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Harvardwood Highlights - 08/2010
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Harvardwood Highlights

August 2010  |  Issue 67

 

In this Issue:

*         Director's Notes

*         Message from Mia

*         Pencil Me In:


LA EVENTS

     - Harvardwood Film Festival, Sat., Aug. 14
 

NY EVENTS

     - All Ivy Entertainment Summer Mixer w/ Cornell, Stanford, Dartmouth, and Harvard, Mon., Aug. 2

     - HBS EMC invites Harvardwood to HBS/CBS Media Mixer, Wed., Aug. 4

     - Harvardwood Entertainment Law Panel, Thurs., Aug. 5

     - Harvardwood Heads To...The Water Dream, Sun., Aug. 8

     - Harvardwood Presents: IVA WITHERS, Star of CAROUSEL, OKLAHOMA, and GUYS & DOLLS, Wed., Aug. 11

     - Harvardwood Heads To...The Gary Negbaur Group Plays 5C Cafe, Fri., Aug. 13

    

*         HWP TV Writing Module Facilitators Needed

*         Fall TV Writers Program Survey

*         Enjoy Paul Gulino, Gregg Hurwitz, and Rodrigo Garcia on the Harvardwood Channel

*         Seeking new participants for the NYC Harvardwood Writers' Groups - NY

*         Industry Successes

*         Harvardwood Artist Showcase

*         Featured Member Posting: Television Comedy Writer needed - LA   

*         Member Profile: Thania St. John, '83

 

Director's Notes

This month we are delighted to announce the first annual Harvardwood Film Festival, taking place Saturday, August 14th at the LA Film School!  The festival will feature some great talent from the Harvardwood pool, including the Los Angeles premiere of the quirky feature documentary DUMBSTRUCK; the North American premiere of the short film SHELLEY, which screened at Cannes earlier this year; and the documentary short WOMEN REBEL, which will have its television debut on HBO later this month.  The festival is a whopping FREE for Full Members of Harvardwood and will include a Q&A and post-festival mixer.  I hope you all can make it out!  In addition to the festival we are gearing up for another great year of the Harvardwood Writers Program (HWP)--let us know if you have an interest in leading one or more modules for the program this year (more info below).  And if you missed any of our events this past Spring, check out the Harvardwood Channel for some special treats!       

-- Kelley


Message from Mia

Major thanks to Gregg Hurwitz '95 for a truly entertaining and informative edition of the Harvardwood Seminar Series!  If you missed his discussion on "Researching and Writing Mayhem", you can check it out on the Harvardwood Channel:  http://www.harvardwood.org/?page=Panels

Gregg is currently on a book tour for his tenth novel, THEY'RE WATCHING -- now available in stores and online.


Hope to see everyone at our first-ever Harvardwood Film Festival in Los Angeles on Sat., Aug. 14th!

- Mia


Pencil Me In...

LA - Harvardwood Film Festival, Sat., Aug. 14

Harvardwood is pleased to announce the first annual Harvardwood Film Festival!  This year’s screenings will include the Los Angeles premiere of the quirky feature documentary DUMBSTRUCK; the North American premiere of the short film SHELLEY, which screened at Cannes earlier this year; and the documentary short WOMEN REBEL, which will have its television debut on HBO later this month.  Come and enjoy the screenings along with a Q&A with the filmmakers and a post-festival mixer for all attendees…To learn more and register, please visit:  http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=118046


NY - All Ivy Entertainment Summer Mixer w/ Cornell, Stanford, Dartmouth, and Harvard, Mon., Aug. 2

Come to the all Ivy Entertainment Summer Mixer with Cornell, Stanford, Dartmouth and Harvard at 230 Fifth Avenue Rooftop Bar!  To learn more and register in advance, please visit:  http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=118137 


NY - HBS EMC invites Harvardwood to HBS/CBS Media Mixer, Wed., Aug. 4

The HBS Entertainment & Media Club invites Harvardwood members to a mixer with the Columbia Business School's Media Management Association.  Wine, beer, and appetizers will be served.  Swing by after work, have a drink and mingle – we hope to see you there!  To view full posting, please visit:  http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=118643 


