USC-led American Film Showcase (AFS) Continues to Roll-out New, Innovative Initiatives

USC’s Office of Research and Innovation (OORI) is excited to share the latest news and highlights of the USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) American Film Showcase (AFS) program with the USC community. AFS, the flagship American film and TV diplomacy program, was originally established in 2011 to organize screenings and workshops with American filmmakers to offer global audiences insight into American society and culture through film and to empower local filmmakers with tools to tell their own stories. AFS is led by Alan Baker, Associate Dean of Administration and International Projects at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Rachel Gandin Mark, Director of International Programs at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and Michael Renov, Haskell Wexler Endowed Chair in Documentary and Vice Dean for Academic Affairs at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

USC’s OORI and sub-unit Research Strategy & Development (RSD) played a pivotal role in helping USC SCA establish the AFS program, which has been active for over a decade, through a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). AFS was a collaborative effort initially conceptualized by USC’s SCA and RSD through coordinated strategy sessions to discuss research interests and identify potential funding sources. RSD identified the funding opportunity to establish the AFS program and worked with SCA to engage faculty collaborators and external partners. RSD staff worked closely with SCA collaborators to write and submit the application. To date, USC AFS has received $24M in funding from the Department of State.

“The American Film Showcase is a highly innovative, creative, and inspiring endeavor that has continuously evolved since its initial conception,” said Dr. Steven Moldin, Associate Vice President of Research Strategy & Innovation, “OORI looks forward to continuing its support of the American Film Showcase as it expands throughout 2024 and years to come.”


Each year, AFS partners with U.S. Embassies to screen American films, send American filmmakers overseas to discuss their films with audiences, and lead workshops for international filmmakers. AFS also brings foreign filmmakers to the U.S. for residencies and film festivals to connect with mentors, producers, and distributors from the entertainment industry, with the goal of training the next generation of international filmmakers. Since the program’s inception, AFS has made significant strides. The program has led to visits to 135 countries, produced 481 programs, and reached 500,000 individuals globally.  AFS produces 40 weeklong workshops and ten annual film festival delegations each year and coordinated two LA-based AFS residencies. These numbers reflect the program’s global reach and its positive impact on USC’s community. AFS’s LA-based residencies are offered each summer – each application cycle, AFS accepts 12 global filmmakers to travel to Los Angeles for a two-week intensive documentary story development and pitching program, with mentoring and support from an award-winning roster of American filmmakers. Last year, AFS summer residency selected participants from Bangladesh, Brazil, Czechia, Honduras, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Mongolia, Qatar, Slovakia, South Korea, and Thailand. All filmmakers were nominated by their respective U.S. Embassies and selected through a competitive application process. Participant projects ranged from a personal quest to uncover family secrets in post-Soviet Slovakia to an examination of the environmental impact of dams on the Mekong River in Thailand.

New Initiatives

AFS recently announced a new initiative starting this spring to support AFS alumni who attended the annual summer Doc Residency through travel awards. Aiming to remove barriers to access for global filmmakers, this fund offers travel support to AFS alumni selected to participate in film festivals, markets, pitches, labs, and fellowships. In the upcoming months, AFS will financially support three alumni attending the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in Toronto and another at the Vision du Reel Festival International de Cinéma Nyon in Switzerland.

Collaborative Programs: African Animation Program  & Screening Programs

AFS recently established two collaborative programs to engage filmmakers, including a partnership with Disney to initiate a professional development program for African animators and a Black Panther: Wakanda Forever screening program.

AFS’s African Animation Exchange Program brought leaders of the African animation industry to Los Angeles for a weeklong professional development program, a culmination of a months-long masterclass series AFS produced in partnership with Walt Disney Animation Studios and South Africa’s Triggerfish Studios. Fourteen exchange participants are the directors of the Disney+ animated sci-fi anthology, Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire, which AFS also screened in four African countries in partnership with U.S. Embassies. Due to viewers’ tremendous affection for the Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire series, two of the 14 directors were nominated for the prestigious Annie Awards.

AFS also partnered with the Walt Disney Company to offer U.S. Embassies in Africa the opportunity to screen Black Panther: Wakanda Forever to audiences who would otherwise not have been able to see it, including those in countries without movie theaters. Between March and June, Wakanda Forever screened in 31 African countries and was viewed by over 5,700 people.