Issue 10 | November 2005

  • Message from the Membership Director
  • Message from the President – “Mia’s Monthly Message”
  • Member Profile: Carlton Cuse ‘81
  • Industry Successes…
  • So You Got The Job, Hey…
  • And the Award Goes to….
  • Six Degrees of Harvardwood
  • Featured Member Posting – Position Available: Junior Creative Executive - LA

MESSAGE FROM THE MEMBERSHIP DIRECTOR

I am excited to see that Harvardwood really knows how to kick off the holiday season. A big thanks to all of the members who worked hard to put together a fabulous first annual Harvardwood Holiday Party! An even bigger thanks to everyone who came out and supported this event. I had a great time, and it was nice to meet many of you in person for the first time. Continue to enjoy this holiday season, work hard so you can play hard, as we begin the downward coast to the New Year!

--Cheers,
Kibi

MIA’S MONTHLY MESSAGE….

Huge thanks to the 2005 Holiday Party Committee: Stacey Collins, Allison Kiessling, Melissa Lee, Susanna Lee, Elizabeth Atwater Menes, Crescent Muhammad, Sirpa Nelson, Nick Weiss and Events Director Alison McManus – over 200 people turned out for the event, and a good time was had by all (see photos below)! And another thank you to the recent Harvardwood Writers Program guest speakers: Meredith Bagby ‘95, Vali Chandrasekaran ‘03, Jason Gelles ’96, Glenn Kessler ‘92, Todd Kessler ‘94, and Josh Simon ‘00.

We’re now gearing up for our fourth annual Harvardwood 101 intersession program, cosponsored by Harvard’s Office of Career Services and Office for the Arts. We need alums to host events and/or provide housing for the students during the program (Jan. 26 – 31, 2006), so please let us know if you’d like to get involved!

--Mia

MEMBER PROFILE: CARLTON CUSE ‘81

Reported by Steven Hanna

“There weren’t very many people from Harvard who were part of the entertainment business when I first came out here,” recalls TV writer/producer Carlton Cuse ’81 of his post-graduation journey west. “But the connections that existed were sort of vital at the very beginning of my career, and definitely my first boss was delighted to have a Harvard guy getting his coffee and buying organic dog food fr his Akita.”

Ask Cuse how he went from an entry-level position in kibble acquisition to his current gig as executive producer on ABC’s smash hit “Lost,” and you’ll hear a great Hollywood ups-and-downs story, albeit one with an above-average number of ups. Sure, that little chuckle in Cuse’s voice as he talks about early jobs “xeroxing scripts and picking out papayas at Gelson’s” makes it clear that the memories of his star-in-Cambridge-becomes-just-another-intern days are still pretty vivid.

But Cuse has since followed the not-entirely-unusual career path of the very talented, moving from show to show and in time steering the ship on a couple of wildly successful ones: in addition to the beloved but underseen “Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.” – you can check it out on DVD next summer and see why “Lost” may be doomed to remain Cuse’s second-greatest contribution to TV – he also ran “Nash Bridges” and “Martial Law” for a stunning total of 166 episodes. Moreover, that television career came on top of past work helping develop feature films that you may have heard of, little movies like Lethal Weapon 2 and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

It’s surprising, however, particularly for more recent grads whose class notes are full of alum after alum staffed on “The Simpsons,” to hear Cuse paint a picture of a Hollywood before it was infested with Harvard folk. “I was sort of on the first wave of a substantial number of graduates who were thinking that film and television could be a viable career,” he notes, “and there really weren’t writers from Harvard who were going to work in television or movies before that. I think that culturally, media has become more significant since then, but at the time it wasn’t considered a worthy profession, and I hadn’t thought about doing it at all.” Cuse, like many a Harvard undergrad, had been experiencing some academic drift – in his case, away from pre-med and towards American history – until a chance meeting at a Science Center film screening left him with some solid career advice. “A Harvard grad at Paramount named Tom Parry came to set up screenings of Airplane,” Cuse remembers, “and through Tom I met the Zucker Brothers and Jim Abrahams, who made that movie, and a light bulb sort of went off in my head. I went, ‘Wow, these people are doing this, and it’s so fun and funny, and they’re getting paid for it. Maybe that’s something I should consider.’” “How do I get started in the movie business?” Cuse asked Parry, and the facetious response was a classic one: “Go make a movie.”

