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February 12, 2020

The New DKA

By Sofia Rios-Dominguez

“The mission of Delta Kappa Alpha is to foster lifelong character, collaborative and creative storytelling, ethical and productive business practices, philanthropic action, and fraternal bonds by and between students of the cinematic arts.”

So reads the mission statement of Delta Kappa Alpha, the gender-inclusive professional cinematic arts
fraternity founded at USC in 1936. You can still find remnants of Alpha Chapter’s 1936 legacy around
campus, like historian Herb Farmer’s camera tripod, which sits in a glass case in the lobby of SCA.
Farmer, an SCA alum, is responsible for archiving DKA records through World War II, ensuring the
survival of the organization’s founding documents.

This year marks DKA’s 11th anniversary since its rechartering in 2009. Grace Lee and Hillary Levi, who
were then undergrads at SCA, used Fermer’s records to reestablish the organization.. (Full disclosure: I’m the current Vice-President). In the last decade, the chapter has welcomed a new class of DeKAs—the nickname for active members—into the fraternity each semester, and its influence continues to be felt inside SCA.

This semester, five DeKAs are writers or directors of the coveted CTPR480 senior thesis productions, one of which has recently received national attention. Ella Harris (director) and Miriam Sachs (writer) are at the helm of “Spit It Out, Margot! (an Original Musical),” the first film in the School’s 90-year history to be produced by an all-female, gender-noncomforming crew.

Harris, who previously attended Scripps College, says being in the fraternity has helped grow her
confidence as a filmmaker. “I found DKA when I transferred to USC for film,” says Harris. “Prior to USC I had never taken myself seriously as a filmmaker and I would say DKA is one of the first spaces that really embraced that part of me without hesitation.”

Within the organization, the spirit of collaboration runs deep. Members regularly hold workshops for each other on topics ranging from professionalism, to self-care, to script coverage. At least five DKA-sponsored films are produced per semester. Among these is the “semester-long—” a project that is pitched to and voted on by the entire chapter. The project is showcased to the chapter and guests at the end of the semester. Past projects include a horror short film, a web-series, a variety show, and a documentary about a 12-year-old boxer. This semester’s winner is an experimental dance film conceived by Cameron Kostopoulos, a junior in Film and Television Production.

Kostopoulos appreciates that the fraternity supports projects that fall outside mainstream formats. “As an experimental filmmaker, my favorite projects are those that foster innovative storytelling in all fields of production,” he says. “I feel incredibly grateful to have such a talented team of artists to collaborate with, and to create something meaningful with. It’s often a challenge to make boundary-pushing content in an industry as traditional and by-the-books as Hollywood, so having a team of people who not only support your ideas, but challenge them and make them their own, is a dream come true.”

Since its inception, DKA has been instrumental in fostering the educations and careers of past and
present members. Many have gone on to have careers at major production companies and talent
agencies across the country. Apart from their academic and professional accomplishments, many DeKAs find their closest friends during their time as members. Current Alpha Chapter president Chandler Guzman, a Media Arts + Practice junior, credits these friendships for the chapter’s creative
accomplishments and its ever-growing alumni network, “Often in this industry we forgo friendship in favor of professional networks, but in this organization we like to foster a space where professionalism is equal to fellowship because those are the strongest connections,” says Guzman. “Our alums are a perfect example because when members graduate and enter the workforce, they already have so many
established relationships which makes the transition into the industry not just faster but less intimidating.”

That same alumni network stays closely connected to current members, often providing mentorship and job opportunities.

Today, DKA’s presence on campus continues to grow and evolve. The fraternity currently boasts an
active chapter of nearly 60 and is made up of students from different backgrounds with diverse cinematicinterests. According to their website, 50% of active members identify as people of color, 15% are international students, and 32% hold majors outside of SCA. Many of these members, like Makena
Kennerly, a senior majoring in NGOs and Social Change in the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and
Sciences, find this diversity to be the strongest part of the organization,

"When I got to college, I was convinced I would never join Greek life. But then I found DKA and was so
happily surprised to see so many different people with so many different interests and backgrounds who came together because and for cinema,” says Kennerly, adding that the organization provides a place of connection. “Even though it’s so diverse, it’s the only place on campus I can consistently come back to where the people have experiences similar to mine, which is very powerful,” she says.

As members geared up for DKA’s semesterly recruitment season, which happens over the first two weeks of the semester, their talents were on full display. The fraternity’s vast showcase of past and current projects is certain to impress; but what stands out most to its members is the organization’s fostering of love for film, and one other.

If you’re interested in joining or learning more about USC DKA, you can visit their website at