SENSITIVITY TRAINING, the first Sloan-supported film at UCLA to be turned into a feature, had its world premiere at the 2016 Los Angeles Film Festival. The film began as a short film funded by a $30,000 Sloan production grant in 2013. Written, directed, and produced by Melissa Finell, the comedy is about an unlikely friendship between two seemingly opposite women. One is a brash microbiologist, played by Anna Lise Phillips, who is forced to go into sensitivity training with a mild-mannered social worker, played by Jill Alexander (MAD MEN), after an out-of-line encounter with another researcher. “I am very drawn to stories about nice people becoming meaner and mean people becoming nicer,” said Finell. “I want to explore the influence two people might have on each other. I want to examine human behavior, the mechanics of niceness and meanness and whether there’s an acceptable happy medium.” SENSITIVITY TRAINING is Finell’s debut feature.

The science consultants advising Finell were UCLA’s Dr. Imke Schroeder and Dr. Jessica Lynch Alfaro. Dr. Alfaro is a biological anthropologist. Dr. Schroeder is a microbiologist specializing in laboratory safety measures. This comes up in the film as the main character is a microbiologist, characters in the film are wrapped up in the lab’s hierarchies, and the microbiologist takes precautions to control her lab’s environment.


SENSITIVITY TRAINING was shot entirely in Los Angeles. It is part of the LA Muse section of the Film Festival, reserved for features and documentaries which “capture the spirit of LA.” The film is currently looking for distribution.

The Sloan Film Program at UCLA supports the writing of feature film scripts and production of short films by students, which tackle science and technology themes or characters.