Issue 36 | January 2008

  • Message from the Membership Directors
  • Message from Mia
  • Member Profile: Jieho Lee HBS '00
  • Industry Successes
  • Pencil Me In
  • Featured Member Posting: Universal Pictures Seeks Manager, Business Development/Strategic Planning

Message from the Membership Directors

New Year, exciting new beginnings! We've had a busy few weeks here, what with an HBS Career Trek and welcoming Harvardwood 101ers to Los Angeles. Thanks to all Harvardwood alums who generously donated their time and efforts to providing a much-appreciated glimpse of possible career options, and for sharing useful advice and encouragement!

Hope 2008 is off to a productive start for all of you... and if it's been slow, well, what better time for another new beginning than Chinese New Year, right around the corner! But before revisiting those resolutions you made a month ago, enjoy our highlights profile on Jieho Lee and check out the latest on your fellow Harvardwooders. As always, thanks and congratulations to everyone who contributed to this issue!

Cheers,
Angela and Kibi

Message from Mia

A giant helping of thanks and gratitude to all of the alums and friends who graciously shared their time and/or houses with our visiting Harvardwood 101 undergrads! Our participating alums this year included: David Alpert, Ali Binazir, Theresa Botello, Cort Cass, Danny Chun, Mike Cohen, Stacy Cohen, Dan Donahue, Jon Dorf, Jonathan Eirich, Brody Fox, Caleb Franklin, Guido Giordano, Mark Goffman, Josh Goldstine, Billy Hawkins, Diane Klein, Robert Kraft, Jieho Lee, Mark Lee, Melissa Lee, Franklin Leonard, Alain de Leonardis, Elena (Jacobson) de Leonardis, Angela Lin, Doug Maclaren, Matt Mazzeo, Elizabeth (Atwater) Menes, Milan Popelka, Dan Punt, Luvh Rakhe, Amy Retzinger, Diallo Riddle, Couper Samuelson, Matthew Snyder, Mark Sourian, Krishnan Unnikrishnan, Matt Warburton, and Larry Wasserman.

The students had a busy and productive week in LA, visiting with a variety of industry professionals. Participating companies included: 2929, ABC Studios, CAA, Circle of Confusion, Disney, Dreamworks, The Film Department, Fox Music, The Gersh Agency, ICM, Mirage Enterprises, Samuels Media, Sony, USC, the WGA and Variety.

Thanks also to our non-alum friends who shared their time and insights with the students: Jason Davis (Disney), Mark Gill (The Film Department), Jennifer Glen (Variety), Timothy Gray (Variety), MK Haley (Disney), Susie Lum (Disney), Doug McGuire (Disney), Tim McNeal (Disney), and George Ruiz (ICM).

-Mia

Member Profile: Jieho Lee

by Amit Samuel

After more than five years, Jieho Lee (HBS '00) has finally reached the top of the mountain. THE AIR I BREATHE, a feature film he directed and co-wrote, opens this month. With a constellation of stars including Kevin Bacon, Brendan Fraser, Andy Garcia, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Forrest Whitaker, THE AIR balances Asian and American sensibilities - something Jieho has been doing his entire life.

For Jieho, graduating from Wesleyan meant freedom to pursue his creative ambition. For his Asian parents, it meant grad school. He compromised by directing music videos and commercials in the summers while attending Harvard Business School. Both endeavors played important roles in his development as a filmmaker. Though the summers spent directing sharpened his creative instinct, HBS conferred something perhaps more important: the ability to realize his creative vision. Harvard Business School may not come to mind as an ideal training ground for aspiring filmmakers, but for Jieho it was exactly that. It focused his creativity, rewarded collaboration, and emphasized results. A business plan is, in fact, not unlike a script. Both require clearly articulating an idea, assembling a team, arranging for financing, and effectively managing an enterprise with countless moving parts. It is, after all, show business.

With his formal education finally behind him, Jieho devoted himself full-time to his craft. One of his short films won best cinematography at the Florida International Film Festival - a first for a short film. The short caught the attention of festival coordinator and screenwriter Bob DeRosa. After the festival, Jieho went to see the production of DeRosa's stage play. Jieho, realizing that they shared the same storytelling sensibility, asked DeRosa to help him with an idea that came to him partially in a dream. DeRosa agreed. Ten months later, they had co-written THE AIR I BREATHE.

