Principal Investigators and Staff

GRANT PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS

Alan Baker

Alan Baker is the Associate Dean of Administration & International Projects at SCA. His experience in the initiation and oversight of several international programs, including 3 years supervising the DoS USC Fusion Arts Exchange summer program from 2006 to 2009 which brought 20 international university students to SCA for 5-week workshops. He is the principal liaison for academic programs at SCA with government and private sector organizations in Turkey, China, Qatar, Dubai, 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. Alan is a Principal Investigator of the American Film Showcase Grant and since 2012 has traveled to Malawi, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Morocco, Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia, Nepal and Thailand, Namibia, Tunisia, and Russia with AFS. 

Mark J. Harris

Mark Jonathan Harris is the Distinguished Professor and Co-Head of Advanced Documentary Production at SCA and 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. Mark is a Principal Investigator of the American Film Showcase Grant and traveled to China with AFS in 2012, and Vietnam in 2013.

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. Michael is a Principal Investigator of the American Film Showcase Grant and traveled to Cyprus with AFS in 2012 and to Belarus in 2015.

AFS STAFF

Rachel Gandin Mark

Rachel Gandin Mark is the Program Director of the American Film Showcase, and the SCA Director of International Programs. She has overseen the day-to-day of the AFS grant since its inception, building the AFS team and significantly expanding the scope and reach of the program.  Before coming to AFS in 2011, Rachel was the sole producer of Disney’s first Arabic-language feature, The United, released internationally in 2013, served for many years as Creative Consultant for the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters Lab in Jordan, and founded the Arab Film Festival in Los Angeles.  She received an M.A. in Arabic from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, a B.A. in International Development from UCLA, and lived in Cairo for many years. Rachel has spoken on film diplomacy at the Paley Center for Media, the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, and at the Writers Guild of America (WGA). Between 2012 and 2017, she traveled with AFS to Angola, South Africa, Burundi, Russia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Japan, Laos, Israel, Paraguay, Algeria, Egypt, Georgia, Canada, and Lithuania.

Steffan Horowitz

Steffan is the 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 SpotlightThe 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 holds a Masters in African Studies from Indiana University.  Since joining the AFS team in 2016, Steffan has traveled with AFS to Jordan, Azerbaijan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  

Jennifer Phan

Jennifer is the American Film Showcase Program Manager. Jennifer was a recipient of the Gilman Scholarship, sponsored by 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, culture, and people. Jennifer also interned on the international teams at DreamWorks Animation and Live Nation Entertainment with Ticketmaster.com.  Since 2013, Jennifer has traveled with AFS envoys to Mozambique, Algeria, China, Malaysia, Laos, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, India, and Jordan.

Vicki Higgins

Vicki is the 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. Since 2014, Vicki has traveled with AFS to Pakistan, Russia, India and Morocco.

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

Nestor is the 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 production. He majored in Mass Communications at the University of California, Berkeley. Since he started working at AFS in 2015 he has traveled to Thailand, Benin, France, Algeria, Peru, Colombia, Kuwait, and Bahrain.