Issue 47 | December 2008

  • Holiday Message from the Harvardwood Board
  • Member Profile: Alex Franklin '96
  • Industry Successes
  • Personal Successes
  • Pencil Me In: Harvardwood / HBS Trek Mixer, Wed. Jan. 7th - LA
  • Featured Member Posting: Seeking Account Executive, Publicity Division - LA

Holiday Message from the Harvardwood Board

Dear Harvardwood family,

As most of you know, we have been an entirely volunteer-run organization since our inception in 1999. Relying only on the energy and initiative of our volunteers, Harvardwood has created a variety of events, programs and resources, including the annual Harvard in Hollywood symposium, Harvardwood 101 career exploration trip for students, a summer internship program, on-campus guest speakers, writers' programs, a screenplay competition, career counseling, professional seminars, social events, the Harvardwood Highlights newsletter, and much more. In addition, over the past 9 years, we have grown into a 3000-member organization with local chapters and events in a dozen cities around the world as well as an extensive online community.

Due to University policy, Harvardwood receives NO funding from Harvard University or the Harvard Alumni Association. And in spite of our overwhelming growth, we have raised membership dues only once since incorporating as a 501c3 nonprofit. We remain committed to keeping dues affordable so that the opportunities created by Harvardwood are accessible to everyone. However, as we enter into our tenth year of existence, it is increasingly clear that more help is needed if Harvardwood is to survive.

For the first time ever, we ask you to please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our newly created administrative staff position. We will shortly begin the process of identifying and hiring an individual to take on this central role and help us sustain our current activities, continue to expand our offerings, and ensure the longevity of Harvardwood and its resources.

For more information or to make a donation, please visit:
We will be grateful for gifts of any amount -- thank you for your consideration!

Happy Holidays from Harvardwood!

Co-founders Mia Riverton Alpert, Stacy Cohen, and Adam Fratto
on behalf of the Harvardwood Board of Directors

Member Profile: Alex Franklin '96

by Sean O’Rourke MAT ’68

Sometimes the best route from one point to another is not a straight line. Alex Franklin’s career has demonstrated that. As an undergraduate, he developed an interest in theater and assumed a variety of roles including directing and producing with both the Harvard Radcliffe Dramatic Club and the American Repertory Theater, including directing a production of Christopher Durang’s "Titanic" on the main stage of the ART during his senior year.

Alex spent two years working for Boston-area theater companies and decided that he wanted to focus on producing. He joined former ART associate artistic director Steven Maler’s Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, which mounts outdoor productions of Shakespeare every summer on Boston Common.

On the strength of CSC’s early success, Maler was hired to direct an independent film shot in Boston entitled "The Autumn Heart", starring Ally Sheedy as a woman searching for her long-lost brother. The film eventually premiered in competition at the Sundance Film Festival. Alex worked as Maler’s assistant on the film and decided it was time for a career change.

Alex moved to Los Angeles and enrolled in the Peter Stark graduate producing program at USC Film School. In his first year, he met Mike De Luca, then head of production for New Line Cinema, and learned about the role of a studio executive. Under De Luca’s leadership New Line had produced a string of successful movies and was about to embark on producing the "Lord of the Rings" franchise. Alex decided that working at New Line was his goal.

Despite wearing what he calls some “really stupid looking clothes” to the interview, Alex was hired by Richard Saperstein, then senior executive vice-president of New Line. Saperstein would become his primary mentor in the film industry. Then Saperstein was hired as president of production at Artisan Entertainment, best known for "The Blair Witch Project". Alex joined Artisan and was promoted to creative executive, working on such films as "The Punisher".

A year and a half later Lionsgate bought out Artisan Entertainment and let go most of Artisan’s staff, including the entire development department. Alex was the lone exception. At Lionsgate, he served as director of development and worked on the development and production of several horror films including the "Saw" franchise.

When the Weinsteins hired Richard Saperstein to take over the genre label Dimension Films, Alex seized the opportunity to work again with his mentor. He spent two years working on films that included "Halloween", "1408", and "The Mist" and developing films with acclaimed genre directors such as Eli Roth, Darren Bousman and Alexander Aja. He also worked on "Scary Movie 4" and says, “Being a huge fan of 'Airplane', working with David Zucker was one of the most thrilling things I’ve ever done.”

