The USC School of Cinematic Arts has named Oscar winner Ed Saxon as the new chair of its famed Peter Stark Producing Program. Additionally, a newly created producer-in-residence position has been established with USC alumna Nina Yang Bongiovi the first named to that post. Bongiovi will also act as the program’s associate chair.
Both Saxon and Bongiovi will take up their posts immediately, with their appointments being announced by dean Elizabeth M. Daley, who noted of the hires, “The next generation of Starkies will continue to be in great hands.”
Saxon, who graduated from the Stark program in 1984, has a long history as a film producer, with credits that include Philidelphia, Adaptation and Silence of the Lambs, for which he earned an Academy Award for best picture. In television, he produced HBO series Enlightened, as well as the Emmy-winning Showtime series Ray Donovan. He has worked with an expansive array of talent that includes Toni Morrison, Charlie Kaufman, Jonathan Demme, Spike Jonze, Sam Mendes, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep and Spike Lee.
Bongiovi co-founded Significant Productions with Forest Whitaker, together producing Ryan Coogler’s first film, Fruitvale Station. Well-known for her work breaking talent in the indie film space and supporting underrepresented voices, Bongiovi’s other film credits include Dope from Rick Famuyiwa, Songs My Brothers Taught Me from Oscar-winner Chloe Zhao and Sorry to Bother You from Boots Riley. More recently, Significant was behind Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut, Passing.
Saxon noted that the Stark program “changed my life.” He added: “Making great stories requires a complex skillset in this transformative time. Building on the legacy of Ray Stark, Art Murphy, and Larry Turman, I’m looking forward to working with our world-class teaching professionals to give students the knowledge and attitudes they need to succeed in marrying commerce and art.”
Bongiovi offered: This is a full-circle moment for me and I look forward to guiding and mentoring students from the Stark Program in all facets of creative producing. In addition, I’m thrilled to collaborate with Ed, Stark faculty and staff at this pivotal and transformative moment in the industry.”
Daley said that the school is “extremely happy that Ed Saxon, who is an esteemed Stark alum, has agreed to lead the next iteration of the program.” She added: We know students will gain tremendous inspiration from his career, and that he will provide the guidance they need to find their own paths. And there is no one better than Nina Yang Bongiovi to fulfill the role of SCA’s first Producer-In-Residence and Associate Chair. She too has had the kind of career Stark students aspire to. Having Nina onboard more than fulfills the goal of this position, which is to give the students a mentor who can expose them to the daily demands of creative producing.”
Founded in 1979 by legendary producer Ray Stark in honor of his son Peter, the producing program is a two-year, graduate-level curriculum where students earn an MFA.
Saxon will take over for Larry Turman, who served as chair for more than 25 years and had advised the program last year that he would retire in 2021. Said Daley, “We are forever indebted to Larry Turman for his devotion and service to the School of Cinematic Arts and our students. His impact on the lives and careers of the students in the Peter Stark Producing Program is immeasurable.”