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Pioneer Award

The Pioneer Award, presented by Variety, is given in recognition of an industry innovator: one whose work on-screen or behind the camera embodies the trailblazing spirit. The Award builds upon the legacy of artists who are part of Sun Valley’s richly cinematic history: figures such as Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, and Ernest Hemingway. Previous winners include Mark Duplass and Kate Bosworth.  

Presented By

2020 Honoree

Eliza Hittman is an award-winning filmmaker, born and based in Brooklyn, NY. Her latest film Never Rarely Sometimes Always premiered in the US Dramatic Competition section at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival where it received a special jury prize. The film had its international premiere in competition in the Berlin Film Festival and will be released by Focus Features this spring. Beach Rats, her second feature film, premiered in the US Dramatic Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, where she won the Directing Award. It premiered internationally at Locarno in the Golden Leopard Competition and was the Centerpiece Film at New Directors / New Films. Beach Rats was released domestically by NEON Rated, and was a New York Times Critics’ Pick. It was the winner of the Artios Award for Outstanding Achievement in Casting, Outstanding Screenwriting in a U.S. Feature at Outfest, and the London Critics’ Circle Film Award for Young British/Irish Performer of the Year. In 2018, it was nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Male Lead at the Independent Spirit awards and a Breakthrough Actor Award for the Gothams Awards. Her micro-budget feature film It Felt Like Love premiered at Sundance in 2013 in NEXT and was a New York Times Critic’s Pick. She earned an MFA from California Institute of the Arts and is currently an Assistant Professor of Film/Video at Pratt Institute. She is the recipient of the Emerging Artist Award from Lincoln Center, and a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow. 

Past Recipients

Aaron Paul

Kate Bosworth

Mark Duplass

Aaron Paul is best known for his Emmy award-winning role as Jesse Pinkman on the acclaimed television series, “Breaking Bad,” and as protagonist Eddie Lane in the Hulu drama series “The Path.” Paul first appeared in the HBO drama “Big Love” alongside SVFF alum Bill Paxton and also appears as the voice of Todd Chavez in the animated series, “Bojack Horseman.” He will next star in Apple’s highly anticipated thriller series “Are You Sleeping” alongside Octavia Spencer and Lizzy Caplan and he is set to appear in the third season of HBO’s hit series, “Westworld.” Paul’s feature film credits include “Mission: Impossible III,” “Need for Speed,” “A Long Way Down” and “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” “Central Intelligence” and the upcoming “The Parts You Lose.” Born in Emmett, Idaho, Paul is beloved by Idaho filmmakers and enthusiasts for his riveting on-screen performances and inspirational career.