The Symbiosis Competition
Our yearly short film competition is happening once again at the 13th Annual Imagine Science Film Festival. Symbiosis will bring together scientists and filmmakers to create a science-inspired short film themed Migration over the course of one week.
Join us for the Festival Closing Night where we will be showing the 6 Symbiosis films from this year's competition.
LIVE event on Labocine / RSVP here / After-Party on Spatial Chat
Here are the pairs of the 2020 Symbiosis Competition. They will be making films under the prompt "Crisis Through the Lens of Migration"
Announcing the Symbiosis Participants!
Meilín Fernandez Garcia
Meilin Fernandez Garcia is a biochemist transitioning into neuropsychiatry. Raised in Puerto Rico, and a first-gen student she left to become a biochemist at the University of Pennsylvania. Now a postodoctoral fellow, she studies the pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric disorders using stem cells derived neurons and multiplexed CRISPR technologies. Outside of lab she is an amateur Asian-cuisine home cook, and a world traveler on a leash.
Kevin Gonzales
Kevin Gonzales is a post-doctoral fellow at the Rockefeller University studying how cells change their identities, specifically between hair and skin stem cells. With a strong interest in scientific communication, he aspires to share his perspective of science through diverse mediums including writing and now film.
Ipek Ensari
Ipek Ensari integrates mobile Health and machine learning approaches to investigate "enigmatic" disease characterization and its self-management based on patient self-tracking (i.e., participatory research). She leverages patient-generated and passively collected data from wearables and sensors to look at fluctuations in diseases with a dynamic course (e.g., endometriosis) that occurs both across patients and across time, and efficient techniques for personalizing exercise recommendations delivered through smartphone apps.
Filipe Arroyo Cardoso
Filipe Arroyo Cardoso is a Research Scientist at Columbia University where he has been developing nanomaterials and nano-sensors to help informing on the functioning of leaving organisms, from simpler single cell organisms to complex organism like human beings. Some of these biosensors have recently been used for rapid detection of the Covid19 virus. As a hobby, he is also passionate about photography and art.
Klavdia Zemlianova
Klavdia Zemlianova is graduate student in neuroscience at NYU using computational modeling to study how fairly simple interactions between neurons can give rise to complex phenomenon like our very ability to keep track of time. Outside of academics, she dabbles in various art projects ranging from photography to building shaders.
Marco Mezzavilla
Marco Mezzavilla is a Research Scientist at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering who focuses on next-generation wireless technologies in the context of 5G and beyond. In this domain, he co-founded Pi-Radio, a startup that provides advanced prototyping platforms to the wireless research community. He believes in the power of telecommunications to enable, in the long-run, global empathy, equality and intellectual emancipation.
Deniz Tortum
Deniz Tortum works in film and new media. His work has screened internationally, including at the Venice Film Festival, SxSW, Sheffield Doc/Fest, True/False and Dokufest. His latest film Phases of Matter premiered at International Film Festival Rotterdam this year. He was recently featured in Filmmaker Magazine's 25 New Faces of Independent Film.
Camille Hollett-French
Camille Hollett-French is a Trinidadian-Canadian actor and filmmaker originally from Montreal. Her first film No. 2: Hush Little Baby won the Craghoppers Film Prize of £20,000 at the Discover Film Awards in London. She was the only Canadian filmmaker in the inaugural Episodes program at Slamdance where she is now a programmer, and she's a cohort of Women In the Director's Chair and the Whistler Film Festival's Producers Lab. Her latest film FREYA will be screening at this year's festival and is the recent winner of the Best Live Action Short Film Award at Calgary International Film Festival where the film just had its world premiere. As an actor, you can catch her in shows Valley of the Boom, The Twilight Zone and the upcoming David E. Kelley thriller set to air in November, The Big Sky.
Luis Gutierrez Arias
Luis Gutiérrez Arias (b.1990) is a Mexican-Cuban filmmaker and video artist whose work explores notions of national identity, decoloniality and territory through the human relationship to landscape. His work has been shown at Sundance, DokLeipzig, Full Frame, Melbourne IFF, Images, Message to man, Dokufest Kosovo and Ambulante among others. Luis is currently developing his first feature film Todo lo sólido (All that is solid), an experimental documentary to be shot in Cuba, and the expanded cinema piece Nepantla, dealing with the Mexico-US and Israel-Palestine borders. He lives and works between Mexico, Cuba and Southern California.
Melissa Ferrari
Melissa Ferrari is a nonfiction filmmaker, experimental animation artist & magic lanternist. Her practice engages with the politics of contemporary pseudoscience and skepticism, the history of phantasmagoria and documentary, and the mythification of science. Melissa's films and magic lantern performances have been shown internationally in venues such as the Ottawa International Animation Festival, Hauser & Wirth, and Ann Arbor Film Festival.
Tim Grabham
Tim Grabham (AKA iloobia) is an award winning film maker who has produced still and moving image work independently for 30 years. Comprising of short films, animation, photography and installations, as well as documentary and long-form features, his work has been presented internationally at festivals, cinemas and galleries.
Valerie van Zuijlen
Valerie van Zuijlen is a graphic designer and filmmaker from the Netherlands. She has studied the dynamics between technology and film around the globe.
Most recently, she graduated with a simultaneous double Master in Cinema Studies (NYU Tisch) and Film, Design & Politics (Gerrit Rietveld Academie).
Her latest project "Moonlight" is a light and sound installation, visualizing Earth-Moon-Earth communication, in collaboration with Dutch HAM radio Astronomers.
This project is supported by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science.

