"I came into Harvardwood 101 not knowing how anything got done. By the end, I understood the way movies, TV, and music work at a basic level and no longer feel like such an outsider in the industry."
- Jack Stone '20
"Coming from LA, I thought I already knew everything there was to know about the entertainment industry. Boy, was I wrong. Harvardwood 101 is a priceless experience that provides an unparalleled all-access glimpse into various entertainment career paths that don't get much attention on campus. The program has provided me with personal connections that I otherwise would never have gotten the chance to make, something that is of immeasurable value in an industry primarily driven by people and relationships. I developed meaningful connections not only with Harvard alums and industry leaders, but also (and perhaps more importantly) with the students that I'll soon be working side-by-side with. I learned the ins and outs of daily life in Hollywood, and got to hear the stories and advice of those who have already established themselves in the industry. Before this program, I knew I loved entertainment but I was a little nervous about pursuing a career in such an infamous industry. Now, I feel more prepared and inspired than ever. Thanks, Harvardwood 101, for igniting my passion and helping me develop the knowledge and confidence I needed to take the plunge into the industry I am now certain is for me."
- Isabel Wagner '18
"I learned more about the entertainment industry in one day of Harvardwood 101, than in collective years of assumptions and guesses. It's honest and it doesn't sugarcoat and while everyone's career will be different in an industry with no very direct paths, going in with everything a lot less mystic is invaluable. When Amit ended the program by addressing us as his peers when we go out to Hollywood after graduating, it really gave the scope and rarity of access the program allows for its duration and long after."
- Gigi Kisela '17
"Harvardwood 101 taught me that working in Hollywood is just as much about building a career as any other industry. I feel like many people, myself included, have a very skewed vision of how people become 'successful' in LA, and are often only exposed to the stories of individuals after they've already 'made it.' However, the vast number of people find success in Hollywood by working hard and climbing the ladder rung by rung, often over many years or decades. Leaving Harvardwood 101, I no longer feel the pressure to graduate and immediately win my first Oscar, and instead am excited to start my first job wherever I feel I can learn the most about the industry."
- Rachel Harner '17
"The 101 experience taught me things about the industry that most people move to LA without knowing. I feel like I have a leg up in the industry because I understand the ways that the business works, and what kinds of people companies are looking to hire. I would definitely recommend this program, especially for students who are interested in becoming agents, producers, or executives in Hollywood."
- Tess Davison '16
"Harvardwood 101 provided a condensed but far-reaching sampling of the entertainment industry's different players, processes, and paths. I received advice I didn't know I needed."
- Jenny M. Ng '16
"Harvardwood 101 is an excellent introduction to the entertainment industry. As a hard science concentrator, I had no experience whatsoever in entertainment. All I knew was that I loved TV and film, and I had a hobby for writing. If you want to figure out whether or not you want a career in the entertainment industry or if you want to make contacts to get your foot in the door or to learn how to enter the industry, this is the career exploration trip for you! Fun, fulfilling, and in L.A., it's the Holy Grail of winter break opportunities!"
- Jason Gomez '16
"I would absolutely recommend the program!! I think that the things that I learned and the connections that I made were priceless. I now feel way more informed when thinking about whether or not moving out to to LA and working in the business make sense for me, which is huge. I also feel much more confident and comfortable coming out to LA because I have so much more knowledge—knowledge that is hard to get anywhere else."
- Kyra Weeks '16
"I have always wanted to work in the entertainment industry. The glamour, mistique, and allure of film and TV attract my attention. This program has stripped away all of the mystery of Hollywood so that I now have a clear picture of the entertainment business. From visiting agencies, and studios to speaking with powerful executives to even (accidentally) meeting Steven Spielberg, I understand how this industry works and where I would potentially fit in. This is a "people" driven industry in which one's success depends on his or her networking ability and contacts. There is no better way to start building those connections than with the Harvardwood 101 program.”
- Selina Wang '15
"[Harvardwood 101] has literally been a dream come true. I received the opportunity to go to Los Angeles for the first time, visited different studios and agencies, formed relationships that would last a lifetime, bumped into Steven Spielberg, and the list goes on and on. I also received confirmation that I love the entertainment industry, I belong in it, and I'm going to make it as a film and television actress. Thank you Harvardwood 101 for changing my life.”
- Angelique Henderson '14
The Harvardwood 101 trip, which took place at the beginning of Harvard’s first-ever J-term, was the best media whirlwind boot camp of a week that I could possibly imagine. From tours of movie sets to studio visits to panels with top agents, I gained an incredibly comprehensive view of the media industry. As the other Harvardwood 101 members and I sat through meetings with Harvard alumni and other executives, I could garner common themes in each of the anecdotes that they shared. No two stories were alike and it became clear that there was no direct path to lead to working in Hollywood.
