May 13, 2023

Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Tracy Oliver Take Center Stage at SCA’s Graduation

By Benjamin Pola

The USC School of Cinematic Arts' graduating class of 2023 received an unforgettable send-off from three industry titans at this year’s commencement ceremony. Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Tracy Oliver shared invaluable insight and wisdom on what it takes to have longevity and a successful career in media and entertainment.

Tracy Oliver '10 recieving the 2023 Mary Pickford Alumni Award.

Tracy Oliver, the writer, producer, and director of films such as Girls Trip and Little, kicked things off as the 2023 Mary Pickford Alumni Award recipient with a very timely, yet real message for our graduates – “Expect the unexpected!” Oliver, who earned an MFA from SCA’s Peter Stark Producing Program in 2010, emphasized this adage while reflecting on the various pivots, unexpected opportunities, and lessons she encountered post-SCA. “Expect and embrace failure because it pushes us to grow and evolve in ways we wouldn’t have from success alone,” stated Oliver, “Revel in all the chaos and instability because that’s how character is built and how all the magic happens.” She used the writers’ strike to illustrate how different her work life was just a couple weeks before, underscoring her message to the graduates about being prepared for the unexpected.

Academy Award-winning filmmakers and Imagine Entertainment founders Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, renowned for their successful creative partnership in Hollywood, delivered closing keynotes at the ceremony, sharing their wisdom with the Class of 2023.

Ron Howard at the USC School of Cinematic Arts' 2023 Commencement Ceremony. 

Howard, emphasized the importance of finding true collaborators stating, “creating often also means conflict; however, true collaboration isn’t about avoiding conflict or seeking only like-minded collaborators it’s about learning how to find collaborators who will elevate your process and will teach you.”

Grazer, honed in on the importance of authenticity stating, “I promise you, if you operate out of an authentic self, this will become your competitive advantage in this creative space.” Pulling from his childhood experiences of being encouraged to follow his curiosity, Grazer detailed how that trait has led to many of his successes.

Brian Grazer at the USC School of Cinematic Arts' 2023 Commencement Ceremony. 

Grazer also encouraged everyone in the audience to find what they are genuinely curious about and tap into that, whatever that is and closed out his speech stating, “It’s easy to think of graduations as an ending, but it’s really the end of your First Act, and in movies, that means there’s something amazing to come.”

Check out the full speeches below. Fight On!

About the Speakers

Brian Grazer 

Brian Grazer is a multi-award-winning producer, with his work receiving nominations for 47 Oscars and 228 Emmys. He has produced many successful films and TV shows, including A Beautiful Mind and Empire, and is also the co-founder of Impact, a content accelerator that aims to connect creatives around the world. Grazer believes that curiosity is a superpower that can help create a better world and has been recognized for his humanitarian work by various organizations.

Ron Howard

Ron Howard is an Academy, Emmy, Golden Globe, and Grammy Award-winning filmmaker known for creating some of Hollywood's most memorable films such as A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, Parenthood, and Splash. He has been involved in numerous significant projects in every decade since the 1960s, whether for film, television, or documentaries. Alongside Brian Grazer, he founded Imagine Entertainment in the 1980s, which is one of the longest-running partnerships in Hollywood.

Tracy Oliver

Tracy Oliver is a screenwriter, director, producer, and showrunner who has become a trailblazer for Black women in Hollywood. She is best known for writing the hit film Girls Trip, which grossed over $100 million at the box office, making her the first Black woman to do so. Through her production company, Tracy Yvonne Productions, Oliver is committed to advocating for diverse and meaningful storytelling, amplifying unique voices, and improving inclusiveness within the industry.

Oliver joined Grazer along with a distinguished list of USC alumni as the Pickford Award recipient. The Mary Pickford Alumni Award pays tribute to USC alumni who have made significant contributions to the industry. Oliver has become an exemplary role model for USC students and a vital contributor to the success of the SCA community as one of its newest Board of Councilors members.