Issue 45 | October 2008

  • Message from Membership Directors Kibi & Angela
  • Message from Mia
  • Harvardwood Books
  • Harvardwood Writers' Program, Screenwriting - NYC
  • Industry Successes
  • Wanna become an Industry Success?
  • Pencil Me In - Harvardwood Magazine Panel - Sat., Nov. 8th, NYC
  • Featured Member Posting: Seeking Assistant to TV Literary Agent - LA
  • Tinseltown in the Desert: Hollywood Comes to Abu Dhabi


Message from the Membership Directors

Thanks to all who attended our Harvardwood events last month, and to all those who made them possible. Keep your eyes on the website and emails for more to come! Please keep sharing your stories, Till next time...

Angela and Kibi

Message from Mia

It's been a busy October on both coasts with a networking mixer in NYC at the National Arts Club, an event with Harvard Food & Wine in Cambridge, as well as a Bay Area event at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music! All you New Yorkers, be sure to join us for Harvardwood Heads To...ALL MY SONS next week, check out the upcoming Harvardwood Magazine Panel on Nov. 8th, and keep reading for more info on the imminent launch of the Harvardwood Writers Program for screenwriters in NYC.

Harvardwood Books is still seeking submissions for our imprint, see below for more details on how to get your work published. And finally, don't forget to check out the Harvardwood Channel and post your own work for our members and the general public to view:


Harvardwood Books

Harvardwood is pleased to offer its members the possibility of publishing their books under a new, dedicated imprint. In partnership with Unlimited Publishing LLC, a prominent print-on-demand publisher founded in 2000 by Danny O. Snow, a Harvard College graduate. Harvardwood Books will soon co-publish a select group of titles with UP. Full Members of Harvardwood are invited to submit their original manuscripts (or reprint editions of previously published books) to which they own all copyrights for consideration. For more info, please visit:
An interview with Danny Snow is available on the Harvardwood Channel:

Harvardwood Writers' Program, Screenwriting - NYC

Attention Harvard screenwriters! We will soon be launching a Harvardwood Writers' Program screenwriting group in NYC, based on the LA model. The group will meet on a regular basis to share feedback and hear from guest speakers, and completed scripts will receive coverage at the end of the program. Projected start date is beginning to mid-November, subject to change. Only Full Members of Harvardwood are eligible to participate. For more details, please visit:

Industry Successes...

This has been a busy two months for Adam Pena A.R.T. '04. He booked a principal role the in the new Ron Howard movie, Angels & Demons, appeared in the World Premiere of the play Sona Tera Roman Hess at the Lounge Theatre with New Perspectives Theatre Productions and will be appearing in the short film, Repare al Mecanico at the Elevate Film Festival Sunday Oct.5th at the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. Adam and his wife just had their 2nd anniversary and their son Micajah just turned six months old.

Brían Wescott won a development grant from ITVS to write a four-hour TV series called "Native Century". It's an unconventional docu series with live action surveying the adventures of Native Americans in the 20th century and beyond. He is writing and producing with Emmy-award winner Leslie Clark; Katahdin Productions is handling executive producer duties. He also just got cast to play a vampire slayer in the short film "Liminality", to shoot in October.

Miranda Yousef (College) has won the Best Woman Director category for the prestigious 2008 DGA Student Film Awards for her short film, "Collectibles." The film, which played the Jackson Hole Film Festival this summer, will be at the Chicago International Children's Film Festival in late October/early November 2008 (see for details). Miranda will be attending from Oct. 30-Nov. 2, so if you're in the Chicago area, feel free to look her up!

Sara Melson's track "Rise Up" was featured on the October 6th episode of MTV's Exiled, and the following four episodes of the N network's South of Nowhere will feature her song "Dirty Mind" in a significant role in the storyline of the show, as the lead character "writes" and "sings" Sara's song. The episodes air on the following four dates this fall: 10/10 at 9pm; 10/17 at 8:30pm; 11/7 at 8:30pm; 12/12 at 8pm. In addition, Sara's song "Turquoise Sky" will be on American Airlines Radio for the month of December, so purchase those two-dollar headphones for your holiday travel and tune into channel 5 on-air!

Writer/Performer Julio Vincent Gambuto '00 invites the Harvard alumni community to a special industry presentation of his one-man show, "Julie from Staten Island," a comic stage memoir that follows Gambuto from New York's fifth and oft-forgotten borough of Staten Island to the ivy-covered gates of Harvard Yard to the streets of South Brooklyn. In LA: Thursday, October 23 at ACME Comedy Theatre ( For comp tickets, email [email protected] For show information, visit

Wanna become an Industry Success?