However, there were similar key pieces of advice that stood out. Be nice to everyone. Collect business cards and always follow up. Be politely persistent (no matter how paradoxical that may seem). Do grunt work with a smile. Know that your friends who pursue financial banking and consulting will make approximately ten times what you make but will most likely be ten times unhappier. Love what you do.
These running themes did nothing to dissuade me from pursuing my goals in Hollywood. Instead, they reinforced my dreams. Still an aspiring actress, I also hope to work as an entertainment news correspondent and talk show host in the future—and I am now glad to know that the "connections” that are so integral to working in the business do not need to come from family, but from one’s own networking know-how.
Hearing so many success stories, of how the managers, agents, producers, directors, and executives had gotten to their established places in the industry through their perseverance and chance circumstances, inspired me. Allusions to hours spent in the mail room and time spent washing cars as an assistant highlighted the necessity of the resilient spirit in Hollywood. What stood out the most for me, during the trip, was the willingness of the industry representatives to share their stories and impart advice for us. Their generosity with their time and straightforward honesty with the answers they provided to our streams of questions meant so much to me and the other Hollywood-hopeful students.
Each day of the trip was packed and exciting; each visit resulted in meaningful new encounters. The trip was an invaluable experience, and I gained an incredible amount of insight to shape my career goals and my post-graduation direction. Because the program also allowed us to live with Harvard alumni in the area, my roommate and I got to embrace the Los Angeles culture—enjoying the feeling of strolling along Santa Monica’s white sandy beaches at sunset, exploring the bustling, artsy Venice neighborhood, and driving down the trafficked streets with the windows rolled down and music blaring from our rental car. I also had a terrific time interacting with the other members of the program: Harvardwood 101 enabled me to meet students from school who were not interested in medicine, law, or business careers, but fostered the same hopes that I did of working in the dynamic media field..
One alum that we met with emphasized the key quality of audacity in succeeding in the industry. Another underscored the meaning of hard work. These two, coupled with resilience and persistence, are obviously integral traits for success. However, there is also another significant factor: luck. As one of my favorite talk show hosts, Oprah Winfrey, says, "Luck is preparation meeting opportunity.”
Harvardwood 101 gave me the opportunity; now I am ready for more preparation. Thanks, Harvardwood!
- Sanyee Yuan '12
Having lived in Southern California my entire life, I was pretty familiar with Los Angeles before the Harvardwood 101 trip this January. The tall palm trees lining the grey sidewalks, the cars lined up on the 60 freeway, the cookie-cutter houses, the constant sunshine that makes winter gear a fashion statement rather than a necessity—all of this was home to me.
But Hollywood was a wholly different world. Though I myself am fairly religious about going to see movies, my impression of the entertainment industry was this esoteric, secretive world inhabited by only the beautiful and the super-talented (or not). My closest encounter with entertainment was as a stage designer for a musical in high school, and I had absolutely no idea what it took to create a movie or TV show. Thinking that the Harvardwood 101 trip would be a good and easy way to satiate my curiosity, I signed up to go on the excursion.
Highlights of the trip included visiting ShineReveille, a studio and production company for shows like "The Office” and "The Biggest Loser,” and entering through the Jurassic Park gates on our way to meet the CFO of Dreamworks. We even got to be on the set of "Little Fockers,” as the art director of the film led us through the Focker house. We toured the kitchen, the living room, and some of us even snuck onto the Fockers’ bed in the master bedroom. It was like touring an open house for sale, except it was a fake one (though you could definitely live in it if you wanted to), and every little detail, including the can of Spaghetti-O’s in the cupboard, was painstakingly placed by the art department.
Near the end of the week, we entered through the glass doors and into the most lavish and formidably beautiful building I had ever seen. The inside of the Creative Artists Agency, a top talent agency with clients like Beyoncé and George Clooney, was nearly entirely made of shining, cold marble. We were greeted by agents in sharp suits and sat around a huge marble table to listen to their anecdotes about the industry. We tried hard to be in our professional’s best, but I’m sure that they could see the awe and yearning in our eyes.
Through all of these experiences, I was surprised by how many of these people in Hollywood were Harvard graduates. Additionally, seeing all of this in person made the glittering world of celebrity and fame all the more within our reach. (Some of us even saw Rumer Willis at our rendezvous point, the Ralphs store on Sunset Boulevard.) All in all, we were told if we were to get far in the entertainment industry, you had to know the right people. At first, I have to admit I was a bit put off by this mantra. It sounded awfully like entering a lottery and being at the mercy of how much luck the Hollywood gods would bestow upon you. But it was just that the way you climb the ladder differed hugely from Harvard’s work-hard-get-ahead mentality. Although hard work is definitely a part of it, those in Hollywood got by largely because the right people noticed their hard work.
Hollywood is a huge bubble made of shiny, seemingly impenetrable glass, but I learned that with serious resolve, going through the rites of passage of mail room work, and all the right connections, everyone had a chance at achieving their Hollywood dreams.
- Minji Kim '11