An Evening with Sloan Foundation Short Films and Panel Discussion with Grant Recipients & Sloan Mentors

February 5, 2018, 7:00 P.M.

The Albert and Dana Broccoli Theatre, SCA 112, George Lucas Building lobby, USC School of Cinematic Arts Complex, 900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007

The USC School of Cinematic Arts and the Sloan Science Foundation invite you and a guest to attend

An Evening with Sloan Foundation Short Films and
Panel Discussion with Grant Recipients & Sloan Mentors


7:00 P.M. on Monday, February 5th, 2018

The Albert and Dana Broccoli Theatre, SCA 112
900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007


Dessert reception to follow in the Mary Pickford Lobby.

About the Event

Please join us for four short film screenings that won Alfred P. Sloan Production grants. After the screening there will be a Q&A with the filmmakers, moderated by Thomas G. Miller, the Sloan Production mentor, alongside a recent recipient of the Sloan Writing grant, and Sloan Mentors Alan Baker and Mark Jonathan Harris.

The Alfred P. Sloan Award is a merit-based award open to all divisions of the cinema school and to both graduate and undergraduate students. It is administered through the School of Cinematic Arts, but the final award-winner decision is made by the Sloan Foundation. This is a prestigious award whose intention is to promote accurate, non-stereotypical portrayals of science and scientists in media.

There are 3 categories for this award: Animation ($17,500), Production ($22,500), and Writing ($15,000). 

Information on all the Alfred P. Sloan grants can be found on the SCA Community website in the scholarship section:

About the Films

A Conversation

Director: Jingyi Shao. Running time: 18 minutes.

When a stroke leaves her unable to speak Chinese, her native language, Mei, a terse and strict English teacher is forced to rely on Kelly, a roguish Irish expat, to help her resolve a decades old family dilemma.

Play to Win

Director: Sam Mandegaran. Running time: 19 minutes.

A math whiz formulates a plan to beat the state lottery, but he needs the help of a former mob boss to succeed.


Director: Amanda Tasse. Running time: 9 minutes. Nominated for the 2017 Student Academy Award.

MIRA is a magical realist poetic science short that contemplates the relationship between the life cycle of galaxies, the immortal jellyfish, and a young marine biologist's own mind as she risks her life to pursue the work she loves.


Director: Devon Manney. Running time: 15 minutes. Winner of the 2017 Student Academy Award.

After losing both arms overseas, a young veteran faces a new set of battles upon returning to the USA. He not only has to learn to live with prosthetics, but must also adjust to excruciating phantom limb pain, vivid memories of his pre-war life, a post-9/11 world that feels increasingly alienating –– all creating a barrier between him and his wife and infant daughter.

About the Panelists

JINGYI SHAO (Director, A Conversation)

Jing is a Chinese-American writer/director working extensively in China and the US. An experienced commercial director, Jing has shot for global brands like Levi’s, Johnnie Walker, and Honda with his spots being featured in ad publications such as SHOTS, SHOOTonline and Adweek. His PSA, Text History of Jane, received awards at Cannes, D&AD and the AICP Show. His previous short Toenail, was a finalist in the inaugural HBO Visionaries competition and premiered on the platform in May 2017. Following A Conversation, Jing is developing a premium cable narrative show called Salvage, inspired by the Los Angeles food scene. Jing’s ultimate dream is to be a truly global director, telling stories that bridge his American and Chinese backgrounds.


Amanda Tasse develops transmedia narratives spanning live-action, animation, video games, & visualizations. Her films have won a Student Academy Award Gold Medal, HBO Films Student Competition Award, numerous festival awards and screened internationally. Her video game, Miralab, won Best Educational Game from the Serious Game Play Awards. She's been granted two Sloan Science Film Grants and was a finalist for the 2015 Sundance Screenwriting Lab. Amanda completed a PhD in Media Arts + Practice at USC in 2016. Since graduating, she has been doing mixed reality design and animation for the production company she founded, Miraworld, and teaching cinematic arts as an Assistant Professor at Oregon State University.

