Issue 22 | November 2006

  • Message from the Associate Membership Directors
  • Message from Mia
  • Member Profile: Aline Brosh McKenna '89
  • Harvardwood 101
  • Industry Successes...
  • LA Insider

Message from the Associate Membership Directors


The Harvardwood Gala tonight kicks off the holiday season in LA. Come see your favorite board members showcase there best dance moves.

This month's profile is of Aline Brosh McKenna '89, the writer of the very successful movie "The Devil Wears Prada." This month the LA Insider bookends a comedy club with two very cool eateries: one that's a bit expensive and another far less so.

Thanks to everyone who contributed this past month. This issue includes a Dahlia, a Darren, and a Dunst.

Please continue to share your stories, successes, and insider tips. Your participation is what Harvardwood is all about.

Angela and Amit

Message from Mia

Hope to see everyone at the second annual Harvardwood Holiday Gala in LA tonight (Thurs., Nov. 16th)! The event is just a few days before the Harvard-Yale game (and my birthday, woo hoo!), so there are many reasons to join in the holiday festivities... ;) Tickets are on sale now, details available on the website:

We're also delighted to announce our next edition of the Harvardwood 101 career exploration field trip, taking place in January 2007. If you're a current student interested in applying, or if you're an alum wishing to host an event (or house a student), please visit:


Member Profile: Aline Brosh McKenna '89

By Kim Bendheim

Aline Brosh McKenna's career has been one slow, delectable rise, like freshly baked bread. An A-list screenwriter, she's now working on her second screenplay, an adaptation of the British bestseller "I Don't Know How She Does It", with director and fellow Harvard alum David Frankel. McKenna's previous collaboration with Frankel on "The Devil Wears Prada" grossed $235 million worldwide and cost $35 million to make.

Although McKenna ('89) and Frankel ('81) were never at Harvard at the same time, both took and raved about Vlada Petric's course on the classics of world cinema. McKenna also loved Stanley Cavell's class on "The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage". Cavell showed all the classic screwball comedies ("Bringing Up Baby", "Lady Eve", "It Happened One Night") on the big screen. "He took them seriously," she said. "The idea was that through romantic relationships, larger societal and moral issues could be examined." He talked about Emerson and Thoreau in the context of the films and pointed out the way in which they addressed interesting moral and social issues with light banter.

McKenna's second film was "Laws of Attraction," starring Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore as two divorce lawyers who get drunk one night, wind up married, then want to divorce. Or do they? It's a classic screwball premise.

In college, McKenna majored in literature and graduated magna cum laude. She lived in Dunster House, directed plays, and wrote reviews for The Crimson. She remembers learning a lot about collaborating in college, that "it was just fun." She graduated "without any preconceived notions of what I was going to do. I thought I'd try writing and if it didn't work out, I'd try something else."

It worked out. Her first gig was with her college roommate, Stacie Lipp. They stayed in Boston and wrote the first few chapters of a book, "A Coed's Companion: Everything A Smart Woman Needs to Know about College." Lipp had written for The Lampoon and McKenna for The Crimson. They sent the manuscript to several people they knew from college, and they sold it. After the book was finished, Lipp moved out to LA to work on "Married with Children", and McKenna stayed in NYC, where she took a screenwriting class at NYU with Dick Bebe. She wrote a screenplay and showed it to her friend, John Lesher '88. He became her agent, and she moved out to LA. After a stint of writing for TV, she wrote and produced "Three to Tango" with Neve Campbell. "The Devil Wears Prada" is her third produced film.

McKenna grew up in New Jersey with one brother. So far, romance tends to win out in her movies, mirroring the experience of her family. Her parents met in Israel. Her father, now a retired engineer, owned a jewelry store next door to a little gift shop where her mother, a Frenchwoman, was working. "They've come a long way," said Brosh McKenna. "Who would have guessed?" They eventually moved from Israel to New Jersey, then to Santa Monica. Her father moved with her mother to Santa Monica to be closer to their children and grandchildren. McKenna's brother also lives in LA, and McKenna has two boys (3 and 6) named Charlie and Leo. She married a Princeton man, Will McKenna -- they met at a Vermont ski house when they were both living in NYC.

