- Message from the Membership Directors
- Message from Mia
- Member Profile: Nicky Weinstock
- Industry Successes
- Pencil Me In
Message from the Membership Directors
Spring is in the air! As always, our community is abuzz with exciting news, and a number of great events are planned for the season, including our first ever Harvardwood Salon Series! If you have any ideas for future series/workshops/events, or how we can make Harvardwood even better for you, please don't hesitate to drop us a line. In the meantime, enjoy this month's profile on Nicky Weinstock, and thanks to everyone who contributed to this month's Highlights. Please continue to share your stories, your participation is what Harvardwood is all about!
Angela and Kibi
Message from Mia
Now that the days are longer (thank you, Daylight Savings!) and warmer (thank you, nature!), we have planned a smorgasm...er, smorgasbord of springtime activities in the land o' Harvardwood...
Our third annual Harvard in Hollywood extravaganza is on April 28th in LA, with keynote speaker Michael Lynton (CEO, Sony Pictures) and a bevy of fabulous panelists who will wax philosophical on "The Future of Film."
We're also excited to announce the launch of a brand-new program, the Harvardwood Salon Series, kicking off on April 12th in LA with "The Art of Showrunning", hosted by writer-producer-doctor Neal Baer.
And last but not least, don't forget to send in those script submissions for the second annual Harvardwood Screenplay Competition (deadline March 30)! Details on all of the above can be found, as always, on the Harvardwood website: http://www.harvardwood.org/
Member Profile: Nicky Weinstock
by Kim Bendheim
The last time I saw Nicky Weinstock, he’d left Manhattan for Garrison, NY with his wife (writer Amanda Beesley) and their Yorkshire terrier, Emerson. The couple quit their jobs to move to the country and write books. He’d been a book editor at Random House; she’d been an agent at ICM. “The Golden Hour,” based on Weinstock’s experience in the Garrison Fire Dept, comes out in paperback this month. It’s his third book. Catching up with Weinstock ten years later, I learned that he’d moved his family to LA in 2004, and in 2006 he was promoted to Vice President of Comedy Development for Twentieth Century Fox Television, developing some 60 or 70 new shows a year. He has three children, Lincoln (2), Derek (5), and Savannah (7). Unlike Nicky, who grew up on the east coast, his children ride bicycles in the sunny streets of Westwood.
Weinstock admits his “trajectory’s been bizarro.” First, his wife became pregnant. “We had the talk, as two writers, about how one of us needed to go out and get health insurance. I pulled the short straw, and it was me,” says Weinstock. That started Weinstock on the circuitous path leading him from the wilds of upstate NY into the wilds of Hollywood. Looking for a job, he called long-time friend Gary Ginsberg, head of communications for News Corporation. “Funny you should call,” Ginsberg told Weinstock, because News Corp had just created a position for a writer who would oversee communications. Weinstock interviewed to be the speechwriter for company Chairman Rupert Murdoch on a trial basis, and he got the job. He started writing all of the speeches for Murdoch and for Peter Chernin, President and Chief Operating Officer of News Corp and CEO of the Fox Group. Laughing, Weinstock confesses to turning the job into a big creative writing assignment: “Write in the voice of a 78-year-old visionary Australian businessman. Good. Now write in the voice of the 50-year-old firebrand president of News Corp. Great. Now try to explain a multinational media business to conservative investors. Excellent.”
Nicky spent a lot of time working in Murdoch’s office – four years, to be exact. During that time, he continued to write his own fiction and published a couple of novels with Harper Collins. He attributes his subsequent switch in positions at News Corp – and coasts of the United States – to Peter Chernin. “We came back from a speech that he’d given, and that I’d written, and he asked me into his office and said, ‘you shouldn’t be in the corporate headquarters, you should be on the creative side. You should go to Los Angeles and be a creative executive.’” Weinstock was given time to think about it. He talked to Amanda. He met with the head of Fox Searchlight and executives at other of the company’s film studios, and he ultimately decided to work at the television studio. “Coming from the book world, I loved the relatively breakneck pace of TV, and I loved the diversity of the slate of projects you work on. The fact that in the space of a year, you can take something from a pitched idea to the finished project – a casted, directed, produced and edited comedy pilot – is thrilling. For me, it was a radically new world.” He compared editing books to editing TV shows and said the one was good preparation for the other. “Basically I’m an editor for the shows I take on. That’s the part I feel I’ve done forever.”
