Steven Harmon

Steven Harmon

BA, Interactive Media & Game Design '21

What inspired you to want to study the cinematic arts?

It’s kind of cliché but there is a moment in childhood when you realize some of your friends lose interest in playing pretend and feel pressured to move onto more mature and unimaginative activities. I never wanted to grow up like that, so I didn’t. Throughout middle and high school I made action films over sleepovers with friends, made stop motion LEGO shorts afterschool, and eventually discovered coding and game development. Growing up is a choice, and by pursuing a career in entertainment by studying at SCA I’m proud to say I’m privileged to never stop playing pretend.

What scholarship awards did you receive directly from SCA?

C. Stephen Gentry Memorial Fund
Electronic Arts Endowed Scholarship Fund

What has been the impact of receiving a scholarship from SCA?

USC is a really expensive school and coming from a blue-collar working-class family as a first-gen student the odds weren’t in my favor. Even my own high school counselor was not in my corner and advised me I was aiming too high with USC and wouldn’t make it. I worked hard and got in, but then the shock of “how am I going to afford this?” set in. Needless to say, the SCA scholarships and financial aid has been a huge relief. I’ve still had to work multiple simultaneous student jobs, RA positions, and contract work to survive but each scholarship received meant time I could reclaim to be a student and it’s given me hope that I can make it work.

What activities or student organizations are you involved in outside of the classroom?

I served on the E-board of MEGA (Makers of Entertaining Games Association), the student game development org, where I hosted a lot of events such as game jams and workshops. I was able to do this with the financial support from professors who’d pitch in a few bucks here and there for us to have a food budget. Additionally, Unity3D dubbed me as one of their first student ambassadors which meant I had swag to hand out. Aside from MEGA, pre-COVID I hosted the local weekly developer workspace “Game Space” for most of my entire college experience which was fantastic. Working late nights to mornings felt more bearable when done alongside my peers. My non-USC games involvement was mostly volunteering with GaymerX, a queer non-profit within games. Now I primarily focus my efforts on mentorship, creating free educational online resources, and giving talks to high schoolers. When there were on-campus film screenings I would go to those, the Friday night salsa dancing nights, and the residential education events.

What has been your favorite class or project at SCA thus far?

It’s a tough question to answer, but two of my favorites have been CTAN 564: Motion Capture Fundamentals with John Brennan and CTAN-492L  Experimental Game Topics with Sean Bouchard Bloom. Both of those classes changed my relationship with games for the better and have even opened my mind to other industries. Best part of SCA is the ability to take classes in outside departments and minor in nothing but graduate with plenty of hard skills that give you freedom to work anywhere.

What is a meaningful experience you've had while at SCA?

The game. To say more would spoil.

What are your career goals after graduation?

Short term: get my name in the credits of a few more tentpole games and films to pay off my loans. 
For the long term though, I’d like to put scam summer camps and trade schools out of business by providing free alternatives that help marginalized creatives break into this homogenous and gatekeepy industry, evening the playing field. It’s a privilege to be able to work in entertainment, and I’ll continue doing everything in my power to lower the ladder, so others don’t have to struggle as hard to experience the joy of not growing up.

What advice do you have for prospective students looking to apply to SCA?

You get one moment to show them who you are, what your point of view is, and what you bring to the table. Reflect on why you create and how you want people to feel with your work. Be memorable and make the committee’s job easy. Make sure you have a calling card or body of work that shows potential. And finally, you’re not an “aspiring filmmaker/developer/artist” – if you’ve made a film/game/piece and continue to do so, then you are. Just be yourself, and I’m sure you’ll do fine. If you don’t know yourself, that’s fine too. Just keep plugging away at what you do best.