The Don Thompson LGBT Film Festival began as an outdoor movie-night fundraiser coordinated by USC Lambda co-founder and former president Amy Ross PhD ’86 and LA Frontrunners. Today, the festival showcases the work of up-and-coming LGBT and allied Trojan filmmakers and is one of USC Lambda’s signature events, with proceeds benefiting the Don Thompson Scholarship in Cinematic Arts. The scholarship, which celebrates Thompson’s passion for LGBT film, as well as his “family” at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, is available to graduate or undergraduate students enrolled at the school who demonstrate a commitment to advancing LGBT issues through creative work, scholarship and/or community engagement.
April 7, 2018
The Jealous Sea
Reid Waterer ’91
Producer, Director, Screenwriter
Synopsis: When Carlos discovers pictures that his photographer boyfriend Jaime took of a male model, he becomes engulfed in jealousy.
About the Filmmaker: Reid Waterer is a producer, director and screenwriter whose short films have screened at 230+ film fests on six continents, including BFI Flare London LGBTQ FF, Provincetown FF, Palm Springs ShortFest, Miami Short FF, Outfest, & Frameline. He was a nominee for the Iris Prize (from Cardiff, Wales), and has won more than a dozen “Best Short” jury & audience awards. He’s also an editor of movie advertising trailers and television spots. He graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts with a BA in film and television production.
Elwood Takes a Lover
John Palmer MFA ’17
Producer, Director, Screenwriter
Synopsis: A dying woman suspects her husband is a closeted homosexual and decides to track down the man she thinks was his original love.
About the Filmmaker: John Palmer is a producer, director and screenwriter whose work spans fiction, nonfiction and experimental projects. He recently earned his MFA in film and television production from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and is a proud three-time Lambda scholar. He is currently developing his first feature film, Outside of Deary.
WINNER – LGBT AWARENESS AWARD
Finding Home: Elaheh
Abie “AB” Troen MFA ’17
Synopsis: This documentary chronicles a year in the life of Iranian lesbian refugee Elaheh Nejat as she attains U.S. citizenship, struggles with ghosts of her past, and fulfills her dream as a competitive bodybuilder.
About the Filmmaker: Abie “AB” Troen is a documentary filmmaker who has filmed in Israel, Kenya, India, Mexico and the United States. His work has screened at Doc NYC, OutFest, Big Sky and online for Conde Nast, as well as Out magazine. While pursuing his MFA at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, he was awarded an Annenberg Fellowship. Currently based in Los Angeles, he works as a documentary director of photography and director.
SPARK: A Cautionary Musical
Synopsis: In this original musical comedy, a bisexual twenty-something guy who’s addicted to dating apps enlists his roommate—who’s secretly in love with him—to swipe left or right.
About the Filmmaker: An artist and musician turned writer/director, Jeffrey Simon spent eight years working in the art department for films, including Spider-Man: Homecoming, Edge of Tomorrow and the upcoming Venom, before coming to USC to pursue an MFA in film and television production.
WINNER – ARTISTIC MERIT AWARD
Nate Trinrud MFA ’17
Synopsis: Jesse wants to tell her best friend, Roxanne, that she loves her.
About the Filmmaker: Nate Trinrud is a native of Rock Island, Illinois. He studied theater at Northwestern University before coming to the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where he earned an MFA in film and television production. While a student at USC, he was served as co-president of Queer Cut, the university’s queer cinema club.
WINNER – AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARD
Synopsis: Ana fears that coming out to her Filipino Catholic mother would break her heart. But when her mother needs help cleaning a hoarder house, Ana enlists her secret girlfriend for the job.
About the Filmmaker: Elisa Oh is a queer Korean American writer and director. As the daughter of a preacher, she grew up poised to follow suit, earning a master of divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary. After parting ways with the church, she decided instead to tell authentic stories from her own experiences through film. She is currently pursuing an MFA in film and television production at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
Synopsis: Enchanted water dances in a mysterious grotto.
About the Filmmaker: Mario Sotelo is a multi-media animator based in California. He earned a BA in studio art, with a concentration in digital art, from California State University, Sacramento. He’s currently pursuing an MFA in animation from the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
Producer, Director, Screenwriter
Synopsis: A father’s empathy towards his daughter gives her the will to fight against female social limitations.
About the Filmmaker: Gershon Sng was born in Singapore and relocated to Hong Kong at age 12. Seven years later, he returned to Singapore to serve in the army before moving to Los Angeles to attend USC, where he is currently pursuing a dual degree in gender studies and film and television production. His goal is to write, direct and produce commercially and critically appealing science fiction feature films that foster positive social change.
Synopsis: A black comedian struggles to find his place in both the stand-up and gay communities.
About the Filmmaker: Wes Akwuobi is a second-year graduate student in the USC School of Cinematic Arts, pursuing an MFA in film and television production. As a first-time filmmaker at USC, he’s finding his voice and aspires to create work that explores intersectionality and spotlights stories that are seldom told.
2017 Don Thompson LGBT Film Festival
Synopsis: It would seem there is a man dying on the carpet. Marcus should probably do something about that.
About the Filmmaker: Michael Boyle is filmmaker who grew up in Yardley, Pennsylvania. He made this short film during his junior year at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
Synopsis: Two lesbians create the female version of Grindr in the hopes for love…or just lust.
About the Filmmaker: Cristian Pagan is a theater major at the USC School of Dramatic Arts who’s getting a minor in screenwriting.
Synopsis: A woman in a fertility clinic is reluctant to give up her seat for a pregnant man.
About the Filmmaker: Nate Gualtieri is a screenwriter whose work focuses on family drama and his experiences as a transgender man. His television pilot, Badwater, was selected for the second round of the Austin Film Festival’s AMC Pilot Competition. Seahorse is his directorial debut.
Synopsis: A lonely man’s dreams come true, with a little help from the internet.
About the Filmmaker: John Palmer is currently pursuing his MFA in film and television production at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. He was recently invited to the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Artist Academy for emerging filmmakers at the New York Film Festival. He is also a USC Lambda LGBT Alumni Association Scholar and longtime volunteer for LGBTQ youth in crisis.
Synopsis: An adolescent girl in China discovers her mother’s secret, which disrupts their family life.
About the Filmmaker: Mei Liying is an award-winning filmmaker, born and raised in China, who is currently co-writing Luna, a project that’s being developed at Warner Bros. Emerging Film Directors Workshop.
Synopsis: After an unexpected one-night stand, Rachel is now awkwardly trapped in the house with last night’s lover because…well, zombies.
About the Filmmaker: Sherry Shi is a director, producer and actor who was born in China and educated in Singapore. She is devoted to telling stories about human nature and the human heart with all the love and fear that drives a story forward.
Synopsis: A dishonorably discharged World War II nurse, stricken by grief and crippling dementia, seeks to dance with her beloved one last time.
About the Filmmaker: Lauren Mok has produced, shot, edited and directed several short films. In 2015, she participated in Outfest’s OutSet program, and has since worked at such film festivals as Outfits Los Angeles, Sundance and Cannes. She is driven to create queer media for social justice.