Issue 198 | July 2021

In this issue:

Message from Justin


  • Contract Reporting Analyst (The Walt Disney Company) - Los Angeles


  • Thank you to the outgoing leaders of the Harvardwood Writers Program, Megana Rao and Megan McDonnell
  • Industry Successes
  • New Members' Welcome
  • Alumni Profile: Mynette Louie AB '97 (Film Producer)


  • Calendar
  • Become a Harvardwood member as we further engage in socially active programming, discourse, and action to help change the entertainment industry
  • Want to submit your success(es) to Harvardwood HIGHLIGHTS? Do so by posting here

Message from Harvardwood

Harvardwood Community,

We hope you are enjoying the summer and upcoming holiday! 

We want to give a special thanks to our outgoing Harvardwood Writers Program Leaders, Megana Rao and Megan McDonnell! They've led an amazing, complex, thriving program that has touched so many creators within Harvardwood! More on our amazing incoming leaders is coming soon. 

We are excited to host programming for both our HSIP interns and members generally this summer, and the next round of the Harvardwood Writers Competition is soon to launch! 

As always, we want to hear from you - if you have an event or programming idea you'd like implemented, please tell us about it here. If you have an announcement about your work or that of others, please detail it here (members) and it will appear in our Weekly, and/or next HIGHLIGHTS issue. 

As we continue with our expansion plan and updates to every aspect of Harvardwood, we ask that you please consider making a donation of any amount. Thank you so much for the consideration! 

Last but not least, we are grateful for the work we are able to do, expanding creative and professional opportunities for our Harvardwood family. We could not do it without the support of our donors, volunteers and membership.

Justin & The Harvardwood Team 

Contract Reporting Analyst (The Walt Disney Company) - Los Angeles

Company: The Walt Disney Company
Location: Glendale, CA, USA
Minimum Education Level: Bachelor's degree
Minimum Years of Experience: 0-2 years 

Job Description: This is an entry-level professional position that requires a basic understanding of residuals, participations and key talent deal terms. Contract Reporting Analysts are expected to develop competence by performing structured work assignments. They use existing procedures to solve routine or standard problems and receive instruction, guidance, and direction from others.

Thank you to the outgoing leaders of the Harvardwood Writers Program, Megana Rao and Megan McDonnell! 

Here's a bit more from Megana Rao

What were your main motivations to start writing in your life?

I’m not sure when I started, but I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. I grew up in small towns in Missouri and Ohio, where there wasn’t a ton to do, but lots of open space. I loved playing pretend as a kid and my job in the neighborhood was to come up with whatever situation we had to battle or escape from. I think writing has always been a way for me to retain that feeling. Also, growing up in an immigrant household, stories allowed me to bridge cultural gaps and I think writing allowed me to explore that in-between space of the first generation experience and make sense of my world. 

What motivated you to want to be part of HWP? 

I don’t remember how I heard about the program, but I’m so happy I applied! I met some of my best friends through HWP and have learned so much from my peers and the speakers who have volunteered their time with us. 

What were your favorite aspects of running it? 

We had a blast running the program! We’re so lucky that we have such a great group of leaders and volunteers. I loved reading applications and putting groups together; it was incredibly rewarding to watch friendships form over the course of a semester. I am also really proud of the pitch events we were able to pull off virtually (thanks to Katie and Joel!). The pitch night is our end of semester event when writers get the chance to showcase their work. It’s especially fun for us to see finished projects and how they’ve evolved within the workshops. It was a logistical challenge of coordinating around 75 writers and panelists in zoom breakout rooms, but I’m glad we were able to maintain the spirit of the night even though we couldn’t physically be together. 

What advice can you give to aspiring writers (perhaps switching careers), former participants, etc?

Write characters and worlds you genuinely enjoy because you’ll end up spending so much time with them. And find a supportive community—HWP applications open in August! (Also inserting a shoutout to check out the Scriptnotes podcast.)

Is it as important to be in LA as it used to be? 

No one is sure how things will pan out, but it does seem like now is the easiest/best time to be outside of LA. People seem much more receptive to meeting virtually. So much of this past year has been horrible, but moving our program online did give us the opportunity to expand HWP across both coasts and offer more inclusive programming. 

Industry Successes

Graciella Sanchez & Zadoc Angell AB '03 were recently named Co-Presidents Of Echo Lake Entertainment’s Management Division! (Deadline)

The Wasteland, the latest novel by W.A.W. Parker AB ’07, was a Finalist in the International Book Awards and the National Indie Excellence Awards for LGBTQ Fiction.

Sheila M. Averbuch AB ’91’s debut children’s novel, Friend Me (Scholastic Press), has received its first started review from School Library Journal. In Friend Me, 12-year-old Roisin turns to online friend Haley to escape the constant abuse from a school bully, but Roisin begins to suspect Haley isn’t who she says she is. Friend Me is available from Barnes & Noble and the audiobook, voiced by Katy Davis, is available from Audible.

