panel at the Don Thompson Film Festival

Don Thompson LGBTQ+ Film Festival

A big THANK YOU to everyone who attended the Don Thompson LGBTQ+ Film Festival on Saturday, February 10, at the Ray Stark Theatre on the University Park Campus. This year’s festival featured a stellar lineup of short films (see list of award-winning films below), followed by a networking reception. Stay tuned for details on the spring 2025 festival, and thanks again for supporting LGBTQ+ cinema!

About The Festival

The Don Thompson LGBT Film Festival began as an outdoor movie-night fundraiser coordinated by one of the founding board members and former presidents of the Lambda LGBTQ+ Alumni Association, Amy Ross PhD ‘86, and LA Frontrunners. The Don Thompson Scholarship in Cinematic Arts, which celebrates Thompson’s passion for LGBTQ+ 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 LGBTQ+ issues through creative work, scholarship and/or community engagement.

2024 Don Thompson LGBTQ+ Film Festival Awards

Congratulations to the winners of this year’s Don Thompson LGBTQ+ Film Festival Awards!

Truckstop (2023)

Synopsis: A restless young immigrant, working at an isolated Punjabi truck stop in the California desert, must decide whether she truly wants out.

Bio: Molly Karna is a queer, Indian-American writer-director based in LA. Truckstop is her USC MFA thesis. While at USC, Molly earned a Lambda Scholarship. In 2018, Molly wrote and directed short film Arrangement, which premiered at the New York Indian Film Festival and won Best Debut Short Film Award at the Cincinnati Indian Film Festival.

a frame from the short film "Group Session"

Group Session (2023)

Synopsis: Six college students partake in a University Provided group therapy session as they discuss issues from queerness, being South Asian at a PWI, and access to mental health care. 

Bio: Parker Fenady is an actor, filmmaker and recent graduate of USC. Her on-screen feature film debut, You Can’t Run Forever, will be released later this year. Parker has built a robust body of work as a director/producer, including independent films such as Old Goat and She Who Sees All, written/directed by Gordy De St. Jeor.

a frame from the short film In Your Eyes, In My Eyes

In Your Eyes, In My Eyes (2023)

Synopsis: A queer who secretly suffers with body dysmorphia finds sparks of solace for the first time through their partner’s blind, unconditional love.

Bio: Ji Lee is a filmmaker from Seoul, Korea, based in Los Angeles. Prior to coming to USC, she studied sociology and business in undergrad and worked as a photographer capturing portraits of women. Her passion lies in telling stories of women and queer people. She is a 2023 First Look Award winner and her works have been featured across the world.

After Sunset, Dawn Arrives (2023)

Synopsis: Wan, a widower in his 60s, steps into the hidden world of underground ballroom dancing, sparking a journey of self-revelation and a surprising bond with his past.

Bio: Andy Yi Li, a Chinese director in Los Angeles, focuses on untold stories with a unique visual style, exploring themes like self-identity, family dynamics, and women’s mental health. Her acclaimed film After Sunset, Dawn Arrives won 21 awards and is Oscar shortlisted.

Worth Going to Hell For (2024)

Synopsis: The ever-so-confident Amy gently encourages the ever-so-timid Ester to explore her sexuality, like a good friend does.

Bio: I am a deep feeler, a passionate healer, and a curious storyteller. I create from my heart and only my heart. This film was inspired by a character I got the privilege of spending two months getting to know and performing as last semester. I loved living in her world and believe there is so much people can learn with/ from her. –Jada Jo

a frame from the film Amina

Amina (2022)

Synopsis: Haunted by the loss of her partner, a former astronaut struggles to connect with her unborn child.

Filmmaker: Shanrica Evans

2024 Festival Panelists

Atlas Acopian

Director and Conceptual Artist

Video is Atlas Acopian’s first language. He has made sense of the world around him through new technology – shaping narratives through family movies and exploring perspectives through creative drone shots – and developed a unique, playful and conceptual approach to filmmaking as a result. Although he is known for his striking visual effects – as seen in work for Amazon Music, Red Bull, Ford and Adobe – Acopian is now focused on storytelling to communicate feelings and untapped realities in engaging and provocative ways.

Acopian has won a number of accolades from esteemed institutions including Forbes 30 Under 30, Young Guns 18, and the Adweek Creative 100, among others. His work has appeared in Refinery29, NPR, Fast Company, Nylon, The Verge, Vice, Rolling Stone, Dazed, Harper’s Bazaar, BBC, Paper Mag, and Business Insider and other clients include Airbnb, Budweiser, Chipotle, Coachella, Everlane, Facebook, Instagram, Interscope Records, MTV, Revlon, R/GA, T-Mobile, Sports Illustrated, Uber and W Hotels.

Liz Elverenli

Liz Elverenli ’09

Writer/Producer

Liz Elverenli is a television writer/producer who most recently served as the co-executive producer of FreeForm’s Grownish, the spin-off of the hit ABC series Black-ish.  She also served as the co-executive producer/writer on the Hulu series Dollface, and as a writer/supervising producer of the critically acclaimed Netflix series Special, starring series creator Ryan O’Connell as a young gay writer with cerebral palsy. Elverenli’s other credits include Netflix’s I Am Not OK With This, Facebook Watch’s Queen America and MTV’s Awkward. She began her career as an assistant on HBO’s Girls. Elverenli is a USC School of Cinematic Arts alum.

Cort Lane

Cort Lane

Animation Producer and Member, GLAAD’s Kids & Family Advisory Council

Cort Lane has built a prolific career in animation development and production. Cort is VP of Original Content for Fashion Brands with eOne/Hasbro and Executive Producer of their My Little Pony series for Netflix. With 20 years between Marvel/Disney and Mattel, his credits include Barbie In A Christmas Carol, Ultimate Spider-Man and Spidey And His Amazing Friends. He’s received Emmy nominations (Rocket ‘n Groot and Marvel’s Spider-Man) and NAACP Image Award Nominations (Black Panther’s Quest). Cort currently serves on GLAAD’s Kids & Family Advisory Council. He recently Executive Produced the documentary No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics, which premiered at Tribeca and won the Grand Jury Prize at Outfest.

Daniel Christopher “D.C.” Rogers MFA ’17

Writer, Producer and Actor

Daniel Christopher “D.C.” Rogers was most recently a story editor on the Netflix series PARTNER TRACK. He was previously a staff writer on the CW drama IN THE DARK. His development slate includes a sports comedy series with Will Graham’s Field Trip Productions and an adaptation of the YA novel KNEE DEEP with John Strauss and Josephson Entertainment. A classically trained baritone, SAG Award-winning actor, and reformed pre-law student, Mr. Rogers also teaches screenwriting at UCLA and LMU.

Photos