While Jieho worked on his film, he also followed a well-worn path to success in Hollywood. He applied to work at a talent agency, temped around town, and networked. Hollywood success, he quickly found out, was vastly different than Harvard success. At Harvard, success could be measured with extrinsic metrics: grades, standardized tests, and diplomas. Hollywood has no such metrics. There are no end-of-the year progress reports, no explicit core requirements. There is only a constant struggle between self-doubt and self-confidence. Unfortunately, the ability to weather sustained periods without any real progress is necessary - but not sufficient - for Hollywood success.

With a strong business plan and a well-regarded script in hand, Jieho began to flex his B-school muscle. He secured initial financing from his HBS classmate, assembled a production team, and worked to attach actors to his film. As a first-time director, an engaging story with interesting characters was not enough to attract top talent. Jieho also had to prove that he had a well-designed plan to bring the story and characters to life.

His plan, though, had to be constantly rethought and redone. During a film's development, the actors, the producers, and even the script itself changes repeatedly. For over five years, Jieho managed his film as its fortunes waxed and waned. Even though at the bottom of every Cup-o-Noodle dinner was the gritty residue of self-doubt, he held firm and ultimately achieved his goal. He shot his feature over one grueling month in Mexico City, and THE AIR I BREATHE had its festival premiere at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival.

With the theatrical release of THE AIR I BREATHE, Jieho has climbed a significant mountain. For many aspiring filmmakers, Jieho's achievement is the very expression of Hollywood success. But, when asked, Jieho doesn't express relief. He responds with a Korean aphorism, “mountain after mountain.” Whatever challenges lie ahead, Jieho no doubt has a plan.

Industry Successes...

Dani Dixon's first book, a monthly comic book series titled "13," debuted in Los Angeles. Artists and cast kicked off the release with a signing at the famous Golden Apple store on Melrose. "13" is now available in CA, TN, MA, and NC and will expand throughout the country in the coming weeks. Fellow Harvard alums Jennifer Hodges and Nancy Williams have been instrumental over the last 6 months with early marketing and publicity efforts, as well as alum Jennifer Fischer in the editing department. "13" was also featured in 02138 magazine. For more info, or to order "13" merchandise and books, visit the official site @ www.TUMBLECREEKPRESS.com.

Chip Perro E.X.T. '06 and Rick Perro wrote and directed “High Heel Samurai” which debuted in December at Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, MA. It's the story of Mia Tallatetto, a bold and beautiful karate expert who decides to revive her father’s illegal underground martial arts tournament. Along with her two closest friends Catia and Sophie, and younger sister, Tori, the High Heel Samurai take to the streets of Boston in a year-long martial arts tournament that will have fans tuning in every week for the drama, the fights, and style that only four gorgeous knockouts can deliver! Starring: Judith Kalaora, Lauren Guglielmello, Alexandra Maiorino, Sam Pannier, Brandon Stumpf and Drew Cooper. For more information: highheelsamurai.com

Two-time Academy Award-winner Denzel Washington recently hand-picked Voltaire Rico Sterling HLS '05 and cast him in his first-ever film role as the debater "Otheree Hubbard" in The Great Debaters, which Denzel directed, stars-in, and produced along with Harpo Films, The Weinstein Company, Todd Black, Joe Roth, Kate Forte, and Oprah Winfrey. Inspired by a true story, The Great Debaters also stars Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker and chronicles the journey of Professor Melvin Tolson (Denzel), a brilliant but volatile debate team coach who uses the power of words to shape a group of underdog students from a small African American college in the deep south into a historically elite debate team. In their pursuit for excellence, Tolson's debate team receives a groundbreaking invitation to debate Harvard University's championship team. Notably, the championship debate was filmed on location at Harvard's Memorial Hall in July 2007, and is the first feature film to have been shot on campus in about 30 years (since Love Story in the 1970s). The Great Debaters was released by MGM in December 2007. Watch the trailer here: www.thegreatdebatersmovie.com

