John Palmer, MFA
Adjunct Assistant Professor
Division of Film & Television Production
John Ira Palmer is a producer and director. He is a founding partner of Projected Picture Works with Sean Penn and John Wildermuth, focused on developing and producing feature films, series, and audio.
Palmer produced BLACK FLIES (directed by Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire and starring two-time Academy Award winner Sean Penn and Tye Sheridan, premiered in competition at the 2023 Festival de Cannes), and co-produced FLAG DAY (directed by Sean Penn and starring Dylan Penn and Sean Penn, premiered in competition at the 2021 Festival de Cannes, a MGM/United Artists release). He also produced the documentary AL IMAM (Vimeo Staff Pick, National Geographic release, winner of KCET Fine Cut’s top prize), co-produced THE DARE PROJECT (directed by Adam Salky, follow-up to the beloved queer short DARE, 2018 Frameline premiere, 2018 Outfest), and was associate producer for CONTRA-INTERNET: JUBILEE 2033 (directed by Zach Blas, 2018 Berlinale premiere).
As a director, Palmer’s most recent project is OUT OF THE CORNER OF OUR EYE, funded by National Endowment for the Arts and commissioned by SCI-Arc Channel for their Queer Perspectives series. He also directed the short ELWOOD TAKES A LOVER, which screened at festivals around the world and was an official selection of The American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at the 2019 Festival de Cannes. His experimental short films have been shown at festivals and venues such as Outfest, Frameline, REDCAT, Blum & Poe, and Pacific Film Archive.
In 2016, Palmer was honored as an Artist Academy fellow by Film at Lincoln Center at the New York Film Festival. He has curated film series and programs for American Cinematheque, Echo Park Film Center, and San Francisco Art Institute, and as a consultant for Sundance’s Documentary Film Program and Concordia Studio, he has helped identify the next generation of documentary filmmakers. Past artist residencies include Echo Park Film Center’s LA AIR program and AICAD’s New York Studio Program, and awards include the ARRI Emerging Filmmaker Grant, the James Broughton Film Award, and a Princess Grace Award. Palmer earned his MFA in Film & Television Production at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and his BFA in Fine Arts at San Francisco Art Institute. Before attending USC, he spent nearly ten years as a marketing executive and producer at entertainment-focused creative agencies, heading up campaigns for film and television titles from the major studios and networks.
Outside of filmmaking, Palmer regularly engages in community-based service. He served as Chief of Staff to Sean Penn at CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) throughout its response to the Covid-19 pandemic–which included offering vaccines, testing, tracing, and wraparound services throughout the United States and Navajo Nation, as well as Brazil, India, and Haiti–and during its crucial initial months on the ground in Ukraine, Poland, and Romania offering shelter, resources, and services to refugees and those displaced within Ukraine. While a student at USC, Palmer co-founded the Our Voices speaker series as part of the School of Cinematic Arts’ Diversity & Inclusion initiative with inaugural lineup speakers including John Singleton, Cheryl Boone-Isaacs, and Andrew Ahn. For over a decade, Palmer also volunteered as a crisis counselor and training mentor for The Trevor Project, dedicated to suicide prevention and crisis intervention for LGBTQ+ youth.