"The Office Is So Brilliantly Funny Because Its Cast and Crew Included 5 Harvard Grads." (Entertainment News)

Andy Richter reflects on Conan legacy (and absurdity) as Conan O’Brien AB '85 exits late night. (The Hollywood Reporter)

Ron’s Gone Wrong ’s Locksmith Animation Names New CEO: Illumination alum Natalie Fischer MBA '04 succeeds Locksmith co-founder and director Sarah Smith. (The Hollywood Reporter)

Amanda Gorman AB '20 Honored at WriteGirl Gala: “Never Underestimate the Power of a Girl and Her Pen”. (The Hollywood Reporter)

Bernstein’s Wall: Film Review | Tribeca 2021. Douglas Tirola’s archival portrait sheds light on Leonard Bernstein AB '39 as a cultural diplomat and activist who believed in the power of music to break down barriers. (The Hollywood Reporter)

Valley Of The Moon Music Festival Announces 2021 Blattner Lecture Series featuring Dwight P. Robinson Jr., Professor of Music at Harvard University, who also oversees the series and more! (Broadway World)

Andrew Barth Feldman '24 Presents PARK MAP at Feinstein's/54 Below. Feldman returns to the stage equipped with his extraordinarily specific area of expertise: the Disney Parks. (Broadway World)

Gabby Thomas AB '19 is "speechless" after running the third-fastest 200 ever, qualifying For Tokyo. (Popsugar) 

Rapper IDK is launching a music business program at Harvard University for students of color. (The Washington Post) 

New Members' Welcome

Harvardwood warmly welcomes all members who joined the organization last month:

  • Steven Rosenwasser, HLS, LA
  • Sheila M. Averbuch, College, London
  • Amanda Herley, Ext., NY
  • Dr. Dolores Mercedes Franklin, Dental, NY
  • Bradley Bagshaw, HLS, Other U.S.
  • Tanya Wright, GSE, LA
  • Geraldine O'Bannon, Ext., NY
  • Stephanie Yao, College, BOS/Campus
  • Graham Lee, College, BOS/Campus
  • Arleigh Prelow, HDS, BOS/Campus
  • Christina Wells, College, Other Int'l.
  • Brendan Burney, College, BOS/Campus
  • Richard Gadsden, HLS, LA

*FOH = Friend of Harvardwood

Alumni Profile: Mynette Louie AB '97 (Film Producer)

by Connor Riordan '23

What do the films 
SwallowThe TaleChildren of InventionThe Invitation and the upcoming I Carry You with Me have in common? They are all independent films. They are all lauded by critics. And they are all produced by Mynette Louie AB ’97, who has already made an indelible mark on the world of independent cinema in a remarkably short amount of time.

But it was never certain that Mynette would end up in the world of film, a point we returned to numerous times throughout our conversation. Born to working-class parents who immigrated from China and Hong Kong, Mynette didn’t have the opportunity to form industry connections until years after she graduated college. That doesn’t mean she wasn’t interested, however. In her characteristically peppy and charming manner, Mynette informed me, “I’ve been consuming films like crazy since I was a little kid.” She also attended Hunter College High School, which has produced the likes of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Robert Lopez. “So I’d been around that world, but I never thought it was a practical path,” she told me. “And it still isn’t, it’s a very impractical path. So, I decided to just do well in school and go to Harvard.”

At Harvard, Mynette concentrated in East Asian Studies but focused on Chinese literature and film, never relinquishing cinema from her life. “Leo Ou-fan Lee was one of my professors,” she said, “and he introduced me to a lot of film theory and cultural theory and feminist theory… a lot of my papers [took] a socio-political view of films.” Mynette said that taking East Asian Studies and, more specifically, classes like Lee’s that dealt with fifth generation Chinese films, “was a great education in Chinese sensibilities… and indirectly influenced how I approach story and the kinds of notes that I give.” It also instilled her with a need to make films that, while not overtly political, have something to say about the world around her. When we discussed her filmography, Mynette explained, “I Carry You with Me is about these two gay undocumented immigrants living in New York… The Tale was about child sexual abuse and dealing with trauma… [and] Swallow was about a woman feeling stifled by the patriarchy.” She paused for a moment. “They aim to be entertaining, you know, first and foremost, and compelling… [but] there is something that I want to say with my movies.”

These films would come years after she graduated from Harvard. “After graduating from Harvard with debt,” she laughed, “I was like, gotta find a job to pay [it] off!” She wound up working in marketing at Time Magazine and later in business development at “I didn’t love the jobs that I had right after college,” Mynette said, “But I thought it was a great general media business education that has served me well as a producer.” Our conversation was full of answers like these, because Mynette is someone who chooses not to focus on what a situation takes away from her, and instead on what she gained and how she can apply it to building herself and her career.

It was right after 9/11 that Mynette’s life took a dramatic turn. “A bunch of my colleagues [at] had been laid off and, you know, I was hoping to get laid off and get a severance package and that didn’t happen,” she told me, chuckling. “They [said], if you want to leave you have to quit.” I could almost hear her shrug over the phone. “So I actually did quit my job… and decided to figure out how to get into this film industry once and for all.”