McKenna and Frankel were very excited to work together again after "The Devil Wears Prada". Both of them rave about working with each other. According to McKenna, they often have a similar point of view, and the very collaborative Frankel really understands the writing process. When asked about working with McKenna, Frankel offers, "She's talented, funny and an unbelievable workhorse who keeps the themes of the movie focused while she's crafting the details. She worked on Meryl's 'cerulean speech' until the last minute. It was crucial to the film, to show both sides of the fashion industry. It was also important to accommodate Meryl." Frankel relates another anecdote about their very first meeting, during which McKenna came up with the line, "Go ahead and hire the fat girl." That came out of her mouth and it stayed in the movie. The two also had an ongoing debate about "what's hot and what's not". Clearly, they have fun working together.

McKenna's advice to first-time writers is to write a sample screenplay, to practice getting words on a page. Then, once you have an apt representation of where you want to go, get it someone who works in the business. In Hollywood, she explains, "they are really eager for new material."


Harvardwood is pleased to announce our fifth annual Harvardwood 101 career exploration program, cosponsored by the Office of Career Services and Office for the Arts. The program brings a group of Harvard undergraduates to Los Angeles over intersession break (Jan. 25 - 30, 2007) and provides various career-related activities in an attempt to demystify Hollywood and educate current students about opportunities in the entertainment industry. Planned activities include a studio lot tour, a discussion of film development and production hosted by a major production company, a visit to a scoring stage, a panel on breaking into TV writing, an agency visit, lunches with alumni in various facets of the industry, and an info session and tour of the USC film school facilities. For more information on how to apply, or if you are an alum wishing to get involved, please visit:

Industry Successes...

FX has ordered a drama pilot from alum writer-producers Todd Kessler '94, Glenn Kessler '92 and Daniel Zelman '89. The project is described as a character-driven legal thriller.

Michael Cohen '99 wrote music for the movie UNREST, which is part of the After Dark Horrorfest. It's screening at 500 theatres across the country. It will be playing this Friday, November 17th, at around 4pm and 10pm (as well as three times on Monday). See the trailer here: See a list of theatres when it is playing here: If enough people see it, they may extend it for the next week.

Mr. Sandi DuBowski '92 hosted the Los Angeles Gala for his new film, In the Name of Allah, on the struggle with global Islam and homosexuality. The story of Islam is told by its most unlikely storytellers... Filmed in twelve different countries and in nine languages, In the Name of Allah [working title] is the first-ever feature-length documentary to explore the complex global intersections of Islam and homosexuality. With unprecedented access and depth, Muslim gay filmmaker Parvez Sharma brings to light the hidden lives of gay and lesbian Muslims and goes where the silence has been loudest in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt and Bangladesh, as well as in Turkey, France, India, South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Los Angeles Gala Host Committee included: Jehan Agrama and Dwora Fried, Darren Aronofsky, Natacha Atlas, David Bohnett and Tom Gregory, Matt Brodlie, Lisa Cholodenko, Mike Goodridge, Brad Grossman, Stephen Gutwillig, Dean Hansell, Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, Marcus Hu, Kevin Iwashina, Keya Khayatian, Dr. Mathilde Krim, John Cameron Mitchell, Abdi Nazemian, Arianne Phillips, Zvi Howard Rosenman, Doug Ross, Monica Rosenthal, Andy Spaulding, Tilda Swinton

Ben Forkner '01 set up the A. N. Wilson novel A Jealous Ghost at Paramount Vantage with Megan Holley (Sunshine Cleaning) attached to adapt and Kirsten Dunst attached to star. Forkner will produce with Dunst, and Dunst's manager Eric Kranzler. As reported in The Hollywood Reporter (11/07/06).

