Principal Investigators and Staff


Alan Baker

Associate Dean of Administration & International Projects at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. His experience includes initiation and oversight of several international programs, including 3 years supervising the DoS USC Fusion Arts Exchange summer program from 2007 to 2009, which brought 20 international university students to SCA for 5-week workshops. He is the principal liaison for academic programs in cinematic arts with government and private sector organizations in Qatar, Dubai, India, Malaysia and other locales.  Prior to coming to USC, he had 25 years of television programming and production experience at 20th Century Fox, Paramount Television, and public television.

Mark J. Harris

Distinguished Professor and Co-Head of Advanced Documentary Production at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, he has taught filmmaking at SCA since 1983. Among his many works are The Redwoods, which won an Oscar for Best Short Documentary; The Long Way Home, which won the Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary; Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, which also won an Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary; Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives, an Emmy-nominated HBO documentary; and Darfur Now, which won an NAACP Image Award.

Michael Renov

Michael Renov, Professor of Critical Studies and Vice Dean for Academic Affairs at SCA, is a documentary scholar and co-founder of Visible Evidence, an international and highly interdisciplinary documentary studies conference begun in 1993.  He is the author or editor of seven books including The Subject of Documentary and Theorizing Documentary.


Rachel Gandin Mark

American Film Showcase Project Director and SCA Director of International Programs.  Most recently, Rachel produced Walt Disney International Productions’ first Arabic-language feature, The United, released in 2013. For 5 years, she served as a creative consultant for the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters Lab in Jordan.  Rachel founded the Arab Film Festival in Los Angeles and has worked at 20th Century Fox and Sidney Kimmel Entertainment. She received an M.A. in Arabic from Georgetown University and lived in Cairo, Egypt for more than 3 years.

Jennifer Phan

American Film Showcase Project Manager. Jennifer was a recipient of the Gilman Scholarship, sponsored by the ECA at the U.S. Department of State, and spent two years studying and volunteering in various countries including Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, and the United Kingdom. She majored in Business Administration at the University of California, Riverside and has a great passion for film. Jennifer also interned at DreamWorks Animation and Live Nation Entertainment with

Alessandro Ago

AFS Programming Consultant and SCA Director of Programming and Special Projects. Alex has extensive experience and expertise in programming film screenings, festivals, guest speakers and special events. Both an Italian and American citizen, he grew up in Washington D.C. and Rome, Italy. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the USC School of Cinematic Arts Critical Studies division.

Nestor Vences

American Film Showcase Communications Manager. Nestor’s career in entertainment communications has taken him through the halls of companies such as CAA, Sony, and Fox. Nestor’s passion for media and entertainment industry has allowed him to be exposed to all aspects of television, film, news, and digital production. He majored in Mass Communications at the University of California, Berkeley.

Vicki Higgins

American Film Showcase and SCA International Programs Administrative Coordinator. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Vicki studied Film & Video Studies and Spanish at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Prior to USC, her career in entertainment has taken her from commercial footage licensing at Nickerson Research, talent management at Anonymous Content, to film financing & development at Sidney Kimmel Entertainment. You can catch her as “Tiki Viki” in the next Coconut Club.

Steffan Horowitz

American Film Showcase Programming Coordinator. Prior to joining the AFS team, Steffan worked for Participant Media, where he had the opportunity to work on such films as Spotlight, The Look of Silence, and An Inconvenient Sequel, among others. Before that, he worked for the New York African Film Festival at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, as well as in the Human Rights Program of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. He hold a Masters in African Studies from Indiana University.