That's a wrap on 2019, and it has been a joy to connect with Harvardwood members from over the years and spotlight 20 Alumni for Harvardwood's 20 Years. In case you missed the first three newsletters featuring Harvard alumni in the arts, media, and entertainment, you can revisit them here: 1 | 2 | 3
In this final installment, we're thrilled to feature several past Harvardwood Heroes—Athena Bowe AB '15, Shaun Chaudhuri AB '15, Megan McDonnell AB '14, and Rodney Sanders EDM '13—as well as our personal Harvardwood hero, Advisory Board member Jeff Melvoin AB '75 (Executive Producer, Killing Eve, Designated Survivor, Army Wives, Alias).
Happy New Year!
Perfecting Gifts is a 501(c)3 performing arts organization that gives talented youth a safe space for creativity. In June 2019, we held our annual Summer Camp, where we faced a host of challenges and successes.
Memphis is a music city. It’s the home of the Blues. The city was made famous by such musical luminaries as Elvis and Issac Hayes. So, the talent within the city is abundant. However, Memphis is also the poorest large metropolitan area in the nation. Therefore, many talented students who desire to participate do not have the financial means to pay for camp. Moreover, for some poor families, transportation is an issue. This year, we had two sisters who rode the bus two hours each way so that they could participate in camp that started at 9am each day. There’s always a balance between trying to serve as many students as possible, while having the funds to pay staff members, facility rentals, etc.
We are so grateful for the Harvardwood grant this year. We were able to accept approximately 35 students into Summer Camp, up from 30 students the previous year. Moreover, we were able to pay for costumes, lighting, and choreography. We were also able to have on-site musicians play while the students performed. For the remainder of the grant, we look to re-engage the same musicians but to perform for the students affiliated with social service organizations.
Our positive reputation and brand are growing. The true testament to our success is our student testimonies.
- Rodney Sanders (2019 Heroes grant recipient)
Thank you for all of the support for the UN Women SF Film Festival. Overall, the film festival was a success, as we raised $50,000 for UN Women and held screenings and two panel discussions at Go Pro, Lucasfilm and Salesforce.
- Shaun Chaudhuri (2017 Heroes grant recipient)
In Hollywood, there’s an earnest interest in diversity, new voices, and different perspectives, but too often the pipeline of talent is narrowed by privilege. Film2Future sets out to increase access to jobs in the entertainment industry by providing technical education, mentorship opportunities, and career guidance to teens in the Los Angeles area who might otherwise never imagine themselves as filmmakers, much less have the technical background, equipment, resources, connections and support to break into filmmaking as a career.
Your gift contributed to this year’s “grAD School” program, introducing students to the world of advertising. Students learned about pitching, crafting client briefs, how to tailor campaigns to television/social media/digital social campaigns, casting, creating budgets and shot lists, working with cast and crew, marketing strategy, production, audience engagement, and much more.
We’re lucky to have so many professionals volunteer time and resources to make our program what it is, but to fulfill Film2Future’s commitment to making the program truly barrier-free it takes more than an excellent curriculum and stellar volunteers. Often overlooked essentials like healthy meals and funded transportation aren’t as easy to come by. Approaching this year’s July session, we weren’t sure how we would fill the gap in our transportation budget, which is crucial for students with parents who are unavailable to drive them during the work day or students coming in from farther out (like a recent student who would commute in from Riverside). The burden of simply making it to our sessions in Playa Vista would be too great for many of our students to participate if it were not for your generous donation that funded ride-shares, public transportation, and gas. Without transportation funding, the internships, which are a prime way to break into the industry, would not be feasible. Thank you for helping us make this free program genuinely accessible to our student filmmakers!
- Megan McDonell (2019 Heroes grant recipient)
Chinese In Entertainment (CIE) is a 501c3 volunteer-run nonprofit dedicated to spotlighting Chinese linguistic heritage talent in the entertainment industry. Since 2017 the nonprofit has run the Los Angeles Chinese Film Festival (LACFF) where indie selections that might not usually make it to the U.S. are screened for the LA community. CIE is careful to vet all sources of income and specifically refuses grants from the Chinese government to avoid censorship, which unfortunately is common even among North American organizations. This is one reason support from organizations such as Harvardwood is so important.
Harvardwood Heroes has been an instrumental part of the success of Chinese in Entertainment's operations in 2019. With the help of Harvardwood Heroes, this past year CIE has expanded its programs to include a monthly Sino Screen Speaker Series, revamped our monthly Writers' Workshop, and successfully maintained both the monthly community mixer events and the Los Angeles Chinese Film Festival. Going into [LACFF's] third year, we wanted to dedicate funds to improving our volunteer experience. As a volunteer-run organization, we strive to provide value to the people who value us, offering training in tools and industry insights for our volunteers—but other hard expenses such as parking have taken a back seat. Now, with the funds from Harvardwood Heroes this year, we can finally thank volunteers by providing parking reimbursements for volunteering during the film festival.
CIE thanks Harvardwood for contributing to our continued growth!
- Athena Bowe (2019 Heroes grant recipient)
I’ve had the privilege of watching Harvardwood grow over the past twenty years from an ambitious upstart with a modest email list to a mainstay of both the Harvard and Hollywood communities. The program’s success is a testament to the vision of its founders, the promise of its participants, and the explosion of interest in the entertainment industry, which was hardly a respectable career path for a Harvard grad when I got my B.A. sometime during the Gerald Ford administration. Personally, it’s been rewarding to meet so many talented young writers, actors, producers, and others through Harvardwood over the years. And though today’s graduates are far more sophisticated about the business than I was when I arrived in Los Angeles, the essential questions, insecurities, and hunger for useful advice remain what they’ve always been. Which is why Harvardwood is such a valuable resource and an inspiring model of interest-based alumni collaboration. Here’s to the next twenty years!
- Jeff Melvoin (Advisory Board Member)