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Andrew Rodriguez ’19 Awarded Sloan Discovery Award

The Tribeca Film Institute’s Sloan Program encourages films based on science and technology.

Congratulations to Andrew Rodriguez ’19 (film) for winning the Tribeca Film Institute’s (TFI) Sloan Student Discovery Award for 2019, which comes with grant money, industry exposure, science mentorship, and year-round support by TFI.

The Sloan Student Grand Jury prize and Sloan Student Discovery Award, created by TFI with the support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, encourage student filmmakers to create scripted films based on science and technology.

Rodriguez’s film PLUS, also his senior thesis project, follows a New York City college student as he discovers he’s diagnosed with HIV. The film is a coming-of-age story that hopes to educate viewers about the virus as well as humanize those who have it. 

PLUS, film by Andrew Rodriguez ’19 (cells under a microscope)

Research Results

Last summer, Rodriguez worked intensely with JD Zeik, assistant professor of screenwriting and film, to develop a feature script in under three months. Rodriguez was selected as a finalist last fall, which allowed him to work with a mentor.

Having never written a story with a science and technology theme before, he was concerned about the authenticity of the medical dialogue. Rodriguez credits the in-depth research he conducted with immunologists, physicians, and people infected with HIV as the key to his writing success. 

“I knew the authenticity would ground my story, but the characters are the ones that make it, so I just did the best I can in portraying them as authentically as possible,” he explains.

Beyond Identity

Born and raised in the Bronx, Rodriguez is a Dominican-American filmmaker whose stories involve race but transcend beyond identity. For that reason, he’s thrilled his story was selected.

“I’m glad my story was chosen because it tells a story of black people through a different lens. It’s not a story of racism, prejudice, or black pain, but a coming-of-age of a black man living his life and learning to love himself. Although films of racism and prejudice are important, they aren’t our only stories.” 

Next Stop: Tribeca

The first short film he created while at Purchase, Clara, premiered at the Official Latino Short Film Festival in 2016. He then won the 2016 Sophomore Documentary Award with In the Quietand the 2017 Miriam Arsham Film and Acting Award with his following project, Missing Colors.

The Discovery award comes with a year of support, so he’ll spend next year with Tribeca Film Institute making films and connections. 

Purchase Pride

Rodriguez loves the Purchase community for its support and inspiration. “I have managed to meet so many great people and artists at Purchase that have taught me so much as a filmmaker and a person. I became a better person because of Purchase and because of that, I will forever be grateful for the community I was a part of.” 

Sloan Discovery Award SchoolsThe Sloan symposium comprises six leading film schools, with each school submitting one screenplay for consideration for the Student Grand Jury prize. New this year, the program expanded to include six additional schools that each submit a screenplay for the Sloan Student Discovery Award. “Rodriguez is the first student to be awarded with the Student Discovery Award, which launched this year in the Sloan Foundation’s efforts to find more stories from diverse backgrounds and voices,” writes TFI.