Cuse took that very literally. “I was a crew jock,” the still-fit Cuse says, “and the adage is ‘write what you know.’ So I thought I’d make a documentary about rowing, because even among my peers at Harvard, no one involved understood why people were obsessed with that, and would train all year round for five or six minute races.” The limitations of the entertainment-biz alumni network at the time were nothing compared to the resistance Cuse encountered from his crew coach, who flatly refused when asked to provide the names of past rowers Cuse could approach for funding. Cuse got around that problem with some fancy footwork that would make any Tinseltown producer proud: “I snuck into the boathouse at night and copied the names of oarsmen off the old team photos,” Cuse laughs, “then looked them up in the library at Widener, and sent out solicitation letters.” Enough money came back to make the film finishable, and Cuse sold the completed documentary to PBS, eventually bringing it to Los Angeles as his calling card.

“Tom was more impressed that I’d actually pulled it off than anything else,” Cuse insists modestly, but the Paramount exec nevertheless helped Cuse send off a flurry of letters to various friends, Harvard alums and otherwise. He eventually found himself working for noted producer Bernard Schwartz, which led him in a roundabout sort of way to his TV career. “In my job working for Bernie,” he explains, “I was a development executive reading a lot of writers, and a lot of those writers ended up becoming my friends.” A producing partnership with very hot writer Jeffrey Boam, then coming off penning Innerspace and The Lost Boys and about to turn to two Lethal Weapon movies and the third Indiana Jones, led to a TV deal to do “Brisco County” for Warner Brothers. “Simultaneously,” says Cuse, “I was also officed near and friends with another writer named John Sacret Young, who’s an amazing guy who created and was running ‘China Beach.’ I hung around with him and learned a lot about how to be a television showrunner, just because our offices were next to each other.” Apparently Cuse learned his lessons well: he came off “Brisco”'s relatively short run to helm “Nash Bridges” and “Martial Law” for a total of five years, and that experience led to his being hired to co-helm “Lost.”

Cuse laughs that his broad Harvard education has been a great resource in constructing the esoteric plot intricacies of “Lost,” and he continues to build up the alumni network that he’s watched grow from its infancy: among his writers on the show is Harvard grad Leonard Dick. But Cuse seems happiest with what Harvard has given him in terms of friendships. “It’s been great,” he concludes, “that there was a whole sort of cadre of people from the class ahead of me and from my class who came out here, and I count a lot of those people as my best friends to this day. Connections which I sort of expected to become attenuated over time really haven’t. I didn’t have any connections at all when I started, and now there’s just all sorts of people out here who are in the Harvard community and who, at least on a personal level, are a really important part of my life.”

INDUSTRY SUCCESSES….

MANNA FROM HEAVEN, the feature release of FIVE SISTERS PRODUCTIONS (made up of Jennifer '86 and Gabrielle Burton '92 and their three sisters), was picked up by MGM this summer and is now being released on DVD. You can also still catch this feel-good quirky family comedy in select theatres, including the Oaks Theater on November 21st at 7:30 pm (http://www.theoakstheater.com/) in Pittsburgh to benefit the Pittsburgh Food Bank; in Sequin, Texas on November 18 at the Palace Theater with OPEN CAPTIONING (http://www.davideo.tv/subpage.html). For more information on how to get your copy of the film, please visit www.fivesisters.com. Five Sisters Productions is also at work on the post of THE HAPPIEST DAY OF HIS LIFE and finishing up the delivery tech work for DVDs of TEMPS and JUST FRIENDS, which will be out next year.

Rick (BAD BOYS) Rosenthal '71 (producer of MEAN CREEK and producer/director of the upcoming NEARING GRACE) directed the upcoming 1991 episode of REUNION on FOX , which airs this Thursday, Nov 17 at 9pm. He also directed the first-ever Xmas episode of SMALLVILLE (“Lexmas”), which will air on December 8 at 8pm on the WB.

Jeremy Rabb’s A.R.T. ’98 3rd episode of GREY'S ANATOMY just aired, and he will be filming his 4th episode next week. For more information, please visit www.jeremyrabb.com.

