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Harvardwood Highlights - 04/2007
Harvardwood Highlights
April 2007  |  Issue 27
 
In this Issue:
*         Is it May Already?!
*         Message from Mia
*         Salon Series Goes Live!
*         Member Profile: Lucy Fisher '71
*         Industry Successes
*         Pencil Me In
 

Message from the Membership Directors
 Thanks to all those who joined us for our banner Harvard in Hollywood event this past weekend, and to all those who helped us make it happen!  For those of you who couldn't make it, check out our distinguished panelist Lucy Fisher '71 in this month's member profile. 
 
For those of you on the East Coast wondering when it'll be your turn for a lively discussion, please join us this coming weekend for our Harvardwood Arts First Panel Saturday May 5th @12pm in the OCS Reading Room.  If any alums in the area are interested in being on the panel, please definitely let us know.  Just email membership@harvardwood.org - our undergrads eagerly await your wisdom!
 
This month brings another installment of our Salon Series, hear more about it below from Amit, our Programs Director.  And remember, for those students enjoying the first warm days of spring in Boston, remember to send in your application if you are interested in the Harvardwood Summer Internship Program.  As always, thanks to everyone who contributed last month.  Please continue to share your stories, your participation is what Harvardwood is all about.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Angela and Kibi
 

Message from Mia
Thanks so much to everyone who participated in our third annual 2007 Harvard in Hollywood event!  A special thank you to our fabulous speakers and panelists, who spoke so eloquently about "The Future of Film":  Paul Attanasio, Ron Bass, Stokely Chaffin, John Davis, Lucy Fisher, Aleen Keshishian, Dan Lin, Michael Lynton, Debra Martin Chase, Keri Putnam, and Ed Zwick.  The program was dedicated to the late Jack Valenti (HBS '48), former head of the MPAA, advisor to President Lyndon Johnson, and avid supporter of the Harvard arts community.  We will miss you.
-Mia
 

Salon Series Goes Live!
Message from Amit Samuel, Programs Director
The Salon Series is designed to give Harvardwood members a chance to discuss a chosen topic in-depth with an industry leader in an informal setting. On April 12th, Harvardwood held its first Salon with Neal Baer. Nine members came to hear Neal talk about "The Art of Showrunning." The conversation spanned Neal's considerable experience in television and even included his upcoming film projects. The Salon ran very smoothly, and I would be remiss if I did not thank everyone that helped out: Rachel Eisengart, Mia Riverton, and especially Kevin Winston for graciously hosting the Salon at his home.

Even though I could tell you about the Salon, I think it would be better to let the participants tell you what they thought. If you go to the participant's member page on the Harvardwood homepage, you can read about their impressions of the Salon on their blogs. The participants were Kathryn Boutry, Dianne Brooks, Andrew Colville, Amy Retzinger, Anne Toole, Eric Trueheart, Beverly Gordon, Brian Wescott, and Melinda Hsu. We were excited to find so many people interested in our first small, intensive networking event.

This month, to discuss “Financing Hollywood: The Evolving Rules of the Game,” Harvardwood is pleased to have Mordecai “Modi” Wiczyk (AB ’93, MBA ’99), the co-CEO of Media Rights Capital. Previously an executive at Summit Entertainment and a partner at Endeavor Agency, Mr. Wiczyk is at the forefront of the film financing revolution that both gives filmmakers more money and control, and allows for more unique films to be made.  His company recently financed the Oscar-winning film Babel, and Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen’s follow-up to Borat.
 
To keep this event intimate, the number of participants will be limited (7-9 max).  This month’s Salon will be on the evening of Mon., May 14th.  To be considered for this Salon, please follow these two simple steps:
 
1)    There is no application.  Instead, please complete your Harvardwood profile –resume, blog, interests, pictures, etc.  Please include as much information about yourself and your interest in the topic. You will need to login to the website to update your profile -- email webmaster@harvardwood.org if you have any difficulties.  Please note that only Paid Members of Harvardwood are eligible to participate in the Harvardwood Salon Series.
2)    After you’ve completed your profile, send an email stating your interest to programs@harvarwood.org no later than 11:59 pm PST on May 8, 2007.  That’s it!  We will contact the chosen participants soon after May 8th
 

Member Profile:  Lucy Fisher '71
by Kim Bendheim

Lucy Fisher, class of 1971 and studio executive for 25 years, is running for Harvard’s Board of Overseers.  This is ironic because Lucy Fisher went to Harvard at the end of the Sixties, an era when she, along with many other classmates, spent much of her time protesting the Harvard administration as well as the war in Vietnam and Cambodia.  Napalm recruitment on campus sparked one protest in which she participated.  “It was a very heady time,” she remembers.  By day, this passionate protester served up meals as a waitress at The Signet (Harvard’s literary society), which at that time did not yet admit women as members.  Gradually, during her sojourn at Harvard, The Signet did become coed.