NY - Harvardwood Entertainment Law Panel, Thurs., Aug. 5

Interested in entertainment law? Join us for the New York Harvardwood chapter's first ever ENTERTAINMENT LAW event, featuring presentations by three nationally acclaimed entertainment lawyers, who will address the application of entertainment law to the film production, TV, theatre, and music industries! ...  To view full posting, please visit:  http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=115080


NY - Harvardwood Heads To...The Water Dream, Sun., Aug. 8

Join us as Harvardwood Heads To...THE WATER DREAM, feat. Harvardwood member Shawn Cody!  Harvardwood members and guests are invited to receive complimentary tickets.  Email Shawn at shawncody@gmail.com to reserve your seats.  THE WATER DREAM - A New Musical…Winner of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship Award…Recipient of the Citation for Outstanding Contribution to the Arts from Governor Deval Patrick…Back by demand!   Come and enjoy beautiful city views with a wine reception to follow…To view full posting, please visit:  http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=118186


NY - Harvardwood Presents: IVA WITHERS, Star of CAROUSEL, OKLAHOMA, and GUYS & DOLLS, Wed., Aug. 11

Iva Withers played the female lead in the original Broadway productions of OKLAHOMA, CAROUSEL, GUYS & DOLLS, and half a dozen other major shows in the golden age of the Broadway musical… but she never became a major star because she was always the second cast.  And, although within theater circles she was widely considered one of the most gifted musical theater performers of her generation, because she wasn't a star, she was never the first cast.  As second cast, she often performed those roles many more times than the stars who opened the shows--so, in many cases, it was Iva Withers who was actually seen by most of the people who saw those legendary shows!  And on September 15, 1945, she made Broadway history by appearing both as CAROUSEL’s Julie Jordan and as OKLAHOMA’s Laurie on the same day!  Iva Withers is 93 years old, very smart, very articulate, and very funny.  And she has wonderful stories to tell!  To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=116254


NY - Harvardwood Heads To...The Gary Negbaur Group Plays 5C Cafe, Fri., Aug. 13

Join us as Harvardwood Heads To...The Gary Negbaur Group Plays 5C Cafe!  We'll be playing a mix of blues, jazz, and what-have-you.  It's Friday the 13th in the East Village, who would want to be anywhere else? Enjoy homemade vegetarian food, beer, wine, good tunes and good times...To view full posting, please visit:  http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=118519 


HWP TV Writing Module Facilitators Needed

Run your very own module for the Harvardwood Writers Program!!  A module can be anywhere from 3-6 months long, and you can focus on any topic you want (or you can use one of our pre-existing models).  We'll help you set up the location, guest speakers, and recruit participants - please email Allison Kiessling at hwp@harvardwood.org if you'd like to know more about volunteering!  To view full posting, please visit:  http://www.harvardwood.org/news/46549/TV-Writing-Module-Facilitators-Needed.htm


Fall TV Writers Program Survey

If you are interested in one our fall Harvardwood Writers Program TV writing modules - we want your input!  Please take our 10-second survey! https://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=dHBYNEpFbnlnQ2s1VEFycmU2QnV5bVE6MQ&ifq  


Enjoy Paul Gulino, Gregg Hurwitz, and Rodrigo Garcia on the Harvardwood Channel

This month on the Harvardwood Channel enjoy a screenwriting lecture from Paul Gulino, a Q&A with crime fiction writer Gregg Hurwitz, and a Q&A with the writer/director of the feature film MOTHER & CHILD, Rodrigo Garcia!  Harvardwood Full Members may view these lectures and more here: http://www.harvardwood.org/?page=Panels 


Seeking new participants for the NYC Harvardwood Writers' Program - NY

The NYC Harvardwood Writers' Program is seeking new participants for its PROSE NON-FICTION and WRITING FOR TELEVISION groups!  If you'd like to register for a group, just e-mail us at nyc@harvardwood.org, and we'll forward your message to the appropriate group leader…To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/news/38830/Seeking-new-participants-for-the-NYC-Harvardwood-Writers-Groups.htm


Industry Successes...

