December 2019
USC Cinematic Arts names Cassady, Grisom as Tiomkin Fund recipients

The School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) at the University of Southern California (USC) has selected Anna Cassady and James Grisom as the 2019-2020 recipients of the Dimitri Tiomkin Endowed Fund for Student Assistantships.


James Grisom, Anna Cassady, Olivia Douglas at the USC Cinematic Arts boardroom entrance, November 20, 2019.

James Grisom, a second year graduate student in film and television production and a Los Angeles native, brings a diverse background to USC that includes playing college football, studies in religion and philosophy, and founding a group for college students of various cultural beliefs and ideologies to share their thoughts on life. Concerning his future in film, Grisom notes, “I have always dreamed of telling stories that combat the negative messages that have impacted my family, my community, and me.”

Anna Cassady (Jingwei Li) is a third year graduate student in film and television production. Cassady hails from a small town in China situated midway between Guangzhou and Chongqing. Playing the violin, studying experimental filmmaking in New York, and gathering life experience from Mount Everest to Death Valley have given shape to her creative life. Cassady’s dream of becoming a filmmaker is one step closer to reality through the techniques, skills, and mindset learned and developed at the School of Cinematic Arts. Cassady writes, “I’m standing in the heart of the film industry and learning at the best film school in the world.”

For more about these students and their gratitude statements, click the download button, below, for a printable pdf, as seen at the bottom of this page.

Year-after-year the USC program ranks number one among American film schools. This year is no exception as USC once again topped the rankings by the Hollywood Reporter, a film industry trade publication. See The Top 25 American Film Schools, Ranked.

The USC School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles interdisciplinary approach enables students, regardless of their chosen area of specialization, to take courses across seven disciplines, without boundaries, in order to train fully-formed media makers, collaborators, and scholars situated to flourish in their chosen career path.

The Dimitri Tiomkin Endowed Fund for Student Assistantships is made possible by a generous contribution from Volta Music Corp. and Olivia Tiomkin Douglas. Dimitri Tiomkin incorporated Volta in 1957 to control his music publishing rights and to receive income, including royalties, from his film and television music. The corporation is a publisher member of ASCAP.


Dimitri Tiomkin Music, among the Benefactors to the School of Cinematic Arts.

Dean Elizabeth M. Daley thanked Olivia Douglas for her generous support, “Your continued assistance provides critical financial aid for students to be able to find their voice and become changemakers in our industry.”

At the heart of the SCA program developed and overseen by Dean Daley is an emphasis on knowledge and experience gained from the school’s unique and time-tested philosophy of melding cinematic theory and practice.


The Steven Spielberg Building, School of Cinematic Arts.

The SCA interdisciplinary approach is evident in reviewing even a brief list of distinguished graduates: cinematographers John Bailey, Caleb Deschanel, William Fraker, and Conrad L. Hall; documentarian Les Blank; editors Walter Murch and John Ottman; film critic Justin Chang; film scholars Eric Hoyt, Alison Trope, and Emilie Yueh-yu Yeh; hyphenate filmmakers (writers, writer-producers; writer-directors; producer-directors) Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (roommates at USC), Gregg Araki, John Carpenter, Ryan Coogler, James Ivory, Randal Kleiser, Ken Kwapis, Doug Liman, George Lucas, Shonda Rhimes, Amanda Silver, Lee Unkrich, and Robert Zemeckis; producers Brian Grazer and Laura Ziskin; visual effects artist Richard Edlund; not to mention the many agents, animators, executives, interactive media pioneers, managers, and more.

In April of this year, an event at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater celebrated the 90th anniversary of USC’s film school. A distinguished panel of filmmakers, including producers Stacey Sher, Kevin Feige, and Jennifer Todd, and the late director John Singleton, commented on the positive impact the program had on their careers. A recurring theme was that in addition to the technical and social skills acquired, the courses on film history and film studies and the opportunity to view, study, and discuss films projected on a large screen were unparalleled.

The first recipient of the Dimitri Tiomkin Endowed Fund, Merawi Gerima, completed his Master’s degree at USC with an emphasis on sound and cinematography. His narrative feature film, Residue, which he wrote and directed, will premiere next month at the 26th edition of the Slamdance Film Festival—the fest “by filmmakers, for filmmakers”—in Park City, Utah January 24-30, 2020.


Benefactors to the School of Cinematic Arts, including Dimitri Tiomkin Music.


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