Issue 13 | February 2006

  • Message from Membership Director
  • Message from the President – “Mia’s Monthly Message”
  • Member Profile of Meredith Bagby
  • Industry Successes…
  • So You Got The Job, Hey…
  • And the Award Goes to….
  • Six Degrees of Harvardwood
  • Featured Member Posting – Seeking Interviewees for Harvard News Report

Message from the Membership Director

Well, I hope everyone has taken the time to visit the new Harvardwood website. If you have not, drop what you are doing right now and visit www.harvardwood.org. I have nothing else to talk about this month besides the new website, because it is the freshest, flyest, amazing new thing to come around since sliced bread. Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but our wonderful president, Mia Riverton, has worked diligently for the last year, spending tons of late night hours, making our new website a reality! We can’t say thank you enough. Believe me, it’s a huge improvement over what we had before, and Harvardwood finally takes a giant step into the next phase of our organization’s history. We’ve got message boards, an individual profile section with pictures, a much more robust user interface where we can learn more about our membership and what everyone is doing, and much, much more. So please make sure you log in, spread the word and use it.

--Cheers,
Kibi

Mia’s Monthly Message….

February has been a fun month for Harvardwood, with gatherings in LA and NYC…March promises even more excitement with the creation of our new “Harvardwood Heads To” event function and the launch of our first-ever Harvardwood Screenplay Competition! Details can be found on our brand-spanking-new website: www.harvardwood.org. Be sure to register (if you haven’t already), update your profile, visit the Member Forums, and take advantage of all the resources that are now online.

One more tremendous round of applause for the alums who so graciously spent their time educating our Harvardwood 101 students this year: Joe Acevedo, David Alpert, Jeff Balis, Paris Barclay, Rachna Bhasin, Theresa Botello, Stacy Cohen, Ethan Drogin, Brody Fox, Alex Franklin, Guido Giordano, Abram Hatch, Melinda Hsu, Joe Keel, Robert Kraft, Melissa Lee, Paulo Lemgruber, Doug Maclaren, Jeff Melvoin, Sean O’Keefe, Elaine Paul, Michael Polay, Jenny Ramirez, Amy Retzinger, Jaime Rodriguez, Mia Rondinella, Rich Rosenthal, Henry Shapiro, Josh Simon, Craig Turk, Krishnan Unnikrishnan, and Ron Weiner.

--Mia

Member Profile: MEREDITH BAGBY

“At all of the schools I went to – Harvard included – the entertainment industry, and especially the movie business, seemed kind of frivolous,” admits DreamWorks creative executive Meredith Bagby with a shrug. “But ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved the movies. I used to watch all these old movies with my mom, and at some point, I thought, ‘You know, the weather’s really nice out there, and I’m just gonna try it.’”

Lots of people come to Hollywood based on equally impulsive reasoning, though not all of us get to tell ourselves, as Bagby jokes she did, that “If I fail, I can always go back to being an attorney.” It’s possible, of course, that Harvard grads have this sort of Plan B in greater numbers than average, but Bagby stands apart from the run-of-the-mill attracted-by-sunshine set thanks to the colorful career she had before arriving in Los Angeles. Having written a book as an undergrad, served as a financial correspondent on CNN, and testified before Congress repeatedly as a member of the think-tank Third Millennium, Bagby could perhaps be accused of having a short attention span if she ever failed to stick with an endeavor long enough to be successful at it. And listening to her tell her story, a narrative she presents as full of spur-of-the-moment or under-thought-out decisions, you can’t help but be charmed by the idea, however untrue, that success can be achieved so offhandedly. “About job decisions, I think you can analyze something to death, but a lot of times the best decisions are made on instinct,” Bagby insists, “based on what feels right, if that makes any sense. Different people approach things differently, but the way I approach career stuff, is just sort of instinct.”