During her waitress years, she met many talented people -- “I served them Coca Cola and chicken stew.”  On her first day at work, one of the talented members she met was composer-musician Peter Ivers, who immediately became her boyfriend for the next 12 years.  During that time, she also became very close with Tim Mayer (with whom Ivers collaborated on many creative endeavors at the Agassiz and elsewhere) and Doug Kenney, best known for starting “The National Lampoon” and writing ANIMAL HOUSE and CADDYSHACK.

At Harvard, Fisher watched lots of foreign movies and took mainly English and Art History courses, thereby perfecting her ability to read very quickly and sit happily in front of a screen in a darkened room.  Other than that, Fisher believes her best preparation for a career in the movie business was learning how to handle the “exotic egos” around the Signet table.  This ability later proved useful in working with Hollywood actors and directors.  After graduation, when she first moved to LA along with Peter Ivers and Doug Kenney, Fisher tried to use her art history background to get a job at the LA County Museum of Art.  The civil servant job application process was long and arduous, and she wasn’t hired.  Instead, she landed a job working on the graveyard shift of the all-news radio station KFWB.  Fisher says that her main contribution was in rewriting the weather for Los Angeles so it would read “mostly sunny” instead of  “partly cloudy.”  With little to do between the hours of 2-5 AM, when news was slow (before Washington D.C. and New York would wake up), she took on a job as a freelance script reader at United Artists.  At that point, her only connection to the movie business was that Ivers was writing a score for an AFI short directed by his Harvard roommate, Tim Hunter.  The only full-length script she had ever read was ERASERHEAD, because Ivers was also composing that score.  Luckily, a stint writing book jackets at Prentice Hall, during which she became a skilled synopsizer, was qualification enough for fellow Harvard alum Tom Parry (now President of the Harvard Gay & Lesbian Caucus) to give Fisher her first break in show business.  At that time United Artists was enjoying a golden heyday with iconic films such as ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, ANNIE HALL, and ROCKY. 

Fisher’s next job was working for Sam Goldwyn Jr. as a story editor.  From there she was hired as an executive story editor at MGM, where she helped buy the scripts for both FAME and ONE FROM THE HEART before being hired away by Fox, which was newly flush from the success of STAR WARS.  She entered as the lowest level VP, but after the entire top echelon of the studio departed to start The Ladd Company, she became the only VP at the studio for a short while and quickly learned how to do the job.  She survived four administrations in two years, and in 1979 she was working on CHARIOTS OF FIRE when Francis Coppola offered her a position as Head of Production at his newly formed Zoetrope Studios in Hollywood.  When Fisher demurred, unsure she was qualified enough, he replied -- “What’s the worst that can happen?  You’ll learn more about making movies than any other studio executive, and I’ll go bankrupt.”  Before long she was ensconced in her own bungalow at Zoetrope, watching dailies with Jean Luc Goddard, Michael Powell and Gene Kelly.  Like college, it was another heady time, Fisher explains, “until it all came crashing down, and I had to go tell the teamsters they weren’t being paid.  In the end, I had to fire everyone, including myself.”

After the rollercoaster of Zoetrope, Fisher took some time off and traveled for several months, but she was soon snapped up by Warner Brothers.  She joined the studio in 1981 and stayed there for the next 14 years.  As Senior Executive Vice President of World Wide Production (a title they invented for her when she repeatedly turned down Head of Production), some of the movies she oversaw were ones she brought with her from Zoetrope, like THE OUTSIDERS and THE SECRET GARDEN.  Others included GREMLINS, MALCOM X, THE FUGITIVE, THE GOONIES, THE COLOR PURPLE, and THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK.

In 1983, Peter Ivers was killed, and Fisher helped found the Peter Ivers Artist  in Residency at Harvard through the Office of the Arts.  Time Warner matched the funds she raised, and the program, which has been in operation for the last 24 years, brings a cutting-edge artist to Harvard each year to collaborate with the students.

In 1986 Fisher married producer Douglas Wick (a Yalie), and they began a family.  After her first child was born, she convinced her bosses, Bob Daly and Terry Semel, that she should change her schedule to four days a week.  After her third child was born, she asked if she could cut her salary in half and reduce her work load to three days a week.  They agreed, but only on the condition that she keep her full-time salary and extend her contract by a year.  “I’ll love those guys forever”, says Fisher fondly.  In 1992, Fisher was a driving force in establishing the Warner Bros. Studio Children’s Center, which was the first major daycare center at a movie studio.  It has since provided care for over 1500 children and has served as a model for daycare centers at other studios.

Fisher joined Sony as Vice Chairman of the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group in 1996.  During her 4-year tenure, the studio broke all-time domestic and international box office records with movies she oversaw, including MEN IN BLACK, MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING, AIR FORCE ONE, JERRY MCGUIRE, and AS GOOD AS IT GETS.  In 2001 Fisher finally left the executive suite and joined forces with her producer husband, Doug Wick, at his Red Wagon Entertainment.  Red Wagon is now based at Sony, and some of the movies it has produced include GLADIATOR, WORKING GIRL, GIRL INTERRUPTED, STUART LITTLE 1 & 2, JARHEAD and MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA.