Her decision was courageous, especially considering she still didn’t have any connections in the film industry. Her networking began when she answered an ad with a address. It belonged to a Harvard alumnus working on a PA-starved NYU graduate student film. Mynette worked as a PA on the short film for three days, her first hands-on foray into the film industry. She would go on to produce two more NYU graduate student films. “I feel like I got a free NYU film school education, just by producing these short films,” Mynette told me, laughing. “Then I moved on to co-producing my first feature, Mutual Appreciation.” 

Four years after Mutual Appreciation, Mynette got her first self-described big break when she produced the film Children of Invention, an even more impressive feat considering she was still learning on the job. “As lead producer, I didn’t have a lawyer,” she explained. “Our film was so small, it had a $150,000 budget… I basically had to read a bunch of books on film law, and [make] a bunch of my own contracts, and it was a very DIY effort.” The film got into Sundance and, according to Mynette, “just blew the doors wide open… I was able to build my network from there and continue to produce feature films.”

If you return to the films at the beginning of this article, you may notice that, apart from being well-regarded and sharing Mynette as a producer, they are quite disparate in terms of genre and tone. When I asked her what films have impacted her the most, I got a better sense as to why. “I have very broad, very varied tastes. It’s funny, because in the film industry, you often get pigeonholed. When I made Mutual Appreciation, all I got sent were mumblecore films to produce. Then I made Children of Invention, and everybody just sent me Asian American films to produce. I was looking for a horror movie, I love horror movies… my initial films [were] all sorts of dramas and comedies and so nobody would ever send me horror films. And I finally made one, The Invitation, and then finally people started sending me horror films.”

To date, Mynette has produced 32 films and has been nominated for and won numerous awards. She won the 2013 Independent Spirit Piaget Producers Award, which honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources, demonstrate the creativity, tenacity and vision required to produce quality, independent films. Her most recent film, I Carry You with Me, won the Audience Award and the NEXT Innovator Award at Sundance. She has also been nominated for an Emmy Award and two Independent Spirit Awards. Through it all, she has dedicated herself to making the film industry more equitable. She currently sits on Film Independent’s Board of Directors, is a member of the executive and diversity committees in the Producers branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and is an advisor to the Sundance Institute, SXSW, Tribeca and IFP.

Throughout her career, it has been through her connections with other producers that she has uplifted underrepresented voices. As president of the film fund Gamechanger Films, she financed nearly a dozen women who directed narrative feature films. In 2020, she founded The Population with Mollye Asher (producer, Nomadland) and Derek Nguyen (associate producer, The Tale), an indie production company focused on film and TV projects that center women, people of color, LGBTQ+ and other marginalized groups. “It was weird because we say that that is our mandate, but it’s always been our mandate,” she explained. “We’ve always supported films that were diverse and inclusive, just because it’s who we are.” The partnership has the added benefit of helping them produce more effectively. “The way the independent film industry is nowadays, you have to be juggling multiple projects just as a matter of survival, because you get paid so little on each project,” she sighed. “It just made sense to have partners I could lean on when I was occupied with one project.”

Mynette has accomplished a stunning amount during her career, and I was curious to know what she was proudest of. She took a moment to think about how to phrase her answer. “[This industry] does tend to attract a lot of people who already have resources… the people who get to make first-time features are people who come from money and have a wide network of high-net-worth-individuals,” she said. “I am proud of myself that I came from a working-class background with zero connections and was able to build this career.” Always humble, she hastily added, “I never feel like I’ve made it because as a filmmaker, film producer, film director, you always have to stay on the cusp of what’s new… every time I make a new movie that resonates [it] feels very rewarding because it’s like, okay, I still got it!” she laughed. “So, yeah, I guess I’m proud of myself for staying in it.”

Near the end of our conversation, I remembered a deceptively simple question that had been posed at a past Harvardwood event: “What is your definition of success?” When I asked Mynette, it only took her a brief moment to respond, her conviction evident in her tone: “My definition of success is living and working on your own terms and being able to survive while doing it.”

Mynette’s newest film, I Carry You with Me, is in theaters now.

Connor Riordan

Connor Riordan '23 is a rising Junior at Harvard studying History and Literature and Film. In addition to being involved in Harvardwood programs like Harvardwood 101 and the Harvardwood Writers Program, Connor has performed in numerous productions on campus and has written, acted in, directed, and produced his own projects. He's grateful to be a part of the Harvardwood community.


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Want to submit your success(es) to Harvardwood HIGHLIGHTS? Do so by posting here

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Become a Harvardwood member as we further engage in socially active programming, discourse, and action to help change the entertainment industry

In these unprecedented times, we are doubling down on providing impactful programming that not only helps our membership build and further entertainment careers, but create socially active habits and spheres of influence and knowledge. The entertainment industry is changing before our eyes, and our recent programming is just the tip of the iceberg. We'd love your help in furthering this mission. In various capacities, we work hard to create programming that you, the membership, would like to be engaged with. Please consider joining Harvardwood and becoming an active member of our arts, media, and entertainment community



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