Eric D. Cohen, 2015 MFA/MBA graduate, was selected for his screenplay, "The Radioactive Boy Scout," based on the true tale of a boy who built a nuclear reactor in his back yard.
A film script chronicling the true story of a Boy Scout who built a nuclear breeder reactor prototype in his mother’s backyard potting shed was selected as this year’s winner of the NYU Tisch Alfred P. Sloan Foundation film development grant. The grant is awarded annually to a student from the Kanbar Institute of Film and Television at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and provides $100,000 in funding for the production of feature length film that tells “realistic and dramatic stories about science and technology.”
The script, titled The Radioactive Boy Scout, was written by Eric D. Cohen, an 2015 graduate of NYU’s MBA/MFA program, a unique, three-year dual degree program through which students can simultaneously earn a master’s degree in business administration from the Stern School of Business and a master’s in fine arts from Tisch School of the Arts. Cohen, who currently works as Head of Content and Operations at OBB Pictures, plans to shoot the film in the fall of 2017.
Cohen based the script on a book by Ken Silverstein of the same name that tells the remarkable story of David Hahn, a 17-year-old misfit growing up in suburban Detroit who – under the auspices of earning his Eagle Scout merit badge – is able to procure all the materials and technical know how he needs to create a neutron gun and design a nuclear breeder reactor, including radioactive materials such as thorium and radium. Cohen, who studied engineering at Princeton University prior to attending NYU for graduate school, was immediately drawn to the subject matter as a science aficionado as well as a filmmaker.
“It’s about a real chemistry prodigy who unwittingly wreaked havoc on his town, and while it’s a fantastic story, I believed it could be made into a film with a very relatable, human protagonist,” said Cohen, who also relished the idea of confronting a topic that is at times very scientifically dense. “I feel like there’s commonly this sense that you have to dumb down science to make it come across to a wider audience, but in truth, the onus should be on the writers and directors, who have to do a better job of explaining it properly or conveying it in a more realistic fashion. Then you end up getting a lot more out of the story.”
During his three years at Tisch, Cohen produced 14 student films, as well as an OBB Pictures documentary about journalist Hunter S. Thompson called "Gonzo @ the Derby," which premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival before airing on ESPN. He was awarded the Tisch Graduate Film 2015 Media Services Award, recognizing students who produce “an outstanding body of films” during the course of their degree. Since graduation, Cohen has been producing various film and TV projects at OBB, including season one of "The 5th Quarter," as well as feature documentary "One in a Billion." Cohen will be producing The Radioactive Boy Scout alongside fellow Tisch alum Michael D. Ratner and OBB Pictures.