Films are created over the course of our festival October 16-23.

On opening night, 6 filmmakers and 6 scientists will be paired and sent off into the city to begin filmmaking with a $2500 stipend in hand. On Monday, October 19th all pairs will meet with the public to introduce their cinematic works-in-progress. The audience will provide feedback, and all final films will be screened on our closing night, October 23, when a winner will be selected!

The theme of this year's Symbiosis Competition is CRISIS THROUGH THE LENS OF MIGRATION.

The flight of the arctic tern, the multi-generational travels of the monarch butterfly, the return of eels to the streams they hatched in. The arduous journeys of displaced peoples. Data systems in flux. The complex movements of cells, from embryonic origins to developed organisms. This year we seek MIGRATIONS of all kinds.

    Rules & Guidelines
    The SYMBIOSIS Film Competition challenges 6 team pairs comprised of both scientists and filmmakers to create a short film in just 1 week.

    Participants will have 7 days to write, shoot, edit, and score their film. They are asked to follow the guidelines below or else will not be eligible for the award:

    All creative work must take place within the "1 Week Time Period".

    Any work created in advance of the competition period will be prohibited. This includes Scriptwriting, Shooting, Costume & Set design, Use of preexisting footage. Specific requests should be forwarded to us at

    Participants are allowed to announce their involvement as of September 15. Note that participants are only paired during the festival. The only initial preparation that may be started prior to the festival includes the following: Securing Equipment, Finding Possible Crew/Cast, Scouting/Securing Locations.

    Filmmakers and scientists will be given stipends of $2500 per pair and this can be used for cast/crew, equipment, location and any other production-related costs. The stipend will be provided on the first day of production. Production costs cannot exceed this allotted stipend. We will request an itemized list of costs with receipts. Any money not spent should returned after production. Any equipment items purchased must be returned to Imagine Science after competition.

    Both scientist & filmmaker should work equally in all aspects of production and be engaged in the process together. They will be asked to talk about their collaboration several times and this will be a factor in choosing the winning the film.

    All participants must attend three open key dates: Opening Night (Oct 16), Lab meeting & Reception (Oct 19), Closing Night (October 23). A no show will automatically disqualify you from the final award. Certain exceptions are possible upon request.