Harvard College alums and Harvardwood members Rob Cain and Chuck Bush are pleased to announce the establishment of a new private film & TV financing facility, offering $500,000 to $1.5 million in non-equity financing for qualified projects. Competitive financial terms; fast and efficient loan processing and closing, often within two weeks.

* Loans against committed presales
* Loans against presale estimates (gap financing) for up to 15% of a film¹s
* Monetization of tax credits. Can close transactions in any jurisdiction,
* Short term bridge financing secured by bank or distributor obligations.
Specialize in distressed situations in which a picture has fallen short in
its financing during production and needs a short term loan for completion.
* Post-production and finishing funds secured against receivables from

For more information contact Rob Cain at: [email protected];

Pencil Me In...

Harvardwood Magazine Panel - Sat., Nov. 8th, NYC

Aspiring writers, editors and magazine buffs, please join us for our Harvardwood Magazine Panel in NYC on SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 8th from 2:00 - 4:00 pm at the Norwood Club (241 West 14th Street). Four top alum magazine editors will be sharing thoughts and tips about how to break in, how to establish a career, and where the industry is heading. They'll also discuss what goes on behind the scenes at their rarified titles: the nuts and bolts of how they gauge what readers want to read in each issue, and the mix of creativity and sleeplessness that goes into their work as magazine editors. Speakers will include John Homans '80 (Executive Editor of New York Magazine), Alix Browne '91 (Deputy Style Editor of The New York Times Magazine), Christopher Cox '02 (Senior Editor of The Paris Review), Valerie Steiker '90 (Culture Editor of Vogue), and moderator Arianne Cohen '03 (freelance magazine writer).

Advance tickets are $2 for Full Members of Harvardwood and $5 for Affiliates, Friends of Harvardwood and guests if purchased by WED. NOV. 5th. All tickets are $8 after Wed. Nov. 5th. Seating is capped, so please register and purchase tickets in advance:

Featured Member Posting: Seeking Assistant to TV Literary Agent - LA

Assistant needed for very busy TV Literary agent at the Gersh Agency. Position deals with a high volume of phone calls, sending and tracking submissions, coordinating industry information, tracking client payments, processing contracts and agreements, expenses, scheduling meetings and maintaining large DVD library. Applicant should be detail oriented, hard-working, capable of multi-tasking, and have a serious interest in the TV business. This is a good job for anyone that wants to work in televison as an agent, manager, producer, or executive. (Not suitable for someone who is hoping to get writing done on the job.) A strong desire to work hard and learn is much more important than previous experience... To view full posting, please visit:

Tinseltown in the Desert: Hollywood Comes to Abu Dhabi

by Effie-Michelle Metallidis

In a city off of the Persian Gulf, Spike Lee looks every bit the Brooklyn-born New Yorker as he digs his heels in, preparing for a tussle. It is the first night of the second annual Abu Dhabi Circle Conference in the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, and Lee has encountered the frustration of some of the local filmmakers attending the opening night panel.

"Excuse me, sir," Lee says, interrupting an Iranian audience member who has been razzing him about the commercialism of Hollywood. "You are from the Middle East, correct?" Yes, the man replies. "And when you say, Middle East, I take it that you mean a group of Arabic countries that all have different groups, languages, and people, correct?" Yes, the main replies again. "Well in the same way, sir, Hollywood, like the Middle East, is not a monolith. There are many different shades that make up Hollywood. You can say Hollywood is the same the way you can say the Middle East is the same."

Lee and other tinseltown heavyweights would go on to refer to Hollywood throughout the conference in various ways. It debases and discriminates, it offers unparalleled opportunities, it launches careers and is the greatest exporter of American culture. Hollywood, it seemed, had become the main character in the unfolding drama of Abu Dhabi's budding film industry.

It is an industry that has potential. Abu Dhabi is the largest of the seven Emirates that comprise the country and possesses the majority of the country's oil assets, as well as around 10% of the world's reserves. Like its Gulf neighbors, the UAE is energetically plowing its revenue back into the country and diversifying its industries. Film is the latest venture, and recent projects have augured well for a profitable future: the Circle, a Sundance-like institution meant to train rising filmmakers, was created by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage last year and was immensely successful in funding rising film talent. Add ImageNation, a recently-launched $250 million fund created by the Abu Dhabi Media Company to produce around 15 films within the next five years, as well as twentyfour54, the recently-launched production arm of ADMC that is currently partnering with BBC, CNN, and National Geographic to make Abu Dhabi the main producer of regional content by 2030. Add also the Middle East International Film Festival, which drew stars like Antonio Banderas, Meg Ryan, Andrien Brody, Katherine Deneuve, Jane Fonda, and Spike Lee among others; combine it with the $72 billion investment in media that Abu Dhabi spent last year, and the makings of a well-resourced industry begin to emerge.

