May 25, 2023

SCA Shines Spotlight on Diversity and Inclusion

By Desa Philadelphia

On May 1st the School of Cinematic Arts Council on Diversity & Inclusion launched its first annual SCA Council on Diversity & Inclusion Certificate for Outstanding Work. Presented to students across from the School’s seven divisions and Expanded Animation program, the certificate recognized groundbreaking student work, aimed at empowering diverse voices and perspectives. The students were celebrated for their efforts to help shape a culture of respect and tolerance for difference, both on and off campus. 

These nine students were received division awards:

Peter Stark Producing Program

Naseeba Bagalaaliwo for her work in producing the short film Coasti. The film’s logline: After losing the love of her life, a Muslim woman struggles to navigate her personal loss and reconcile her faith with her identity. Naseeba wrote and produced Coasti alongside three of her classmates from the program during the spring of her first year. The film showcases inclusion around themes of faith and identity, and closely follows a personal journey for a woman coming into her own. As the ‘chief collaboration officer’ on a set, Naseeba emulated a strong energy of teamwork, support, and inclusion when running the production of Coasti.

Interactive Media & Games Division

KB Bonfiglio was recognized for her game Val(liant) about a nonbinary college student struggling with their relationship with their body as well as their relationship with others. A previous game, Amira’s Blessing, is allows the player to experience the viewpoint of a 12-year-old boy living in the desert with his nomadic family and explore a gorgeous, rich representation of an ancient sacred land. KB’s games were described as “thoughtful treatments of largely underexplored themes and situations in games, and are fantastic manifestations of her drive for diversity, equity, and inclusion.” They can be viewed on her portfolio website.

John Wells Division of Writing for Screen & Television

Sophia Davies received the award for maintaining a high academic standing and for her TV writing projects. Her capstone Senior Thesis is a personal series pilot that centers on her diverse family life in New York City. She is a founding member of the Amplify Writer’s Collective, a student organization that promotes writers of color. She helped form the group within the Wells Division, and helped facilitate its rollout to the rest of USC.

John Hench Division of Animation + Digital Arts

Lyndzi Ramos draws the comic “USCENE” for the Daily Trojan. She describes herself as “a junior drawing about life at USC, as she sees it, as a plus size Jewish Latina.” Her stories focus on issues that empower diverse voices, creating awareness and empathy, with all of her work representing the authentic, diverse, colorful community we live in. She aspires to design diverse and inclusive characters, and tell their stories, for television and other projects. She is the co-leader of USC Women in Animation, and a Program Intern for LatinX in Animation. In the film So Much More to Offer, which wrote and co-directed (it was animated by the 16 members of the Documentary Animation Production class in Spring 2022), Lyndzi uses her own experience of being treated unfairly as a plus-sized person to focus attention on body positivity.

The XA Program

Shon Xiao was selected for two of his animated films which creatively examine gender identity and transformation. As a USC undergrad, Shon minored in animation. His senior minor capstone film, Am I? Real, (2021), is an experimental Kafka-esque exploration of gender dysphoria and metamorphosis. Shon is currently a second-year graduate student in the Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts. For his Animation Production 1 project last year, Shon created Blue Again, (2022), which he describes as “a personal short film exploring the relationship between my transgender journey and my love for swimming.” Using beautiful, original, and expressive digital, hand drawn, 2D animation, Shon has creatively and metaphorically peeled back the layers of his birth gender to reveal his transgender self. In both films, his message is brave, beautiful, and triumphant; it resonates with anyone searching or questioning their gender identity and especially those transitioning. With these two films, Shon has made an important contribution to contemporary experimental animation which centers transgender storytelling, and it is a pleasure to recognize him for this award.

Division of Cinema and Media Studies

Jiwon Lee recently graduated with a 3.92 GPA as a Presidential Scholar & Alpha Lambda Delta Honors Society Member. With her background as a third culture kid – having been born in Korea, lived in Malaysia and China, and now getting her degree in the US – she brought a wealth of diverse experiences and languages (she is trilingual in Chinese, English and Korean) to the SCA student body. She is also an award-winning screenwriter and director. Most recently, her film Call for Cassie (2022) won an Award of Excellence at the Indie Short Fest and was the Official Selection of Canada Shorts Film Festival. Moreover, Jiwon has held leadership positions throughout her tenure at USC. She is currently the President of the Korean American Leaders In Hollywood, a staff writer for the CAMS undergraduate research journal, Spotlight, and a Radio DJ and Music Blogger for USC’s KXSC station. In one year (2018-2019), she served as the Director for both the Asian Pacific Cinema Association’s Film Festival and the Women’s Cinematic Arts Festival. Jiwon has also done translation work for the university, notable in terms of DEI efforts. She was the translator for an event with the esteemed director Park Chan-wook, for a Q&A event at SCA, and in his conversations with Dean Daley and SCA professors.

Media Arts + Practice

Karen Abe is a Hawai?i-born media artist, creative producer and community organizer whose work since she entered SCA has been devoted to raising awareness about the indigenous people of Hawai?i, reminding many that the state is not simply a beautiful tourist destination. She describes her work as “research-based projects (that) explore issues around settler colonialism, militarism, and tourism as a way to challenge the dominant historical narratives of Hawai?i.” Her entire body of work is dedicated to diversity; more can be found at:

Division of Film & Television Production

Miranda Montenegro was born a California girl and raised in the Imperial Valley, a rural swath of land bordering Arizona and Mexico. Her filmography is largely centered around people of color, majorly LatinX. Her projects include her award-winning short film about illegal detainments in Texas, U.S. vs. Beltran, one episode of a police procedural, Sketch, and a mitú x Walmart-produced film, Queso Bueno. She will be producing a 546 film titled Scratch and Sniff.

In June 2022, Miranda served as a director's assistant on Star Wars: Skeleton Crew, scheduled for a fall 2023 release. Additionally, she has worked for Sony Pictures Entertainment, Montecito Picture Company and Entravision Communications Corporation. She is the recipient of the Latino Alumni Association Scholar Award, Ulloa Family Award and the Dr. Rodolfo Montes Scholarship. Miranda is active in mentoring and providing hands-on assistance to young filmmakers at USC.\

Division of Film & Television Production

Tynae Miller has a thriving multi-hyphenate career as a producer, director and actor. She earned her B.A in Theatre Arts from Loyola Marymount University and attended the prestigious Art of Acting Studios, a two-year conservatory. At the School of Cinematic Arts she produced films that include Happy Birthday Granny, a covid vaccination PSA commissioned by the city of Los Angeles, which has played at multiple festivals. She also acted and associate produced the horror film Blackifier, which won a 2022 DGA Award, as well as produced the films Agua de tu Madre, and the Punjabi film Truckstop. In all her work, Tynae strives to support authentic portrayals of how identity and family affect a person’s trajectory through life.