‘Distemper’ Is Inaugural Winner Of Science + Technology Script Competition

GREENPORT, N.Y., July 16, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — The North Fork TV Festival and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation announced today that Maxwell Pitagno‘s script ‘Distemper’ is the winner of the inaugural Science + Tech Script Competition. The North Fork TV Festival will turn his script into a pilot to premiere at the festival on October 4–5, 2019, in Greenport, NY.

“We are excited to make this competition a reality because we want the world to enjoy more stories about the wonderful reality of science and technology,” said festival Founder Noah Doyle. “We are especially grateful to collaborate with the Sloan Foundation to mentor emerging creators like Maxwell.”

“We are thrilled to make this inaugural award with the North Fork TV Festival to support a promising young filmmaker telling a remarkable story about an under-appreciated woman in science,” said Doron Weber, Vice President and Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “We have long been supporting episodic development with our film partners, but this is our first grant dedicated solely to television, a creative medium for dramatizing science and technology that is exploding in popularity.”

‘Distemper’ tells the true story of pathologist and LGBT icon Louise Pearce as she works to find a cure for African Trypanosomiasis as it infects millions across the Belgian Congo. Directing and producing the pilot will be award-winning director Elias Plagianos, the festival’s Director of Programming.

“We received many excellent scripts, but none had the social, historical, and scientific relevance that ‘Distemper’ has,” said Plagianos. “As a century-old story that takes place in the Belgian Congo and New York City, its production is highly ambitious. But we are inspired to find creative solutions because we are honored to tell Louis Pearce’s historic story and to share her pioneering significance.”

Maxwell Pitagno is an emerging writer from the south shore of Long Island. He graduated cum laude from Stony Brook University in 2018 with a degree in biology and works in a fungal genetics lab. His focus is biographical stories where he is able to channel his love of science and history.

“I’m ecstatic to be selected,” said Pitagno. “I’m hugely thankful to the Sloan Foundation and the North Fork TV Festival for the opportunity to bring this story about an amazing woman and scientist to life.”

The Science + Tech Pilot Script Competition aims to encourage screenwriters to create realistic and compelling stories about science and technology and to challenge existing stereotypes about scientists and engineers in the popular imagination. The winner was selected by a panel of independent judges, including accomplished television professionals as well as noted scientists and technologists.

Festival passes and individual tickets are now available for purchase online at https://www.northfork.tv/tickets. For more information, including the full list of events and screenings at this year’s festival, visit https://northfork.tv/ and follow @NorthForkTV on Twitter and Instagram.


The North Fork TV Festival celebrates the evolution of television, both mainstream and independent, bringing together the minds of actors, executives, writers, and directors. Held annually in Greenport, New York, at the historic Greenport Theatre, the festival supports independent program development and embraces exciting, innovative voices from around the world. Founded in 2015, The North Fork TV Festival is a year-round 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Every year an expert panel selects four independent pilots to be screened at the Festival and additionally mentored through development and eventual production of the pilots into on-air series.

This year, The North Fork TV Festival announces the inaugural Alfred P. Sloan Science + Tech Pilot Script Competition, which aims to encourage screenwriters to create realistic and compelling stories about science and technology and to challenge existing stereotypes about scientists and engineers in the popular imagination. The winner of the competition will have their script turned into a produced pilot which will premiere at the North Fork TV Festival in front of top industry talent.

The two-day festival will also feature this year’s Canopy Award winner, in-depth industry panels, screenings of independent television pilots, a wonderful children’s program, and parties both nights.


The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation makes grants in science, technology, and economic performance. Sloan’s program in Public Understanding of Science and Technology, directed by Doron Weber, supports books, radio, film, television, theater and new media to reach a wide, non-specialized audience. The Foundation has supported over 600 film projects via screenplay development programs with the Sundance Institute, the Tribeca Film Institute, SFFILM, the Black List, the Athena Film Festival, and Film Independent, and with annual awards in screenwriting and film production from six of the nation’s leading film schools plus six new film schools this year.


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SOURCE North Fork TV Festival

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