Inaugural Winners of Heroes of Science: Breakthrough Filmmakers Challenge Announced

Six Winners Will Produce Short Films for Annual Breakthrough Prize Ceremony

(From top left clockwise): Grace McNally, Hussain Currimbhoy, Carrie McCarthy, Dana Turken, John Hibey, Cutter Hodierdien, Molly Murphy and Thor Klein

TheWrap and the Breakthrough Prize Foundation today announced the winners of the inaugural “Heroes of Science: Breakthrough Filmmakers Challenge” – a new competition created to promote and support the development of films dedicated exclusively to science and scientists. The announcement was made at TheGrill 2020, TheWrap’s annual business conference focused on the convergence between entertainment, media and technology.

Competitors submitted a proposal for a short film about a Breakthrough Prize laureate. Each candidate was then judged by a panel of experts including filmmakers, scientists and science communicators, based on the proposal’s engagement with the laureate and their work, its characterization, creativity, clarity, accuracy and vision, as well as the filmmaker’s experience.

The six winners are:
Cutter Hodierne and John Hibey (US)
Dana Turken (US)
Grace McNally (US)
Hussain Currimbhoy (Sweden) and Carrie McCarthy (US)
Molly Murphy (US)
Thor Klein (Germany)

Each winner receives $5,000 in prize-money, and has the opportunity to produce a short film with a $25,000 budget. The films’ subjects will be the new 2021 Breakthrough Prize laureates, whose names were announced two weeks ago. Thor Klein is paired with mathematician Martin Hairer; Molly Murphy with Steven Weinberg, winner of the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics; Hussain Currimbhoy with biologist Dennis Lo and experimental physicists Eric Adelberger, Jens Gundlach and Blayne Heckel; Grace McNally with biochemist Richard Youle; Dana Turken with computational biologist David Baker; and Cutter Hodierne with molecular biologist Catherine Dulac.

The films will be screened at the annual Breakthrough Prize ceremony in March 2021. The ceremony – a live internationally televised gala event featuring superstars of music, entertainment and entrepreneurship – has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Breakthrough Filmmakers Challenge is a new collaboration between the Breakthrough Prize – the world’s largest monetary science prize, known as “the Oscars of Science – and leading digital entertainment news outlet TheWrap. The aim of the competition is to find talented filmmakers with the visual storytelling skills to bring to life the characters of great scientist, the big questions that animate them, and the significance of their discoveries to society; in order both to communicate these ideas to the public, and to inspire filmmakers to explore such ideas through in their future work. 

“We are proud to partner with the Breakthrough Prize to pair the vision of these talented filmmakers with the stunning achievements of science. This year more than ever we all understand the critical role science plays in sustaining the world we live in,” said Sharon Waxman, editor in chief of TheWrap.

“The winners of the inaugural Breakthrough Filmmakers Challenge are an exceptional group,” said Clare Burgess of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation. “We were so impressed with their proposals, and are exited to see the ideas they come up with to introduce this year’s Breakthrough Prize laureates to a global audience.”

The Selection Committee comprised Breakthrough Prize-winning Jo Dunkley, filmmakers Diane Quon and Mark Levinson and author and educator Lucy Hawking; as well as one representative each from the Breakthrough Prize and TheWrap.

About the Breakthrough Prize

For the ninth year the Breakthrough Prize, renowned as the “Oscars of Science,” will recognize the world’s top scientists. Each prize is $3 million and presented in the fields of Life Sciences (up to four per year), Fundamental Physics (one per year) and Mathematics (one per year). In addition, up to three New Horizons in Physics Prizes, up to three New Horizons in Mathematics Prizes, and up to three Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prizes are given out to early-career researchers each year. Laureates attend a gala award ceremony designed to celebrate their achievements and inspire the next generation of scientists. As part of the ceremony schedule, they also engage in a program of lectures and discussions.

About TheWrap News

The Wrap News Inc. is the leading digital news organization covering the business of entertainment and media. Founded by award-winning journalist Sharon Waxman in 2009, The Wrap News Inc. is comprised of the award-winning, industry-leading website with its high-profile newsbreaks, investigative stories and authoritative analysis; it also includes premium, glossy magazines with stunning original photography and editorial, distributed to entertainment industry professionals; Wrap Events, a series of high profile gatherings of thought leaders including the Power Women breakfast series, Oscar season screening series and TheGrill, an executive leadership conference centered on the convergence of entertainment, media and technology.

The Wrap News, Inc. is backed by Maveron, a venture capital firm based in Seattle, Washington and co-founded by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and Dan Levitan.

 TheWrap has won multiple awards for investigative reporting, columns, criticism and feature writing. In 2018, TheWrap won best website for a news organization exclusive to the internet at the L.A. Press Club’s SoCal Journalism Awards. In 2016, the L.A. Press Club’s National Entertainment Journalism Awards gave the site its top prizes for feature photography and Sharon Waxman’s WaxWord blog, as well as second place for Best Entertainment Website and Entertainment Publication.

The site was named the best online news site in both 2009 and 2012 by the same group. TheWrap was named one of the “100 Most Important Online Publishers” in 2010 by OMMA, the magazine of online media, marketing and advertising.

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