Lara M. Hirner ‘05 was recently chosen as the voice-over talent for a new audio book series for Disney! The pre-school series "Peep and the Big, Wide, World" is a TV program on PBS narrated by Joan Cusak, and Disney has now decided to make a read-along series based on the TV show. I just recorded narration and an original song for the first book, "Who's Hiding", and will be recording subsequent books in the coming weeks!

Mary Felstiner (Harvard College) will be reading from her recently published book Out of Joint: A Private & Public Story of Arthritis at the BLACK OAK BOOKSTORE, 1491 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709, Wednesday, November 16 at 7:30 p.m. This is a story from the American Lives series, (edited by Tobias Wolff) that, among other subjects, examines the lifelong effects of gender discrimination at Harvard-Radcliffe a few decades ago. This is the first book to invent “history healing,” a new technique for handling a chronic condition, and it shows how to compile a case history, a life history and a witness to the body in its times. It's also the first book to tell a full personal and public story of arthritis, America’s most prevalent yet socially hidden ailment—how to handle love, work, sexuality, fatigue, betrayal, pain, time, mortality, rights, myths, and memory.. For more information please visit: http://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/bookinfo/4902.html

Karen Gordon (Harvard College) was chosen to perform in a star-studded staged reading for "Outfest Honors," a gala to benefit Outfest's Legacy Project for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Film Preservation. The reading, held on October 28 to an overflow house of several hundred at the Pacific Design Center's SilverScreen Theatre, was an adaptation of an original 1976 "Charlie's Angels" script, "Angels in Chains." Fellow readers included Sandra Oh, Wanda Sykes, and Bruce Vilanch. Much fun was had by all.

Rivers Cuomo '98-’06 will be taking a break from his band, Weezer, to complete his final semester at Harvard this spring.

QUEER DUCK: THE MOVIE, created by Mike Reiss ‘81, has been greenlit by Paramount Home Entertainment. The project is based on a series of internet shorts in which a gay duck comes out of the closet.

The Hollywood Reporter has named Dan Lin HBS '99 one of 35 up-and-coming executives in its “Next Generation, Class of 2005”.

AND THE AWARD GOES TO…

John Unger Zussman '72 and his wife, Patricia Zussman, won the Actors' Choice Award for best screenplay at the 2005 Screenwriting Conference in Santa Fe. Their script, PIANO TRIO, is a romantic drama set in 1850s Germany. Based on a true story, it recounts how young Johannes Brahms went to study with older composer Robert Schumann -- and fell in love with Schumann's wife Clara.

Mike Reiss ’81 and Al Jean ’81 were honored with a lifetime achievement award by the Animation Writers Caucus of the WGA West. The two have won a combined 10 Emmys and two Peabody Awards for their work on THE SIMPSONS.

SIX DEGREES OF HARVARDWOOD – Testimonial

From an anonymous alum:

Harvardwood hands-down helped me land my first job in the business, ever. Someone had posted an opportunity with Forest Whitaker’s company, and at the time, I’d been interning for just over a month at both a studio and a production company/financier—reorganizing the entire script library, getting paper cuts and brad cuts, literally bleeding for the two companies—when I decided to apply for the job. This is how it went down: I sent my resume on a Saturday, got a call on Monday, interviewed on Tuesday, met Forest on Wednesday, was offered the job on Thursday, and accepted it on Friday. I’m positive the process would not have been nearly so smooth if it weren’t for Harvardwood; I would probably still be there, alphabetizing massive towers of scripts, or worse yet, gone from the business altogether. But here I am, almost two years later =).

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DO YOU HAVE A TESTIMONAL TO SHARE! Please send me a short note or email with your testimonial about how Harvardwood has helped you. Email [email protected] and for each testimonial receive, a free month of membership (limit 3 per person)

Featured Member Posting – Position Available: Junior Creative Executive - LA

A small, fast growing film company seeks a young, energetic producer-in-training to help develop the business. This is a great opportunity for an ambitious, hard-working individual who wants to make movies: from story conception through to theatrical release… Responsibilities: Assisting a producer and director with general office tasks (includes answering phones, scheduling, note-taking, mailings, etc). Networking with writers and development executives. Following up with writers and producers. Identifying writers and stories/books for feature films. Assisting with development of stories. Reading and covering scripts… Paid members can view full posting info at: www.harvardwood.org

HARVARDWOOD HOLIDAY PARTY 2005 PHOTOS…

See online Events Calendar for photos.


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