When Richard Saperstein left Dimension Films in 2007, Alex decided to leave as well. Looking back on his eight year career working for studios, Alex says, “It’s funny. Even though I worked for four different studios, I feel like I had one job that lasted eight years.”

Instead of going to another studio, Alex joined cutting edge visual effects supervisor Jonah Loop and helped found Pangea Pictures, a high-end visual effects and production company that is building its own post-production facility in New Mexico and raising a fund in order to develop and produce its own independent feature films. Alex is excited about this new challenge and his second decade in Hollywood.

Industry Successes...

Wind Dancer has acquired the comedy spec, "BFF", from the writing team of Vanessa Parise & Robin Dunne. Described as a female buddy comedy with elements of UGLY BETTY & SWEET HOME ALABAMA, the script follows two childhood best friends reunited years later in Manhattan where one has found success while the other remained unfulfilled in their small home town. H2F's Chris Fenton & Chris Cowles will produce the project along with Matt Williams & Judd Payne of Wind Dancer. Dete Meserve negotiated the deal on behalf of Wind Dancer. Parise, an accomplished filmmaker in the indie world, exploded on the scene with her first feature film, KISS THE BRIDE, a festival darling in 2002 in which she also starred. She followed that up with last year's JACK AND JILL VS THE WORLD which just completed its run in theaters this summer. Dunne, who created, wrote, and produces the ROXY HUNTER franchise of films for Nickelodeon, also stars in the hit series SANCTUARY for Sci Fi Network.

Maxwell Taylor Kennedy '88 just finished a fascinating and timely book entitled "Danger's Hour." It is published by Simon & Schuster and is about kamikaze attacks in WWII, focussing on the most devastating of the war: the attack that crippled the carrier USS Bunker Hill during the battle at Okinawa. The book is a thorough, detailed and harrowing exploration of what Ken Burns calls "nothing short of hell... the most asymmetrical warfare we Americans have ever faced." Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin ("Team of Rivals") writes: “This book is a triumph—an original conception, a dramatic narrative superbly told, with lyrical portraits of brave men on opposite sides of a titanic struggle and impeccable research masterfully rendered. With Danger’s Hour, Maxwell Kennedy’s talents as a first-rate historian, an intrepid interviewer and a wonderful writer are on full display.” The book's official website is:

The Killing Room, produced by Ben Forkner '01, was accepted to premiere at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Jonathan Dorf '93 spent a month in Barbados this fall as a cultural envoy from the US State Department. While in Barbados, he taught playwriting through the National Cultural Foundation, served as a judge for the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts, met with local theatre practitioners and even appeared on "Good Morning, Barbados".

Personal Successes...

Born to Anthony Cistaro A.R.T. '97 and his wife Melissa -- a boy, Gianmarco Mikel Cistaro. Father is an actor -- he most recently guest-starred on NIP/TUCK which will air next season.

Pencil Me In...

Harvardwood / HBS Trek Mixer, Wed. Jan. 7th - LA

Harvardwood and the Harvard Business School Entertainment & Media Club invite you to the kickoff mixer for the 2008 HBS Hollywood Trek! The HBS Hollywood Trek is comprised of approximately 50 first and second year students who are interested in the entertainment industry. Hosted by HBS’ Entertainment & Media Club, the Hollywood Trek is a popular trip to the warmer west coast where students can explore the inner workings of Hollywood and the entertainment industry. Come share your experience and insight with the visiting HBS students! Please RSVP by sending your full name to [email protected] by Wednesday January 7th at 12:00 PM.

Wednesday January 7th at 7:00 PM - 9:30 PM
Bar Marmont
8171 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90046
(323) 650-0575

Featured Member Posting: Seeking Account Executive, Publicity Division - LA

Be part of a growing and emerging company. Share in our growth and the opportunities it brings. Position is for an Account Manager of the Publicity Division which will include managing clients and a small team of publicists. You will travel with these clients to service their needs at festivals, markets, conferences and for unit P.R. The position will work closely with the company’s Vice President meeting weekly to review client activity, plan future projects, and develop strategy... To view full posting, please visit:



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