Principal Investigators and Staff


Elizabeth Daley

Elizabeth M. Daley has served as Dean of the USC School of Cinematic Arts for 32 years, the longest tenure of any Dean at the University of Southern California. Under her leadership, the school has added three new divisions in Animation and Digital Arts, Interactive Media and Games, and Media Arts + Practice; built the Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts; established 33 endowed positions; and formed successful partnerships with a variety of entertainment and technology companies. Before coming to USC, she served as director of the film and television subsidiary of the Mark Taper Forum and was a producer for MGM/Television. She serves on the boards of Avid Technology and the Benton Foundation, and is a former chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Media, Entertainment and Information. She is a member of the Directors Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She holds a Ph.D. in Communication Arts from the University of Wisconsin, M.A. and B.A. degrees in Theatre from Tulane University, and an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Hong Kong Baptist University.

Alan Baker

Since 2009, Alan has served as the Associate Dean, Administration & International Projects at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Since 2011, when Baker co-launched the American FilmShowcase at USC and subsequently traveled to 25 countries for AFS programs. He has been itsco-Principal Investigator as well as a Co-PI for the Middle East Media Initiative, also funded bythe U.S. Department of State. He is the project director of the Netflix Grow Creative Africaproject to train African, Turkey and Middle East filmmakers, writers, producers, and instructors,and coordinates a consulting agreement to with NEOM in Saudi Arabia. Baker has negotiated and initiated numerous multi-year consulting and workshop agreements with educational institutions and companies in China, Malaysia, Dubai, Vietnam, and Jordan, among others. He spent more than 25 years in television programming and production at 20th Century Fox Television and Paramount Television. Between 1982 and 1984, he was the press and publicity manager for the 10-week international Olympic Arts Festival, for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Michael Renov

Michael Renov is Co-Principal Investigator of the American Film Showcase, Haskell Wexler Endowed Chair in Documentary and Vice Dean for Academic Affairs at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and a leading scholar on theory of documentaries. In 1993, he co-founded Visible Evidence, an international and interdisciplinary documentary studies conferences that have been held on four continents. He is the author of several books, including Hollywood’s Wartime Women: Representation and Ideology, and The Subject of Documentary. In addition to curating documentary programs around the world, he has served as a jury member at documentary festivals including Sundance, Silverdocs, the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival and Brazil’s It’s All True.




Rachel Gandin Mark

Program Director

Rachel Gandin Mark is Director of International Programs at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. She oversees two major U.S. State Department grant programs and several global media partnerships for the school. She is the Program Director of the American Film Showcase (AFS), the premiere film and TV diplomacy program of the American government, and the Co-Founder of the Middle East Media Initiative (MEMI), an innovative exchange program training top Arab TV writers and producers. She has initiated educational partnerships for the school with the teams at Netflix’s Grow Creative and Walt Disney’s Global Public Policy. Previously, 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.

Annie Small

Director of Operations and Partnerships

Annie Small is the producer of the Oscar® winning documentary short Colette, directed by Anthony Giacchino and released by The Guardian. Annieco-produced Marvel Studios’ documentary feature Director by Night, the award-winning PBS feature documentary Before You Know It and Hulu’s documentary feature Monkey Business: The Adventures of Curious George’s Creators. She’s also the producer of the Oscar® qualifying New York Times film, OpDoc Dulce, which played at Sundance Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, IDFA and Doc NYCAnnie is the Senior Program Manager of American Film Showcase (AFS) and an Administrative Advisor for the Middle East Media Initiative (MEMI) at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.

Ben Chance

Head of Film 

Ben is the Head of Film at American Film Showcase. He grew up on an almond farm in California’s Central Valley before moving to Los Angeles to attend the USC School of Cinematic Arts. After graduating, he worked at United Talent Agency and Collateral Repair Project before joining American Film Showcase. As Head of Film, Ben curates 50 American documentaries every year to be made available to U.S. Embassies around the world. He also oversees licensing, distribution, and localization for over 450 screenings a year. Ben is an active swimmer, tennis player, ultimate frisbee enthusiast and perfecter of the art of tiramisu.

Lisa Hasko

Head of Exchanges

Lisa Hasko comes to AFS with over 15 years experience in the independent film industry supporting filmmakers and their projects through their professional and creative journeys. Prior to her current role, she directed Film Independent’s vast slate of Artist Development programs including filmmaker fellowships and funding opportunities, and partnerships with organizations including CNN, Netflix and the Sloan Foundation, among others. She also held a management position at the International Documentary Association where she oversaw several of the organization’s key film funding programs and more recently, produced the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival’s inaugural Filmmaker Forum. She sits on juries and panels at festivals and conferences internationally.

Steffan Horowitz

Program Director/African Creative TV Initiative (ACTV)

Steffan is the Program Director of AFS’s African Creative TV Initiative (ACTV). Prior to joining the AFS team, Steffan worked for Participant Media, where he worked 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 Master’s degree in African Studies from Indiana University. Since joining the AFS team in 2016, Steffan has traveled with AFS to Jordan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Brazil, the Faroe Islands, and Malaysia, among other places.

Muna Shikaki

Head of Communications

Muna Shikaki is the Communications Manager at American Film Showcase. Prior to joining AFS, Muna was a television correspondent based in Washington, D.C., where she covered the White House, Congress, presidential campaigns, arts, and culture. Muna is also an Adjunct Professor of Journalism at USC Annenberg, where she teaches community reporting and visual journalism. Muna was a Fulbright fellow and obtained a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. She enjoys running by the beach and is a certified wine sommelier.

Sayra escobar

Lead Program Coordinator

Sayra Escobar is the Program Coordinator for the American Film Showcase. She has extensive experience in program management and administrative support within educational institutions. Sayra holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Chicano/a Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles. Following her graduation, Sayra launched her career at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, where she gained valuable insights into program coordination and operational excellence. Building on this foundation, she transitioned to the University of Southern California, further honing her skills in managing diverse programs and fostering educational initiatives.

Jovi Koene

Travel Coordinator

Alessandro Ago

Programming Consultant

Alessandro Ago is the Director of Programming and Special Projects at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where he curates industry guest speaker events, workshops, and exhibits, and USC’s flagship screening series, Outside the Box [Office], a prolific year-round film festival dedicated to contemporary international, independent, and documentary cinema. He has taught undergraduate film courses at USC, including Transnational Nightmares, Filmmaking Italian Style, and Italian Genre Cinema and Society. He is also a founding participant of the American Film Showcase, and has traveled on 25 AFS programs since AFS launched in 2012. Both an Italian and American citizen, he grew up in Washington, D.C. and Rome, Italy.