At Harvard, Weinstock’s own background was as eclectic as the shows he produces. He majored in English and Social Anthropology and took a small creative writing course with Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetze (DISGRACE) which, along with his anthropology courses, inspired him to go to Africa. He worked first as a volunteer on the construction of a health clinic in Ghana out of mud bricks. Then he traveled to Tanzania and Kenya for his anthropology fieldwork, living with the Nandi tribe for a month. On his third trip, he returned on a Rotary Scholarship and went to Botswana and South Africa, where once again he studied under the supervision of J.M. Coetze. It was an exciting time to be in South Africa. Nelson Mandela had just been released from prison. To Weinstock, “it was a great adventure,” comparable to working in Hollywood. “I probably use as much social science in my Hollywood life as I did in the African bush. Having four Hollywood agents angrily calling on a conference call, each pursuing their own agenda, is not that different from watching an incited baboon troop.”
To Weinstock, what links his trips and his radical move to California is the conviction that “life is most fun – and makes a better story – when lived in chapters…it’s the sense that you can keep yourself more awake, more alive and more excitingly aware of the whole world by turning the page, even if it’s a good page, and trying something new.” The fact that he’s been able to “hoodwink a wife and family into subscribing to this theory, and conjure a living in the process, is just plain luck.”
How does Weinstock manage to write while working full-time as an executive in television? He wakes at 4 AM to write his novels, before the kids get up. He has a backlog of ideas that he’s been playing with. The inspiration for his novels is his own life, turned sideways.
His advice for anyone wanting to get into TV is: “Find a way to get into the writers’ room.” In keeping with his own philosophy, Weinstock encourages those who are interested in the industry to realize, “you don’t have to have grown up in the ranks out here to get into the industry and succeed in it. You can bring other skills and other lives to the table.” Weinstock certainly has.
Brian Carpenter '70 has appeared in five TV shows and two features in the last 8 months, including: (TV) Boston Legal, Desperate Housewives, Close to Home, The Sarah Silverman Program, and 'Til Death (Film) Evan Almighty (with Steve Carell & John Goodman) and Yesterday Was A Lie. For more info and clips of these appearances, check out www.briancarpenter.com.
Anthony Cistaro '97 filmed a guest role on CSI MIAMI opposite David Caruso. He played "Richard Zimmer," a Miami real estate tycoon.
Bridie Clark's first novel, BECAUSE SHE CAN, was published by Warner Books this past February. It's been called "the Devil Wears Prada of book publishing" and described as "a charming, clever, quarter-life journey into the careful steps women take—whether down the career path or the wedding aisle" (Jill Kargman, author of The Right Address and Wolves in Chic Clothing). More info here:
Pianist/singer/songwriter Gary Negbaur '89 recently performed "Tales of a Traveling Jew-badour" in his hometown of New York City. The 70-minute cabaret performance featured the music of Jewish American composers like George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Billy Joel and…Gary Negbaur!
Maria Petringa '80 was interviewed by the BBC World Service Radio about her recent book, BRAZZA, A LIFE FOR AFRICA, the biography of a humanitarian 19th-century European explorer. This exciting true-life tale with a human rights theme has just been named a National Sons of Italy 2007 Book Club Selection. To read an excerpt from the text, please go to http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/ItemDetail.aspx?bookid=36653
Last year, Liz Ryan was one of seven women members of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) to win a grant from Kodak of 1000 feet of film, and one day to shoot it. Designed to showcase the talent of emerging women directors, the Kodak-DGA Womens 35mm Project provided film and equipment to the participants, and each director provided their own script, actors, location, and crew. The "seven samurettes," as the directors came to call themselves, collaborated on the theme: "Kodak Presents: Moments to Remember Forget." The resulting short film showcase will be April 30th @7:30 PM at the DGA. Due to security at the Guild, an RSVP is required, at 310-289-5311.
Bitsie Tulloch '03 finished filming the lead in Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick's new pilot, "Quarterlife."
And the Award Goes to...
First-time director Adam Hootnick '97, HLS '01 won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature at the 2007 Slamdance Film Festival for his film "Unsettled." "Unsettled" is the story of six young people struggling to navigate the complex dynamics of democracy, religion, and community during the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. Hootnick was honored with the "Sparky" award for best doc. For more info on the film, visit www.UNSETTLEDmovie.com.
Guitarist, vocalist, and alum Kate Schutt '97-'99 has received a 2006 ASCAP Plus Award for jazz. The ASCAP PLUS Awards Program is for writer members of any genre whose performances are primarily in venues not surveyed. This is the first time she has received the award. In addition, Kate's song "Two Halves of A Broken Heart" was named one of four finalists in the 2007 Independent Music Awards in the jazz song category. The same song was one of twelve finalists in the We Are Listening songwriting contest (Round II).
Pencil Me In...
March 30: Deadline for submissions to the 2007 Harvardwood Screenplay Competition. Full posting: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=8625
April 28: Harvardwood presents Harvard in Hollywood 2007: The Future of Film. Don't miss it! Full posting: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=9561