Over the past few years, a group of Harvard grads (including Tom Yellin ’75) made a feature-length documentary called STEEP. It investigates the lives of extreme mountain skiers - what drives them to literally extreme heights in search of the perfect run and what happens when they do that. It's opened in NYC, LA, and a handful of other places is continuing to run there, as well as open in new locations throughout the country (including Cambridge!). If you are at all interested in skiing, athletics, or even just think mountains can be pretty, definitely check it out: WWW.STEEPFILM.COM

Peter Fox '72 has been commissioned to write the book for a musical of BRAVE NEW WORLD. Besant Hill School of Ojai, founded by Aldous Huxley, holds the rights to the musical and hired Fox, an Ojai resident, to do the work. Once completed Fox will be searching for a high profile musician to write the music and lyrics.

Fine artist Janai-Ami '81 is the subject of an upcoming documentary that began principal photography in December 2007 in Los Angeles. Janai-Ami is known for her contemporary florals and her often extraordinary use of color. Two of her paintings are currently being exhibited at the Out Take Cafe at 11929 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City. "JUST BEFORE SUNRISE" (36x48"oil) was first shown in New York City at the International Art Fair before a three year stint at the United States Embassy in Maputo, Africa. Lloyd's of London insured the work. "THE MORNING AFTER" was completed after the October 2007 fire in Malibu and is being shown for the first time. Both works are available to the public. For further information about a specific work or for purchasing work, contact [email protected] and use the Subject header "Harvardwood."

Susan Lindheim KSG ’94 recently won the 2007 James Kirkwood Literary Prize for an excerpt from her novel, "Baby Driver". The prize for fiction writing (short stories or novel excerpts) is given out annually through UCLA Extension to honor new generations of Writers' Program fiction writers for their literary achievements. The novel-in-progress is a Depression-era story of "a nice Jewish girl" forced by her family to become a drug mule for her heroin-addicted uncle, and is based on true events from Lindheim’s grandmother's adolescence.

Maria Petringa's '80 recent human-rights themed biography, Brazza, A Life for Africa, has been getting some good media coverage. I recently did an Author PodCast Interview with the Fairfax County Library, in northern Virginia, and you can listen to this informal 15-minute conversation online at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/library/bookcast/. Writer's Digest gave Brazza an excellent review. Here is an excerpt: "This is a fascinating story of a truly inspiring man ... Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza. I had very little knowledge of ... this hero who was so beloved in Paris -- and surprisingly, the Congo. It is a great feat of scholarship, and the author does a good job of keeping the reader interested, while detailing the incredible triumphs of a now-little-known imperial French governor and humanitarian. Truly, a profound contribution to colonial / post-colonial scholarship."

Lara M. Hirner '05 had a busy close to 2007 and start to 2008! In the coming months, Lara will be working on a musical recording with the Marble Collegiate Sanctuary Choir, continuing her work with voice over agency Access Talent, performing with the NY Pops, and touring as a musician for the Mark Morris Dance Group and New York City Ballet in both the U.S. and London. She also wishes everyone in the Harvardwood community a Happy, Successful, and Entertaining 2008!

Brody Fox has a series of highlights to share! First, his short film I KNEW HIM has been playing the festival circuit, including: Artivist Film Festival, MIX New York Experimental Festival, Iris International Film Festival, and Austin Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. His short THINGS GIRLS DO has been selected to stream and be featured on HDFEST.com. Another short film LOVE, DEATH, and CARS was picked up for distribution and will be released on DVD by Village Lighthouse in April as part of FIRST OUT 2, the second in a series of award-winning GBLT shorts DVD compilations. More details at: http://www.10percent.com/shopping_cart/products/index.cfm?product_id=106677. He has also received a book contract from Allyn & Bacon for MAKING DOCUMENTARIES: A Critical and Practical Approach to Non-Fiction FIlm, Video, and New Media, due out Fall 2009. And last but not least, ONE DEGREE, his second prize finisher in the 2007 Harvardwood/Circle of Confusion screenwriting contest, is in pre-production. He will be directing as his first feature, going into production this May! They are seeking recording studio time, a contracts lawyer, a couple of investors committed to pushing the boundaries of independent cinema, and anyone with a connection to John Waters (Brody can explain....). Congrats!