Bagby wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that she’s always followed her gut. “When I got out of Harvard,” she grimaces, “I did what so many people do, which is go into investment banking. It’s the least original thing, but everybody does it, and I did that. But I didn’t really like it, and I didn’t really fit in very well, so I wasn’t an investment banker for very long.” Faced with the prospect of finding a new and more satisfying path, Bagby left Morgan Stanley and fell back on the book she wrote during her time in Cambridge, the well-regarded early-’90s Gen-X call-to-arms The Annual Report for the United States: “I wrote to somebody at CNN and I said, ‘Hey, here’s this book I did, and I’d really like to work there, and I think that you guys are missing a segment of the population.’ I made some ridiculous argument for why they should hire me – ‘I’ll help you get younger viewers,’ or something like that – and obviously I got really lucky. I must have landed on the right desk. But sure enough, I got an interview, and I worked there for a couple of years.”

Working as a television finance reporter offered an outlet for one of Bagby’s greatest gifts, as she used her ability to break down and explicate complicated economic information regularly in on-air reports. But part of her time was also devoted to continuing her studies. “I’m not really sure why I went to law school, to be honest with you,” Bagby says modestly, “but I started going to Columbia, I guess, thinking I might be an attorney. And during my first year of law school, CNN went through a couple of waves of layoffs, and I was swept up in one of them. My show got cancelled, so as I finished up law school I was sort of glad I’d gone!”

Somewhere around this point was when the allure of sunny CA took hold of Bagby, and she headed west to be an entertainment lawyer. “But when I got out here,” she recalls, “I realized that lawyers don’t ever really get involved in the creative process, and if I wanted to be involved in that process, I had to start over again, and not be an attorney.” The impetus for her taking an entry-level job in DreamWorks’ Story Department, which eventually led to her promotion to executive level? One of those little Harvardwood updates that clutter up your email inbox every few days! “I was, like, a day away from taking a law job,” Bagby laughs, “because I was thinking ‘Aw, man! I’m never going to get anything good in entertainment!’ But the night before, I checked my email, and I saw, ‘Oh, there’s a Harvardwood listing! I’ll apply!’ And I applied, and I got the job, and I was like, ‘Thank God I don’t have to be a lawyer!’”

Bagby admits that her family participated in the time-honored tradition of relatives expressing bafflement at an Ivy League education being put to use as a phone-answerer in a Hollywood starter gig: “I remember my parents were, like, ‘We spent all this money sending you to law school! What are you doing?’ And I said, ‘Well, it just feels like the right place.’ I turned out to be right, but at the time it was, at least in their eyes, a somewhat ridiculous decision.” But she concedes that her “bookish” family may be an influence in her efforts to bring more substantial material to movie screens, even as she uses her investment banker’s analytical skills to realize the importance of films of all types: “There’s a place for things like ‘Syriana,’” Bagby notes, “which are really challenging and carry a message, but there are also places for ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin,’ for the guy who works hard all week and wants to go out on a Friday night and just laugh.”

She says she’s adjusting slowly but comfortably to the big change from more nuts-and-bolts financial reporting to subtler matters of cinematic storytelling, but the enthusiasm for her current projects in audible as she talks about them: “My favorite project right now is ‘Dreamgirls,’” Bagby says of the Bill Condon-helmed production due out later this year, “which is going to be awesome. You don’t realize how fun musicals are, but working on it, watching the dailies come in…” Bagby pauses a moment, once again downplaying the long hours and commitment it takes to do any of the many things she’s done as she adds, “It definitely doesn’t feel like work.”

INDUSTRY SUCCESSES….

Painter Max Scharf has several successes to share with Harvardwood. First, a new book on his life and paintings is in the works, and the author expects to complete the writing in March, with the book coming to market in Fall 2006. His wife, Esther, has written a book "Beyond the Beyond" that contains twenty-four of his original paintings. It will be available in May 2006 in store and on-line at Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. Finally, his licensee, Pacific Tile Art Studio, has expanded the number of his paintings they are offering on their tile wall murals. You can review them at www.pacificatileart.com/max_r_scharf.cfm. For more information, please contact him at 314-409-7884 or visit his new studio at:

462 N. Taylor Ave.
Suite 203
St. Louis, MO 63108

Karyn Langhorne HLS '89 announces the acceptance of DIARY OF AN UGLY DUCKLING by HarperCollins' Harper Torch imprint. The novel, a tale of a black woman who undergoes skin lightening to win the man she loves, will hit bookstores in July 2006. This is Karyn's third of a four book contract with Harper Collins.

