Paola Mardo is the 2016-2017 Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) Fellow.
Photo by Patrick Epino

USC Annenberg announces 2016-17 Sony Pictures Entertainment fellow

Paola Mardo is the 2016-2017 Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) Fellow and will study film criticism as part of USC Annenberg’s Masters in Arts Journalism program.

A joint venture between USC Annenberg, USC School of Cinematic Arts and SPE, the fellowship is the university’s first program specifically designed for film critics. Mardo will take classes at both USC Annenberg and the USC School of Cinematic Arts. She will be mentored by Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan and advised by Professor Sasha Anawalt, director of the Masters in Arts Journalism program.

“The fellowship connects the generations of film critics,” Anawalt said. “It ensures there is quality film criticism and real training in this particular discipline.”

Turan, of the Los Angeles Times, said he was “completely delighted” Mardo has been selected for this year’s Sony Fellowship.

“She not only works in a variety of media, she also brings the kind of real-world experience to the table that can be invaluable,” Turan said.

Mardo has worked special events and press junkets as an international publicity coordinator at Sony, and she has done marketing and publicity at Annapurna Pictures, a production company. She’s a Los Angeles native who has lived in many cities including Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“I’m hoping this program will be a way for me to define my writing, and find ways to talk about film and film criticism — and shine a light on race, gender and diversity in the industry as well,” Mardo said.

Last year’s recipient, Monica Castillo, went on to work for The New York Times as a film writer for its Watching newsletter, which offers TV and movie recommendations.

The SPE Fellowship will enable Mardo to take part in the nine-and-a-half month M.A. in Specialized Journalism (The Arts) program.

Anawalt, associate professor of professional practice in journalism, said the fellowship raised USC Annenberg’s profile as a destination for journalists interested in professional film criticism. Mardo is one of four incoming film criticism students in the incoming 2016-2017 cohort.

Anawalt said the fellowship will also connect Mardo with other film critics living in Los Angeles, including possibly Manohla Dargis from The New York Times and Peter Rainer of The Christian Science Monitor.

“For us, it means a whole new range of voices. People who are interested in studying and in moving to Los Angeles — or, if they already live here, coming to Annenberg and working with Kenneth Turan, journalism professor Tim Page, and myself,” Anawalt said.

Mardo has experience working in the film business and is passionate about movies, writing, storytelling, digital media and podcasts. Currently, she is a writer for Film School Rejects, a news website about movies, television and culture. She is also host, writer and producer of her own weekly podcast, “F This Weekly,” where she interviews women of color working in film and entertainment.

“I think it's important to talk about diversity and inclusion in film, because it affects what people see on-screen, which can affect how people perceive reality,” Mardo said. “Recently, there’s been discussion about the lack of female film critics leading to sexist or biased film articles. This goes to show that diversity isn't just important in the making of movies, but also in writing about them.”

Her passion includes Asian-American representation in the film business. She has worked as a programming coordinator for the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.

“I believe I have a truly unique point of view as a Filipino-American woman who has lived and worked in different countries,” Mardo said. “I have seen how movies have influenced audiences all over the world, and know there is value to having film critics who are as diverse as the people watching films.”

About the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

Located in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California, the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism ( is a national leader in education and scholarship in the fields of communication, journalism, public diplomacy and public relations. With an enrollment of more than 2,000 students, USC Annenberg offers doctoral, graduate and undergraduate degree programs, as well as continuing development programs for working professionals, across a broad scope of academic inquiry. The school’s comprehensive curriculum emphasizes the core skills of leadership, innovation, service and entrepreneurship and draws upon the resources of a networked university located in the media capital of the world.