Maria Konnikova '05 is working as a writer for THE CHARLIE ROSE SHOW in New York

Colleen McGuinness '99 invites everyone to HUCK & HOLDEN a play directed by Claudia Weill '68 and written by Rajiv Joseph. Sex, Race and Comp Lit. play havoc with an Indian engineering student's first days in America in this original romantic comedy about love, lust, and breaking the rules. The play co-stars with Frank Faucette, Jameelah Mcmillan, Simone Moore, Kunal Nayyar and Danny Pudi. The play runs from Oct 20 through Sunday Nov 19; Thursday- Saturday at 8pm; Sunday at 7pm. Tickets are $20. For more information call 866-468-3399 or check online at The Black Dahlia is at 5453 W. Pico Avenue at Hauser, (between Fairfax and La Brea),

Bill Oakley '88 and his writing partner Josh Weinstein are developing two TV pilots. "Business Class" is a single-camera sitcom for NBC about two sales execs on a nonstop business trip, and "22 Birthdays" is an hour dramedy for CBS about the parents of the first-grade class at a private school.

Harvardwood Highlight: LA Insider

The Spot: Cube
615 North La Brea Avenue
(323) 939-1148

A recent addition to the LA culinary landscape, Cube is part of the Divine Pasta company. Cube resists classification -- it's part gourmet store, part cafe, and part dream. The dreamer in this case is Alex Palermo. Finding the very best from micro-producers all around the world, Alex has created place with almost no regard for the bottom line. Going to Cube is like visiting an old friend -- an old friend, that is, with a very well-stocked pantry. The food here is not chef-y; it's home-y. Don't expect culinary wizardry, elaborate sauces, or turned root vegetables. The servers present cheese (try the amazing wasabi goat cheese) and charcuterie (try anything from Fatted Calf, the standout Bay area purveyor) on a dark stone slate, each offering identified with a chalk label. The other entrees showcase the fresh pasta along with the other specialty items for sale during the day This place is perfect for a sophisticated night out, but, since Cube doesn't have a liquor license, be sure to bring your own wine.

The Tip:
Cube revels in the special and the unique. Consequently, Cube is neither cheap nor does it provide super-sized portions. To try Cube, a good option is to sign up for the Cheese Makers' night. Every two to three months, Alex brings together a few of his cheesemongers for a couple nights of amazing eight course dinners. If you include the two courses (a tasting of eight cheeses and a flight of Fatted Calf-brand pate) before dinner and the impromptu flight of chocolate (7%, 80%, and 100% cacao paired with dried sour cherries, candied walnuts, and honeycomb respectively) after the food, it was more like eleven courses. All a bargain for $75 -- every cent of which goes to Slow Foods, a non-profit committed to good, clean, and sustainable foods in our schools, stores, and restaurants.

The Spot: Upright Citizens Brigade
5919 Franklin Avenue

One particular block in Hollywood reminds me a lot of New York: Franklin Avenue between Bronson and Tamarind. On it are a cluster of great places: a funky independent coffee shop, a record store, restaurants with outdoor seating, and a hip clientele that's up late. Halfway down this block is the Upright Citizen's Brigade. UCB is a well-regarded improv comedy troupe. Not only do they attract A-list talent (when I was there Rob Cordry hosted and Horatio Sanz showed up unannounced), but it also has a steady stream of fresh faces from across the country. The shows are inexpensive and a lot of fun. It almost feels like you're somewhere on Bleeker, but, when you see the Scientology Celebrity Center right across the street, you realize that you're still in LA.

The Tip:
My favorite bar/restaurant on the same block as UCB is Birds. With a Hitchcockian decor, the barstools occupied by locals, and tasty roast chicken on the menu, Birds is a great choice for an apres-show bite.

The Spot: Ramen-ya
11555 West Olympic Boulevard
310) 575-9337

During college, I suspect many people became all too familiar with the styrofoam cup of dessicated ramen noodles and shriveled vegetables with "flavor" packets. It was fast, easy, and largely inedible. Biased by my college experience, I avoided ramen for most of my post-college life. It's too bad because real ramen, I recently found out, is fantastic and inexpensive. Ramen-ya, in West LA, serves authentic, oversized bowls of steaming hot ramen. The noodles are paired with four basic broths: shoyu (soy), shio (salt), tonkotsu (pork bone), and miso (soybean paste). Save tonkotsu, Ramen-ya makes all of them and each one can be personalized with a long list of extras. There are other things here besides ramen but why bother?

The Tip:
If you can handle a little heat, try the dishes marked with spicy. They aren't really all that hot, and they're full of flavor. Also, unless you really, really love soy, stick with the salt broth. It's the shio.

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