Lauri Donahue (HLS) is pleased to announce that her comedy script TWO PAIR reached the quarter-finals (top 5%) of the Zoetrope Screenwriting Contest. The story is an urban comedy about two preacher's sons who travel from Kansas to Beverly Hills in search of their long-lost mother (an R&B diva). They are mistaken for the identical twins they didn't know they had (rising stars in the music business), and run afoul of the Russian mafia. She was also recently featured in the article "Six Nicholls Try to Make a Dollar" in the March issue of "Scr(i)pt" magazine. Her screenplay "Herod" reached the semi-finals (top 2%) of the Nicholl Fellowship competition run by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the "Oscar" folks). (She's also looking for a new rep.) Contact her at [email protected]

Producer Michael Roiff '01 has just wrapped principal photography on his first full-length feature film. The flick, independently financed by Roiff’s Night and Day Pictures, is written and directed by Adrienne Shelley and stars Keri Russell, Cheryl Hines, Jeremy Sisto, Andy Griffith, Nathan Fillion and Eddie Jemison. The story centers on the world's best pie baker and her search to find the perfect recipe for love. The film is currently in post-production in New York City.

Ian Maisel CPC ’06 is currently completing his Certificate of Publishing and Communication program internship by working at the Boston Phoenix. He is illustrating Dan Savage’s humorous sexual advice column at www.phx.com/Life/ and will be writing articles for the Phoenix. Ian has been a professional illustrator, cartoonist and graphic designer for eight years and is currently a graphic designer for the Boston College Alumni Association. He graduated from Brown in 1997 and is writing a dramedy memoir and screenplay about his experiences. His website is www.ianmaisel.com and you can email him at [email protected]

Kate Schutt's '97-'99 label Wild Whip Records sponsored the Sweet Beaver Suite unofficial showcase room at the 18th Annual International Folk Alliance Conference in Austin, TX, February 10 – 14th, 2006. The Sweet Beaver Suite is a Canadian collective dedicated to artist showcasing both nationally and internationally. Three nights of showcases featured an impressive mix of (mostly) Canadian musicians and bands. Last year's Sweet Beaver showcase was THE must-see event of the Folk Alliance Conference in Montreal. This year, showcasing artists include Ridley Bent, The Duhks, Corb Lund, Carolyn Mark, Po Girl, Sylvie Lewis, and Lori Cullen ... to name only a few. For more info please visit: www.momcantcook.com/beaver.htm, www.folkalliance.net and www.wildwhip.com.

Six Degrees of Harvardwood – Jacqui Wang

From Jacqui:

I was living in Orange County after school & moved to LA a few years ago. I tapped into Harvardwood after I moved. I mostly heard about & met people through hearing what everyone was working on in newsletters & announcements (e.g., if it was someone I already knew of as directing shorts or having a similar background to me because they were a friend of a friend, once I realized they were also an alum, I got in touch). I also tapped into Harvard Film Night & alumni Professional Connections. I got out of the loop when I had to travel/work on press for screenings…but I definitely hope to attend some upcoming events, especially now that I will be more aware of what is going on again. Thanks!

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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 – Seeking Interviewees for Harvard News Report

From Ming Lo:

I'm currently working on a half hour special news report on "how to get into Harvard?" for LA-18 (it's the LA Asian station) - basically about the popular myths about the admissions process, what the facts are about the admissions process, and what the main attributes and qualities are Harvard may be looking for… Paid members can view full posting info at: www.harvardwood.org


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