John Henry Hinkel ‘12 had the UK premiere of his debut feature film, THE DEATH OF RICHARD YOUNG, at the Covent Garden Hotel on July 8th, 2010.  The dysfunctional family comedy has screened in Atlanta at the Plaza Theatre, Cambridge at the Brattle Theatre, and was recently shown in the 2010 Buffalo Niagara Film Festival.  More information about the film can be found at its website: http://www.thedeathofrichardyoung.com.

 

Theresa (Tree) Loong ’94 would like to inform Harvardwood members about the Harvard Asian American Alumni Alliance Los Angeles Mixer this coming Wednesday, August 4.  It will take place at the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel and Spa, 1755 North Highland Ave in Hollywood, CA 90028.  Come hear about the national Harvard Asian American Alumni Alliance network and exciting details about our inaugural Harvard Asian American Alumni Summit, taking place on the Harvard campus the weekend of October 15-17, 2010.  Learn about the Summit’s "Elevate" Pitch Competition open to students and alums for new business, social enterprise and arts & entertainment ideas.  Admission is free, there will be a cash bar and parking is available at the Hollywood & Highland center.  Please RSVP to lamixer@haaaa.net. 

 

Kitty Beer’s new novel, HUMAN SCALE, won Honorable Mention in the Hollywood Book Festival contest.

 

Karen-Eileen Gordon just wrapped the female lead in a wonderful indie feature comedy, PANAMA CITY, filmed on-location in Atlanta and Panama City, Florida.  The film was written and directed by Gregg Russell, winner of the George Foster Peabody and British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards.  Follow the project's journey on Facebook, at the production company's page:  http://www.facebook.com/totalbun?ref=ts.  On July 28th, another delicious indie comedy in which she had the pleasure of being involved (strong supporting), RANGER ROB, had its World Premiere at the "Action On Film" Festival in Pasadena; info about the fest at http://aoffest.com/index.htm.

 

Lauri Donahue ’86 is pleased to announce that her script WHIPLASH advanced to the quarter-final round of the Nicholl Fellowship competition, one of 326 entries (top 5%) out of 6304 scripts to survive the first round.  The Nicholl is sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  http://www.oscars.org/awards/nicholl/index.htmlThe script also won the More Magazine screenplay contest.  Logline:  To bring her brother's killer to justice, a young woman disguises herself as a man and works her way across the country as a stagecoach driver.   She's pursued by a jaded ex-Confederate officer who threatens to reveal her true identity -- and steal her heart.

 

KILLER - a short film written & directed by Jack Pettibone Riccobono '03 & Adam Leon - screened at the HBO Latino Film Festival in NYC on Friday, July 30th and Sunday, August 1st.  Set in 1989 NYC, the film follows 17-year-old Jose Ortiz (Xavier Pena), a high school kid obsessed with an intense, dangerous game called KILLER.  Based on a real game still played in New York today, KILLER is a glimpse into an urban rite of passage and features a young cast of newly discovered talent.  KILLER premiered as one of six shorts selected for the New Directors / New Films Series at the Museum of Modern Art & Lincoln Center, and won Best Short at the Nantucket Film Festival.  It will also screen at the Harvardwood Film Festival this month.  Watch the trailer and purchase tickets at: http://nylatino.bside.com/2010/films/killer_jackpettibonericcobono_nylatino2010

 

Kiran Deol has her first documentary WOMAN REBEL premiering on HBO on Wednesday August 18th at 8pm!   Please tune in if you’re free!  Otherwise, catch it on HBO On Demand.  WOMAN REBEL follows the incredible story of Silu, a real guerilla soldier in Nepal, where the revolutionary army was made up of 40% women - http://www.womanrebelfilm.com.  WOMAN REBEL will also screen at the Harvardwood Film Festival this month. 

 

This month, Jeremy Rabb is working again with Kristin Hanggi, the Tony-nominated director of Broadway's ROCK OF AGES, in a presentation of a new musical she co-wrote called TOUCHED.

 

Paula Brancato has just released PAINTING CITIES:  "Bloody, hot, organic, Brancato's poems take us to the heart of destruction, whether New York City in the unreconstructed 1970s, New Orleans after Katrina, war-torn Baghdad, or El Salvador…. poetry of direct statement ignited by violent passions, full of hope and sensuality and blazing with a fierce light.”  Read below for an excerpt. To order PAINTING CITIES go to Finishing Line Press:  http://finishinglinepress.com/NewReleasesandForthcomingTitles.htm.   