In 1999, after Fisher’s youngest daughter, Tessa (then 8), was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, Fisher, Wick and their three young daughters (Sarah, Julia and Tessa) all became advocates for diabetes funding.  They have raised millions of dollars for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation through their family Walk team, “Tessa’s Troopers”, which for the past five years has been the largest  fundraising team in the world for juvenile diabetes.  When it became clear to her parents that stem cell research might be the likeliest chance for a cure for Tessa, their daughter testified in Congress.  “128 million other Americans with various diseases could also benefit from this research,” says Fisher.  Fisher and Wick have become pivotal forces in promoting stem cell research.  With another family, they co-founded "CuresNow", an organization to advance regenerative medicine, and their foundation has helped bring the promise of stem cell research into the national debate.  When federal legislation to further this research was stalled in Washington, Fisher and Wick turned their efforts to their home state and co-chaired the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative (Proposition 71), which passed overwhelmingly in the 2004 election and will now grant three billion dollars for stem cell research over the next ten years.  Fisher and Wick’s day jobs may be in the movies, but "we moonlight as health care advocates.  Once you have a family member with a chronic disease, you become sensitive to everyone else’s health issues,” she says.  “It’s a club you really don’t want to join, but once you’re in, you meet a lot of really nice members – from Nobel Prize-winning scientists to other advocates like Michael J. Fox [the voice of Stuart Little].”

Fisher’s involvement with Harvard had remained constant over the years via her work with the Office for the Arts and the Ivers Residency, but it deepened when Harvard established the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, which immediately became a beacon of light in the field of stem cell research.  Currently, the Harvard Stem Cell Institute works with more stem cell lines than the federal government.  Why did Fisher decide to run for the Board of Overseers of Harvard?  In her words, she is running “because the world has never been in greater disrepair, and we desperately need committed and intelligent thinkers and doers to fix it.  And Harvard can help provide them.  And now that I have a daughter (Sarah Wick ’10) who is a freshman at Harvard, I feel very reconnected to the school.”  In the voice of the adult Fisher, there are echoes of the girl who found being at college in the late Sixties a heady time and joined student protests against the sale of Napalm.  Grown-up Fisher wants to do nothing less than play some part in fostering the research that can become medicine, medicine that could conceivably also change millions of Americans lives, including that of her own daughter.  She would like to help shape Harvard students to become the kind of people who will go out and improve our world.  On a more prosaic level, she jokes that she has the parental desire “to say nothing that will embarrass my daughter at Harvard!”

Upcoming movie projects for Fisher and Wick at Red Wagon include another hot topic: the polonium murder of Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.  Will it be a hit?  I vote for Fisher.


Industry Successes...
Karen Gordon
is on location in Miami, wrapping up five weeks of filming a lead in the Fox project "Bachelor Party 2", sequel to the classic 1984 original, starring Tom Hanks. Yeah! (She is also seeking L.A. theatrical representation, and can be contacted through Colorado Management, 818.209.3321.)

First-time director Adam Hootnick '97 JD '01 premiered his film UNSETTLED at the LA Jewish Film Festival and the Newport Beach International Film Festival last month.  UNSETTLED won the documentary Grand Jury Prize at Slamdance Film Festival and the Audience Award at the Florida Film Festival. For more information: www.UNSETTLEDmovie.com and www.MySpace.com/unsettledmovie.

Abigail Rose Solomon is producing and starring in an All-Female "AS YOU LIKE IT" set in the Wild West, April 26-June 3, 2007 at The Matrix Theatre. She is Executive Producer of ROSALIND PRODUCTIONS, which is co-producing with LA Women's Shakespeare Company. www.rosalindproductions.com

Scottie Thompson '05 will be appearing in the final episodes of her character Jeanne Benoit's 14-episode arc on CBS's NCIS through May

Tim Urban '04 was just on NBC's The Apprentice, LA. To his chagrin, Tim was fired, but he did manage to last until week 11. He also just recently released his first professional album, Turning Home. It was produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Glen Ballard, and is available through http://www.timurban.com/ or on iTunes.


And the Award Goes to...
Winnie Li '00 was the Associate Producer on CASHBACK, the British feature film that recently tied for Best Narrative Feature at the 10th Annual Bermuda International Film Festival. Based on the Oscar-nominated short film, CASHBACK has also appeared recently at SXSW, HBO US Comedy Arts Festival, Philadelphia Film Festival, and the Newport Beach Film Festival.  The film will be released by Magnolia Pictures in the US later this year. http://www.cashbackthemovie.com/


Pencil Me In...
May 5: Harvardwood Arts First Panel, 12-1:30pm on campus @OCS.  Email membership@harvardwood.org to join as a panelist.

May 14: Salon Series with Mordecai "Modi" Wiczyk AB '93, MBA '99 Sign up at http://www.harvardwood.org/
 
 
Happy May!
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