DEVON MANNEY (Director, Cradle)

Devon Manney is a 22-year-old artist and filmmaker, currently living in Los Angeles. He grew up in Moorhead, MN, where he taught himself to draw and animate at the age of 9, largely as a way to occupy his ever-expanding imagination (and escape from the frigid winters). Studying Animation at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Devon was awarded grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, ASIFA-Hollywood, and the USC Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Additionally, Devon was the recipient of the 2016 Association of American Editorial Cartoonists’ Locher Memorial Award, given annually to the most promising student cartoonist in North America, as well as a Student Academy Award in 2017 for Cradle.

JEREMY PALMER (Sloan Script Writing Scholarship)

Synopsis of script: Scarred by WWI, Dr. Freddy Banting becomes obsessed with a cure for Diabetes. Just as his work begins to show promise, he’s shoved aside by more experienced colleagues. Freddy must fight his professional rivals and personal demons to bring the miracle drug Insulin to those afflicted with the deadly disease.

Bio: Jeremy Palmer died once. But he totally came back. His temporary death during a botched heart surgery left him technically a cyborg and pointed him toward a career working in the disability community, culminating when Jeremy Palmer Day became an actual thing in Denver. Seeing how his near death affected his family left him feeling guilty, and thus fascinated with writing about guilt and how it manifests in unexpected ways. Jeremy’s screenplay, Stumble Through was awarded the USC Jay Roach Endowed Scholarship and his thesis The Valley of Dry Bones won the Alfred P. Sloan Screenwriting Award. He also likes LEGOs.

About the Sloan Mentors

ALAN BAKER, B.A. Associate Dean, Administration & International Projects

Alan Baker joined USC in 1998, and since 2009, he has served as the Associate Dean, Administration & International Projects at SCA where he is responsible for developing new and overseeing current international programs.

Since 2011, Baker has been a co-Principal Investigator of American Film Showcase (AFS), a multiyear grant from the U.S. Department of State that sends American filmmakers and documentaries to countries throughout the world for workshops, festivals, and special programs.  During 2015-2016, AFS traveled to 35 countries, and in 2016-2017, it will visit 40 countries.  Baker has accompanied filmmakers to Russia, Haiti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Namibia, Kazakhstan, and numerous others. 

In 2015 and 2016, Baker completed multi-year consulting and workshop agreements with ShanghaiTech University and the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing, and he has overseen several workshops for both educational institutions in Shanghai, Beijing and at USC. 

In addition to the Chinese programs, SCA has had a five-year agreement in Malaysia with Multimedia University’s Faculty of Cinematic Arts program.  SCA has produced short workshops in writing, production, cinematography and editing, in addition to conducting external reviews of their overall cinema program. 

Over the past several years, Baker and SCA have also worked closely with a new university in Ankara, Turkey, the American University in Dubai, and a women’s university in Saudi Arabia 

Between 2007-2009, Baker was the Principal Investigator for the U.S. State Department’s Fusion Arts Exchange program that brought international and American university students to USC for six weeks of intensive writing and production classes taught by SCA faculty. 

In 2005, Baker organized the first of a series of summer production workshops in Amman, Jordan for aspiring filmmakers.  He was also involved in the initial development of Jordan’s Red Seat Institute of Cinematic Arts

Between 2005-2009, in collaboration with the Ford Foundation and Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture, Baker supervised several workshops for Vietnamese filmmakers at USC and in Hanoi. 

For the past 18 years Baker has also been the principal SCA liaison with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Film School program which awards annual competitive grants in screenwriting, production and animation to SCA majors.

Prior to coming to USC, Baker worked for more than 25 years in television programming and production, as Vice-President of Programming at 20th Century Fox Television and earlier at Paramount Television.  Baker spent the first seven years of his television career at the Los Angeles Public Broadcasting station where he produced more than 200 cultural, documentary, and public affairs programs.

Between 1982 and 1984, Baker joined the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee and the 1984 Olympic Games where he managed all publicity and press for the 10-week international Olympic Arts Festival. 