A waxy light pours

down the city’s sides, bloody, hot, organic -- the peel

of an orange unfolding

 

before all dissolves to black, or

like a death in a Caravaggio painting,

the ecstasy of Magdelan, perhaps.

 

Harvardwood Artist Showcase

The Highlights is proud to introduce the Harvardwood Artist Showcase.  Each month the Highlights will feature one or two artists from some of our various programs.  Click each person's name to learn more about what they do.

Harvardwood Music Group leader, Dionne Harmon (aka "DJ Lady Dee”), is one of LA’s hottest lady DJs.  DJ Lady Dee has spun at Sutra Lounge and the W Hotel VIP Lounge at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City and Palihouse, Bar Marmont, The Den of Hollywood, L'Scorpion, Social Hollywood and Republic in Los Angeles.  She's deejayed at fashion shows, art & architecture exhibitions, retail stores, restaurants, corporate events and private parties for celebrities (Diddy, Macy Gray, Talib Kweli, Wesley Snipes).  DJ Lady Dee has also appeared on TV (Comics Unleashed, NBA All-Star Halftime Kick-off Show, Buppies), in commercials, and in films (National Lampoon's Hip Hop Party, Van Wilder).  Her current residencies are at The Den of Hollywood on Wednesday nights, the Standard Hotel in downtown LA on Thursday nights and the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica on Saturday nights, be sure to check her out!  Read more about Dionne in the Harvardwood Music Directory. 

 

Featured Member Posting - Television Comedy Writer needed - LA

A production co. I'm working with just got a TV show greenlit and they're looking to hire a couple of writers.  The show is a half-hour multi-camera sitcom for tweens (ages 8-14) and will air on a major network. The series, which plays like a cross between 30 ROCK and SAVED BY THE BELL, follows an unlikely group of teens who team up to put on a weekly school-wide newscast, that reports, and pokes fun at their latest school news.

The show is non-guild, the writers must be Los Angeles-based, and must have already written a half-hour comedy (spec or pilot is fine).  They are planning on hiring within the first ten days of August 2010...To view full posting, please visit:  http://www.harvardwood.org/networking/opening.asp?id=83014


********* 

We're sad to report the passing of longtime Harvardwood member, Robert Davenport.  Robert passed away in a plane crash in early July.  Robert was an avid writer and a valued member of our community.  Our prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time. 

*********


Member Profile: Thania St. John, '83

by D. Dona Le


Television writer and producer Thania St. John (née Papas) (AB ’83) knew her calling even when she was "a little person,” avidly watching as many television shows as she could digest.

 

"I would make people rehearse during recess and bring costumes in, and the teachers would ask, ‘What’s this?’ And I would say, ‘We’re putting on a show!’”

 

Putting on a show is what St. John still does today.  She has worked as writer and producer for a number of successful, widely acclaimed television series, including LIFE GOES ON, LOIS AND CLARK, and ROSWELL, to the more recent HUFF, EUREKA, DROP DEAD DIVA, and UNNATURAL HISTORY. 

 

St. John, a native Chicagoan and graduate of The Latin School, first became involved in theater productions.  At the time, existing camera technology and Chicago’s film scene did not allow her to explore her passion for film otherwise.

 

"We didn’t even have video cameras to make our own films, so theater was really the place to learn how to be in show business if you were that young.  The entertainment business wasn’t as global as it is today, and there was no outlet in Chicago.”

 

She continued to pursue her interest in show business at Harvard.  A former Matherite, St. John graduated in 1983 as a dual concentrator in History and Visual & Environmental Studies, with an emphasis on filmmaking.  During Commencement week, St. John was featured on the cover of the Crimson for having one of the most interesting senior thesis topics.  She wrote about how women’s roles during the Depression Era evolved to become stronger and more independent figures, focusing on five films and their heroines.

 

St. John jokes, "The number of spelling errors in my thesis was atrocious.”

 

Regarding her experience at Harvard, however, St. John adopts a more serious tone, which conveys how highly she values education in the process of becoming an entertainer and writer.  She was originally admitted to the Class of 1984 but opted to take sophomore standing in her first year.  St. John’s high school love of history led her to declare this as her concentration during freshman week, but she realized that adding VES as a dual concentration would match her true professional goals more closely.

