Principal Investigators and Staff


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.


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 Senior Manager. 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.  

Annie Small

Annie Small is the Senior Program Manager for the American Film Showcase. For over a decade Annie has worked as an independent documentary film producer. She is the producer of the Oscar® winning documentary short COLETTE, directed by Anthony Giacchino and released by The Guardian and the producer of Guille Isa and Angello Faccini’s Oscar® qualifying documentary short DULCE, released by The New York Times OpDocs. Skilled in distribution & marketing, Annie has helped raise nearly $1.6 million via crowdfunding for dozens of film projects. Annie is passionate about using film and storytelling to create positive social impact. She is co-founder of OUTsider Festival, Austin’s queer multi-arts festival and academic conference, and a member of New Day Films, the longest-running distribution cooperative for independent documentary filmmakers.

Vicki Higgins

Vicki is the American Film Showcase Special Projects and SCA International Programs Program Administrator. 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.

Ben Chance

Ben is the American Film Showcase Curation and Distribution Manager. 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. Upon graduating, he began working at The Gersh Agency before moving to United Talent Agency (UTA). During his time at UTA he learned about film finance and packaging as well as motion picture literary representation. He subsequently volunteered as a videographer with the Collateral Repair Project NGO in Amman, Jordan before joining AFS.