Paramount. At the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, Ohanian was awarded the Sundance Institute / Amazon Studios Producers Award.
Sundance Institute / Sloan Commissioning Grant ($25,000)
What the Eyes Don’t See (U.S.A.) / Cherien Dabis (Writer/Director), Rosalie Swedlin (Producer) and Michael Sugar (Executive Producer) — A true story of how Iraqi American pediatrician and scientist Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha blew the whistle on local and state government officials for poisoning thousands of Flint, Michigan residents, especially children, by exposing them to disastrous levels of toxic lead in the water.
Cherien Dabis is an award winning filmmaker and television writer director who made her feature debut with Amreeka. The film world-premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and won the coveted FIPRESCI at Cannes. It went on to win a dozen more international awards including the Humanitas Prize and was nominated for a Best Picture Gotham Award, and 3 Independent Spirit Awards. Dabis returned to Sundance with her second feature May in the Summer, which opened the 2013 Sundance Film Festival’s U.S. Dramatic Competition section and had its international premiere at the Venice Film Festival. Dabis has also written and directed on such shows as Showtime’s groundbreaking series The L Word, Fox’s hit Empire and USA Network’s Golden Globe nominated crime thriller The Sinner.
Rosalie Swedlin is a producer and literary manager at Anonymous Content. Swedlin began her career in New York book publishing, followed by six years handling publicity and marketing for various UK book publishers. Prior to joining Anonymous Content, she was a literary manager, producer, and partner at ICM for twelve years after having served as a senior vice president. Swedlin was an agent at CAA from 1981 – 1991 and was named co-head of the agency’s motion picture department. Swedlin executive produced the upcoming TNT limited series The Alienist based on Caleb Carr’s bestselling novel. The Wife, Swedlin’s most recent feature film, debuted at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. Her upcoming film projects include Jane Anderson’s adaptation of The Women in the Castle and Haifaa Al Mansour’s adaptation of the Cara Hoffman novel Be Safe I Love You.
Michael Sugar recently launched Sugar23 — a management and production company with a multi-year, first-look deal with Anonymous Content — where he was a partner for many years. He was awarded the Oscar® for Best Picture for Spotlight and most recently wrapped production on the Netflix series Maniac, with Cary Fukunaga. He is currently in production on One Day She’ll Darken at TNT. He is an Executive Producer on the Netflix series The OA and the hit Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Sugar also Executive Produced Cinemax’s critically acclaimed drama series The Knick directed by Steven Soderbergh. Sugar’s impressive roster of literary and talent clients includes Steven Soderbergh, Richard Linklater, Cary Fukunaga, Edgar Wright, Marc Webb, Patty Jenkins, and Robin Wright. He has been nominated for multiple Emmys, and won a Peabody Award for The Knick.
Sundance Institute / Sloan Lab Fellowship ($15,000)
Katie Wright (U.S.A.) / C. Wrenn Ball (Writer) — Just as the Wright Brothers are about to capitalize on the invention of their airplane, Orville is badly injured in a public crash, and sister Katie unexpectedly emerges to lead their business. Fighting resistance from businessmen, society, and even her own brothers, she strives to keep the family together and claim her place as part of their legacy. Based on the forgotten true story.
Hailing from North Carolina, C. Wrenn Ball exchanged life in the Southeast for work as an assistant on network television. He directed web series pilots in Los Angeles before completing an MFA at USC’s John Wells Division of Writing for Screen and Television. Obsessed by the twang and rhythm of life, Ball is constantly merging his Southern sensibilities with feature and television writing.
Sundance Institute / Sloan Episodic Storytelling Grant ($11,000)
John Lopez will receive an $11,000 cash award from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Untitled J.P. Morgan Project (U.S.A.) / John Lopez (Writer, Creator) — A look at the family drama and professional innovations of American financier J.P. Morgan as the 20th century dawns and the country he helped build transforms radically.
A Los Angeles native, John Lopez has covered film and the arts for Grantland, Vanity Fair online and Bloomberg Business Week. His short Plan B, starring Randall Park and Rosa Salazar, was a finalist in the NBC Short Cuts Film festival; he also directed segments for NBC’s 2014 Actor’s Showcase and served as associate producer on Hossein Amini’s film The Two Faces of January. In 2015, John was selected as a fellow for the 2015 Sundance Episodic Lab with his pilot Crude. Most recently, John has written for Netflix’s upcoming crime drama Seven Seconds and CBS All Access’s upcoming period drama Strange Angel, and he has just completed a mini-room for AMC’s Silent History.