    The virtual format of this year's festival encourages us to play with formats—both the format of collaboration and the format of the final projects. Startle us, surprise us, amaze us! We particularly love films that defy categorization: not just inventive documentary and gripping scientific fiction, but fictional documentaries, raw lab data aesthetics, thought-provoking experimental film, personal essay narratives, and innovative animation! We also provide a unique platform for sci-art collaboration: scientists and filmmakers working together, but also scientists making their films and artists conducting their own scientific experiments. It's all very open-ended.

    The entrant shall not distribute or advertise their film in any way during the competition period.

    Films belong to the filmmaker/scientist and can be shared online after the competition. Imagine Science Films reserves the right to showcase the film on science video platform LABOCINE after the competition.
    Awards & Jury
    Please see below for up to date Jury bios and awards!

    All participants get a free pass to all events of the 13th Annual Imagine Science Film Festival.

    The winning pair will receive a $1,500 cash prize.

    All six films will be aired in a dedicated Labocine Spotlight after the festival until the end of October and featured at Imagine Science Films News Sections.

    Symbiosis applications will be accepted through August 15th. Participants and jury to be announced by end of September. Stay tuned!
    Key Dates
    October 16 – Six filmmakers and six scientists are announced at the Opening Night of the 13th Annual Imagine Science Film Festival!
    October 19 – Lab Meeting with all participants who will present work-in-progress to a panel of jurors and public.
    October 23 – Films are screened and the winner is announced at the Closing Night of 13th Annual Imagine Science Film Festival!
    The Symbiosis Jury
    Sophie Tintori
    Symbiosis Director, Geneticist
    Sophia is the Symbiosis Director involved in the seleciton and mentoring of the teams this year. She is a research biologist and sometimes also an animator and science filmmaker. She is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at NYU, studying the genetics that contribute to the differences in radiation response among animals. As a filmmaker Sophia has created animated videos in many settings, including a pop-science series, educational workshops, college-level classroom materials, scientific grant applications, and documentary film.
    Bianca Jones Marlin
    Bianca Jones Marlin is an American neuroscientist and Simons Society Junior Fellow working at the Zuckerman Institute at Columbia University in New York City. Marlin currently studies the epigenetic mechanisms that enable trauma to be passed trans-generationally. Bianca was part of the 2018 Symbiosis Competition.
    Laura Moss
    Laura is a filmmaker from New York City. Their work has screened at Rotterdam, Tribeca, SXSW and Clermont-Ferrand film festivals and has been archived in MoMA's permanent collection. Their short film 'Fry Day' is featured on the Criterion Channel. They are currently developing 'birth/rebirth', a feature film reimagining the Frankenstein myth, with the support of Rooftop Films and the Sundance Institute. They won the 2019 Symbiosis competition with their scientist collaborator Taylor Hart.
    The Symbiosis Awards
    Science Sandbox Symbiosis Scientist Award
    The scientist from the winning pair in this year's Symbiosis Competition will be awarded a prize by Science Sandbox.
    Labocine Symbiosis Filmmaker Award
    The filmmaker from the winning pair in this year's Symbiosis Competition will be awarded a prize by Labocine.
    Symbiosis animation from our friends at Rooftop Animation below!
    About Science Sandbox
    Science Sandbox is dedicated to inspiring a deeper interest in science, especially among those who don't think of themselves as science enthusiasts. We support and collaborate with programs that unlock scientific thinking in everyone. Science Sandbox is an initiative of the Simons Foundation.

    Our partnerships invite a wide audience to engage in the scientific process — a process defined by curiosity, contingent upon asking questions, and informed by reliable evidence — to find solutions to everyday problems. Funded projects include film and other media productions, informal education experiences, live science events and awareness campaigns.

    Our funding criteria reflect our belief in the positive effects of infusing the culture with scientific thinking. We seek grantees who bring science to the people, tell science stories in innovative ways, and make science relevant to everyday life.
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