Nancy Redd's '03 new self-help book BODY DRAMA (Gotham/Penguin), which is the first-ever photographic health book for young women, debuted December 27th. It is featured on the USA Today Best-Selling Book List and it has been nominated for a 2008 NAACP Image Award. Eve Ensler says, "BODY DRAMA should be center stage in every young woman's life." Judy Norsigian, co-author of "Our Bodies, Ourselves" says, "This honest, funny, and lucidly-written book is the perfect antidote to a culture constantly teaching young women to angst about their bodies." BODY DRAMA has been featured on Good Morning America, in GLAMOUR Magazine, USA Today, New York Magazine, Salon.com, Gayle King's Oprah & Friends XM Radio Show, PEOPLE Magazine, NPR News & Notes, and more. For reviews, media clips, more information or to order BODY DRAMA visit www.nancyredd.com.

Brian Wescott '84 writes, "I'm helping mount the play TALKING WITH ANGELS starring my acting coach Shelley Mitchell, who happens to be Sean Penn's favorite teacher. Based on actual WWII diaries, the play follows an Austrian woman and three Jewish friends who received extraordinary visitations from beings calling themselves angels. Ms. Mitchell plays all the roles in a tour-de-force evening of theater. Reviews, etc., may be
found at www.talkingwithangels.com. The show runs Jan. 31 - Feb. 10 (Thur - Sun), at The Ruby Theater, 6576 Santa Monica Blvd., LA 90038. Ticket info at www.plays411.com/angels or 323-960-5774. Feel free to contact me with
questions at [email protected]

Rupak Ginn '05 just landed a romantic lead role in Disney's "The Cheetah Girls: One World," which shoots in India Feb-April. This film completes The Cheetah Girls trilogy, which is executive produced by Debra Martin Chase.

Katierose Donohue A.R.T ’05 has been performing with 3 Hole Punch. Check out their show this weekend at The Fake Gallery, 4319 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles.

Congrats to all of our members who had films at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival: Matt Lane (executive producer, THE DEAL); Mark Lee (executive producer, HALF-LIFE); Winnie Li (associate producer, THE BROKEN), and Mike Roiff (producer, AMERICAN SON). Also, Richard Ruiz '07 writes: "The Sundance film LOVE COMES LATELY has a number of key Harvard connections. The director, Jan Schutte, taught film at Harvard in the VES department during the 05-06 academic year. In addition, a number of his students helped with the preproduction and production of the film including Richard Ruiz '07 (myself), Alexa Bush '07, Jasmine McGlade '07, Stephen Black '07, and Travis Wood '07.

Pencil Me In...

Spring Course at Harvard - "Three Scripts: The Craft of Storytelling on Stage, Television, and Screen"

Harvardwood member and established writer-producer Jeff Melvoin '75 (ALIAS, ARMY WIVES) will be a Visiting Lecturer in Dramatic Arts for the spring semester at Harvard. His course, "Three Scripts: The Craft of Storytelling on Stage, Television, and Screen," will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:30 - 1 pm. This course explores the craft of scriptwriting through close analysis of a play, teleplay, and screenplay. Comparing the demands of each form, students examine the creative process to understand how a writer uses specific tools to construct stories based on universal dramatic principles. The course also considers how “real world” issues affect professional writing. Video and live performance will supplement reading, discussion, and written assignments. Note: Intended for both creative writers and general students. For more information, visit the online course catalogue, or contact: [email protected]

Featured Member Posting: Universal Pictures Seeks Manager, Business Development/Strategic Planning

Universal Pictures is seeking exceptional candidates with 3 - 5 years of work experience including prior experience in the entertainment industry. The individual also MUST possess: Prior experience in strategy consulting, investment banking and/or business development/strategic planning at an entertainment company; Undergraduate degree; Excellent quantitative and analytical skills, including significant financial modeling experience; Ability to handle multiple tasks under tight deadlines; Outstanding written and verbal communication skills, including the ability to author and deliver presentations... To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/networking/opening.asp?id=20374

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