Graham Taylor, the head of independent film at Endeavor Agency who spoke at the Circle, said he saw a lot of positive signs for Abu Dhabi as a centre of film. "I see a lot of things are being set in place: mentoring programs with producers, agents, financiers, directors, and the funding to make the movies," he said. "If you take a look at all the other countries developing film industries, there is unparalleled growth here."

Taylor also pointed out that it would take about five to 10 years in order to build a proper film industry, which was a sentiment that Lee and others echoed, emphasizing that longevity was a critical factor in success. "As a studio executive, my main concern is having an honest conversation with governments about the change they are going to bring in," said John Hadity, the a former studio executive at Miramax Films. "I sit down and I say, look: I'm going to come to your country, hire a lot of people, pay them well, employ them for 3-4 months and then leave. Are you ready for the expectations that these people will have once we are gone?" Hadity cited New Zealand and New York as two prime examples where the film industry fell once local governments refused to provide incentives for studios. "The studios went elsewhere and people lost their jobs," he said. "You need to consistently have films coming in to sustain an industry."

Kathleen Kennedy of the Kennedy/Marshall Company expressed her hope that a film viewing culture would take root in the Gulf. "I think establishing a proper movie culture is one of the biggest challenges," she said. "Saudi Arabia currently doesn't have any movie theatres; Morocco has some; Tunisia less. There's a reliance on DVDs, but it's not the same as walking into a movie theatre and having the experience with all these people in front of the screen. I'd love to see that change because I think the opportunities here are great."

There is no lack of demand for television and film in the Emirates, where temperatures over 110 degrees usher many into air-conditioned malls during the summer and TV stations prepare a line-up of special late-night movie programming for the holy month of Ramadan. Hollywood has already jumped on the commercial bandwagon. Warner Bros, which signed a deal last year with two Abu Dhabi companies, is slated to develop a theme park, multiplexes, and regional media content.

However, speakers cautioned that drive and persistence are the penultimate keys to having local filmmakers, producers and actors create a lasting industry. "These reality shows nowadays make young people think they don't need to do any work," Lee opined. "No work, no sweat, and they're gonna be an overnight success. There is no such thing as an overnight success. If you want to be filmmakers, you need to work hard."

Walid al-Awadi, the Kuwaiti-born CEO of C Sky Pictures, echoed the sentiment. Telling a crowded room on Wednesday night that he moved to Los Angeles against the wishes of his parents to become a filmmaker, he exhorted the youth in the audience to take decisions upon themselves and go against the grain. "I was so desperate to work for good filmmakers that I would offer to do editing for free," he said. "I ended up working for phenomenal people in this way."

Awadi hopes to bring 10 Emirati filmmakers on location to Morocco to work on his latest movie project in December as part of the Circle's Adasa Film Labs initiative to train Emirati talent. The film lab is a year-round program in which students participate in a summer lab in Los Angeles and fall and spring labs in Abu Dhabi. Joseph McGinty "McG" Nichols, the director of Charlie's Angels and the OC television series, promised to bring Adasa students to Los Angeles in order to provide them with hands-on training in Hollywood next summer.

Fadel al Muhairi and Saeed al Dhaheri, two Adasa participants, were on hand for the panel discussions. Dhaheri particularly found Lee's speech to be a wake-up call for him and his fellow filmmakers. "When I see young filmmakers complaining they don't have this or that, but then here I meet directors who have nothing and are making their dreams—there is no excuse," Dhaheri said. "One director I met told me it took him 12 years to make his movie because he could not get the money. When I hear that, I think anything is possible."

Enthusiasm was palpable in the audience as filmmakers received unprecedented opportunities to meet fellow filmmakers and interact with Hollywood industry professionals. For Hisham Zaman, a Kurdish-Iraqi filmmaker, the conference was a source of inspiration. "To be here is good," said the director of Winterland. "Those I am nominated with are more talented than me, and I feel they have done so much and I have done so little, so it makes me want to push myself further when I go home."

Hicham Ayouch, this year's winner of the Circle's screenplay competition, felt that keynote speakers like Spike Lee encouraged filmmakers to find their own path to success. "I respect Lee, but I also believe that he's right when he says that there is no set recipe," said the writer of Samba de Maazouz (Mazzouz's Samba). "I don't believe one certain style or way is the 'right' way." Ayouch was one of six finalists in the Circle's Sasha Grant competition, which awards $100,000 to an up-and-coming filmmaker. Ayouch is the second winner of the Sasha Grant; Soman Chainani, last year's winner, is currently in pre-production on the movie he pitched and will begin shooting on location in London next year.

- Effie-Michelle Metallidis works for The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi

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