Baker is married to prominent children’s book author and co-founder of the 25,000 member Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.  He has three grown sons, two very young granddaughters, and one badly behaved dog.

MARK JONATHAN HARRIS, B.A., Distinguished Professor

Mark Jonathan Harris is an Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and Distinguished Professor in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California.

Among the many documentaries he has written, produced and/or directed are Huelga!, the landmark film about Cesar Chavez and the Delano grape strike (1968); and The Redwoods, which won an Oscar for Best Short Documentary and helped establish a redwood national park (1968). The Long Way Home, a film he wrote and directed about the period immediately following the Holocaust, won the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary in 1997; and Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, which he also wrote and directed, won the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary in 2000 and was selected by the U.S. Library of Congress for inclusion in its National Film Registry. Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives (2003), a documentary that he wrote on slavery in America, was nominated for an Emmy for a Nonfiction Special and Harris was nominated for Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming. He also wrote The Cutting Edge:  The Magic of Movie Editing, a documentary about editing produced by BBC-TV, NHK, and STARZ, which is shown in film schools around the world (2004). In 2007, he produced Darfur Now, a film about the humanitarian crisis in Africa, which was nominated as best documentary of the year by the National Board of Review and the Broadcast Film Critics Association and won an NAACP Image Award. Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders, a film he executive produced, premiered at the Venice film festival and was shortlisted for the 2011 Oscar for best feature documentary. Code Black, another documentary he executive produced about ER doctors, won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival and became the basis for the CBS series of the same name. In 2016, he co-wrote and co-directed Breaking Point:  The War for Democracy in Ukraine, which has won awards at multiple international film festivals including Best of Show at the Accolade Global Film Competition.

In addition to filmmaking, Harris has written five novels for children and three books of non-fiction as well as articles, essays, and reviews in a number of national newspapers and magazines including TV Guide, American Heritage, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post.  

In 2010 the International Documentary Association honored him with its Scholarship and Preservation Award. He holds the Mona and Bernard Kantor Chair of Production at the School of Cinematic Arts, where he heads the documentary program.


Thomas G. Miller, ACE, has worked on documentaries and in public television since 1994. He associate produced the Sundance award-winning film Licensed To Kill (POV-PBS), co-produced the feature documentary Code Black, and co-produced and edited Fender Philosophers (PBS) and Camp Out (Logo). He has edited the feature documentary films, Good Kurds, Bad Kurds (Independent Lens-PBS), Home of the Brave (Sundance, BBC,CBC) and co-edited Rock The Boat (HBO). Miller produced, directed, and co-edited the award-winning documentaries, ONE BAD CAT (Ovation) and Limited Partnership (Independent Lens-PBS). Other credits include producing television films for Discovery, and WNET’s series on disabilities, People in Motion.

Tom served on the board of the International Documentary Association for 9 years, and is a member of American Cinema Editors (ACE), the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and the Writer’s Guild of America, West. He is Associate Professor of Cinema Practice at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and has been the Sloan science mentor there since 2009. He is also a pediatrician and has served as a medical consultant for Sesame Street.

He graduated with a BS degree from The University of Michigan, an MD from the Medical College of Ohio and an MFA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Check-In & Reservations

This event is free of charge and open to the public. Please bring a valid USC ID or print out of your reservation confirmation, which will automatically be sent to your e-mail account upon successfully making an RSVP through this website. Doors will open at 6:30 P.M.

All SCA screenings are OVERBOOKED to ensure seating capacity in the theater, therefore seating is not guaranteed based on RSVPs. The RSVP list will be checked in on a first-come, first-served basis until the theater is full. Once the theater has reached capacity, we will no longer be able to admit guests, regardless of RSVP status.


The USC School of Cinematic Arts is located at 900 W. 34th St., Los Angeles, CA 90007. Parking passes may be purchased for $12.00 at USC Entrance Gate #5, located at the intersection of W. Jefferson Blvd. & McClintock Ave. We recommend Parking Structure D, at the far end of 34th Street. Metered street parking is also available along Jefferson Blvd.

Contact Information

Name: Thomas G. Miller