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April 11, 2014

SCA Promotes Social Change

By Phillomina Wong

The films and PSAs screened at the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ (SCA) first “Evening of Social Change Films” told fictional stories, and conveyed very real emotions and social issues.

(front): Eric Adrian Marshall, John Berardo,Maury Shessel, Victoria
Rose,  Adam Tyree (back): Faisal Attrache, Mark Manalo, Kaushik

On March 10th, SCA partnered with USC Media Institute for Social Change (MISC) and USC Change Making Media Lab to show short films and PSAs made by students with socially conscious voices. All of the shorts brought to light some social issues often overlooked or misunderstood.

Some of the issues the films touched on included, gun control, anxiety and depression, the death penalty, child abuse, medical issues and post-traumatic stress disorder.

For M.F.A. student, Will Lowell, film is the most powerful medium for shaping people’s beliefs. He said by telling stories with the entertainment component and facts makes it that much more effective.

“[Films] can be very effective, if it has more emotion, than it being purely informational,” Lowell said. “It can create a connection or articulate paths towards change.”

The short film, Grooming, directed by graduate student Kaushik Sampath, was very personal to the filmmaker. Sampath said he wanted to tell the story of a child’s desensitization through sexual abuse because of his concern for his own son’s safety. “It became a very personal thing,” Sampath said.

Sampath said many of the kids who experience abuse have a tough time dealing with it and talking about it. In terms of making social change with his film, he said, “hopefully the audience is put in the shoes of the child.”

Without You, directed by Adam Tyree, told the story of a man’s struggle with cancer and the way it changes his family.   “I feel like medical issues are a large part of life and they’re often the most difficult to handle. However, very few movies look at them in a very realistic way,” Tyree said.

Instead of ending the film with a happy ending, Tyree said he wanted to end it on a bittersweet note to show the reality of the situation.  “I hope that at least it makes people aware,” Tyree said.  “I hope people see this and it moves them to want to find out more [about cancer].”

For those who screened the films for the first time, many felt the messages that came across the screen.

Jared Martin, a student who worked on one of the films, said he had the reaction that the filmmakers wanted.  “I not only enjoyed the pieces, but I felt it. Each one whether it was a PSA or 20-minute movie, I felt the message—like I wanted to take action,” Martin said. “When you come out of it it’s sort of overwhelming because there’s all these issues going on, but these are just small snippets of what’s actually going on their in the rest of the world.”

While the films may not change any the opinions of the viewers, it still exposes them to the issues at large.

“I think that films all serve their purpose,” Martin said. “They all have a message for something human and we can learn from all of them, no matter what it’s about.”

To find out more about films for social change visit: and