 

Ultimately, she focused upon receiving the best possible education.

 

"You need to know a lot of things to be smart before you can entertain people.  No matter what you want to do, get really smart first.”

 

St. John speaks warmly of Harvard’s VES Department, pointing out such faculty members as Ed Pincus and Alfred Guzzetti, whom she describes as "true leaders in their time of cinema vérité.”

 

"I learned a tremendous amount from them about how to get into a story in a non-traditional way and still tell it linearly.”

 

But St. John’s interest in television and film veered toward traditional Hollywood.  Directly after college, she expanded her foundation of knowledge at UCLA, where she earned a master’s degree in Film and Television Production.

 

"My famous line was, ‘I need to go to film school so I can learn to use a tripod.’ If you want to be a fisherman, you don’t move to Kansas. You have to be where the business is, where you can actually do your job.”

 

Early on, St. John recognized her desire to work in television, not only because she had always loved hour-long series as a child.  She did not subscribe to the mentality that "film is art, television is commerce.”

 

She also gravitated toward television because of the autonomy it affords the writer—the ability not only to craft the script, but also to oversee its translation onto the screen while maintaining her original vision.  According to St. John, the roles of the television writer and producer are inextricably intertwined.

 

"The writer stays with the show, the creator, the executive producer.  The writers on staff, they shape the show; the show is theirs.  TV is amazing because you automatically become a producer when you become part of the writing staff.”

 

St. John acknowledges her less glamorous beginning in the industry, humorously describing her first position as a production assistant.  Her first task: cleaning out a moldy refrigerator.  Later, her spec script for THE EQUALIZER led to her first writing job on MIDNIGHT CALLER, an NBC series that ran for three seasons.

 

Throughout St. John’s career, she has written and produced episodes for a number of shows that feature science fiction or otherworld elements, such as Roswell and Eureka.  "I think you can do a lot in sci-fi as a writer.  You can use so much metaphor and have a lot of license, poetic and creative, when you’re talking about stuff that isn’t quite real.  It’s very liberating and allows you to use your imagination.”

 

In addition to St. John’s obvious love for her work, her Hollywood career has been sustained by her constant creative drive. She describes the importance of having a "spare mind to think about a new idea, even when I’m working on another current project.  The noodling process is just as important as sitting down in front of a blank computer screen.”

 

However, the two most crucial aspects of succeeding in Hollywood, St. John contends, are true talent and maintaining relationships.

 

"It’s a balance of being able to do what you want to do well, and making sure that you stay in constant contact, that you make the friends you need to make along the way.”

 

Just as passionately as St. John hones her craft, she cultivates relationships with writers and other colleagues in the film industry.  During the 2007-08 writers’ strike, St. John collaborated with Charlie Craig to create Why We Write, a blog featuring essays by established and aspiring writers to support their professional community.

 

In addition, she is President of the League of Hollywood Women Writers, also founded during the strike.  This non-partisan political organization aims to preserve Internet neutrality and to ensure that information is disseminated in an open, unbiased manner.

 

St. John also came upon her current project, UNNATURAL HISTORY, through a personal friendship and professional relationship.  Mike Werb, the creator of this new Cartoon Network series, was St. John’s classmate at UCLA.

 

"That’s a case of how your talent and your relationships have to match.  I didn’t get the job because we were friends.  He really liked all of my work, but the fact that we’d been friends made it so nice to work with someone where you automatically would have a connection.”

 

St. John is currently in Toronto, where UNNATURAL HISTORY is filmed, to wrap up post-production for the first season. This live-action series premiered in June 2010 and follows Henry Griffin, a high school student who solves historically based mysteries with the skills and knowledge he has acquired as a globe-trotter.

 

The show has been warmly received thus far, yet another accomplishment in St. John’s successful career in television.

 

"If you want to be in show business, you have to be in show business. You can’t take your eye off the prize to get what you want, and you can’t stop until it happens.”

 

For St. John, "it” first happened over twenty years ago and her momentum has not stopped since.


D. Dona Le is a freelance editor and writer currently residing in Chicago, IL.

 






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