Issue 57 | October 2009

* Director's Notes
* Message from Mia
* Pencil Me In:

  • Harvardwood Presents: Party w/ OTHELLO Director, Peter Sellars '81! Thurs., Oct. 1 – NY
  • Harvardwood Screening of PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL, Fri., Oct. 9 – NY
  • DTA Invites Harvardwood to: UNDERSTANDING BEETHOVEN-THE DIABELLI VARIATIONS, Thurs., Oct.15–NY
  • Georgia Chapter of Harvardwood Launch Party, Thurs., Oct. 1 – ATL
  • Harvardwood Heads To...HBS & Friends Century City Happy Hour, Thurs., Oct. 1 – LA
  • Harvardwood Heads To...Jeremy Juuso's Book Signing, hosted by Media Services, Thurs., Oct. 1 – LA
  • Harvardwood Seminar Series: KA-POW! The Explosion of Comics in Hollywood, Wed., Oct. 14 – LA
  • Harvardwood Heads To...Half the Sky: An Evening with Author Nicholas Kristof '82, Mon., Oct. 26 – LA
  • Harvardwood Heads To...Sarah Lockwood Barr in Cambridge! Sat., Oct. 24 – MA

* Harvardwood Writers' Program (HWP) for Screenwriters in Boston! - MA
* Seeking Writers for HWP (Harvardwood Writers' Program) Fiction Group - LA
* Actors Reading Writers Seeks Small Space for 3-Hour Workshop - LA
* Support Harvardwood by Shopping at Ralph's and get FREE Months of Membership
* Industry Successes
* HWP TV Pilot Showcase Success!
* Featured Member Posting: Seeking Assistant to Established Executive Producer/Director/Writer
* Member Profile: Jonathan Mostow, '83

Director's Notes

Ahh, Fall is finally here and thank goodness because I was about to melt in that LA late summer heat! I am very excited for all of the Harvardwood happenings this October including a few awesome firsts. This October we are introducing a new Harvardwood Chapter in the wonderful state of Georgia, the birthplace of James Brown, Ray Charles, and other artistic greats. It's awesome to find out just how many Harvardwood members we have in all parts of the country, and I am thrilled to see what will come from our neighbors to the South. And Boston writers, take note -- the Harvardwood Writers Program (HWP) is starting a new module closer to our Crimson mothership, right in the heart of Cambridge. So dust off those screenplays, the HWP script menu awaits! And on top of all this, more fantastic events are coming your way, including a PARTY with OTHELLO director Peter Sellars '81, an LA panel with the best in the business of comics & graphic novels, and more, so don't let October pass you by without checking in on a Harvardwood shin-dig or two!

-- Kelley

Message from Mia

Thanks to everyone who participated in our global Harvardwood events in September! Special appreciation to Harvard professor John Stauffer, filmmaker Rodrigo Garcia '82, screenwriter/teacher Corey Mandell, and director Andrew Bujalski '98, as well as our Chapter Heads for organizing events in Toronto (Mark Solovey), London (Uzma Hasan), DC (Mark R. Carter), San Francisco (Julia Ogrydziak), and NYC (Spence Porter and Suki Cheong)! Read on for all the upcoming Harvardwood haps and a profile on our very own Jonathan Mostow '83...

-- Mia

Pencil Me In...

Harvardwood Presents: Party w/ OTHELLO Director, Peter Sellars '81! Thurs., Oct. 1 – NY

Harvardwood is throwing a party for OTHELLO director Peter Sellars, and you're invited! Sellars' new production of OTHELLO at the Public Theater with Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of the hottest tickets in New York. Both in theater and opera he has focused on bringing contemporary relevance to classic texts, connecting the texts with political and social issues of our own time...For more info and to register, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/event/sellarsOct1

Harvardwood Screening of PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL, Fri., Oct. 9 – NY

"Uplifting, disheartening, inspiring, enraging - the mind reels while watching the documentary PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL, even as the eyes water, the temples pound and the body trembles," wrote the New York Times. "Unbelievably inspiring!" wrote the LA Daily News...Directed by Academy award nominee Gini Reticker and produced by Abigail Disney, PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL tells the story of the courageous Liberian women who came together to end a bloody civil war...Following the screening, producer Abigail Disney, whose grandfather co-founded the Walt Disney Co., will tell how she found her passion in philanthropy, turning her riches into helping others...To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/event/disneyOct9

DTA Invites Harvardwood to: UNDERSTANDING BEETHOVEN-THE DIABELLI VARIATIONS, Thurs., Oct.15 – NY

Widely considered one of the two greatest sets of variations ever written, and a pinnacle of Western civilization, Beethoven's DIABELLI VARIATIONS can be notoriously difficult for many listeners to fully grasp. In this special lecture/performance, pianist Yelena Grinberg will guide us through the musical and spiritual subtleties of this profound masterpiece. At the end of her talk, Grinberg will give a complete performance of the DIABELLI VARIATIONS...To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/event/dtaOct15

Georgia Chapter of Harvardwood Launch Party, Thurs., Oct. 1 – ATL

Georgia Chapter of Harvardwood Launch Party and First Meeting! Come to the launch party to learn more about Harvardwood, to become involved in the newly formed Georgia Chapter of Harvardwood, or to simply meet other Harvard alums involved in the arts, entertainment, and media...To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/event/galaunchOct1

Harvardwood Heads To...HBS & Friends Century City Happy Hour, Thurs., Oct. 1 – LA

Join us as Harvardwood Heads To...HBS and Friends Century City Happy Hour, Thursday, October 1st from 5:30-8:30 PM... To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=76833

Harvardwood Heads To...Jeremy Juuso's Book Signing, hosted by Media Services, Thurs., Oct. 1 – LA

Join us as Harvardwood Heads To...Jeremy Juuso’s book signing, hosted by Media Services, Thursday, October 1st from 6:00-9:00PM. The book covers a step-by-step approach to writing business plans for film...To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=79634

Harvardwood Seminar Series: KA-POW! The Explosion of Comics in Hollywood, Wed., Oct. 14 – LA

The Harvardwood Seminar Series (HSS) presents: KA-POW! The Explosion of Comics in Hollywood! The panel will provide an inside look into the intersection of comics/graphic novels and film. In particular, it will look at the business and art of comics/graphic novels and how that translates into film, both from commercial and artistic perspectives. Our panelists provide a diverse cross-section of the comic/film universe...To register and view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/event/hsslaComic

Harvardwood Heads To...Half the Sky: An Evening with Author Nicholas Kristof '82, Mon., Oct. 26 – LA

The Harvard Club of Southern California and the Cornell Club of Los Angeles invites Harvardwood members to a reception and dinner with The New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, author of HALF THE SKY: TURNING OPPRESSION INTO OPPORTUNITY FOR WOMEN WORLDWIDE. Register today as this event is likely to sell out! Oprah Winfrey will air a segment featuring Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn on her show, Thursday, Oct. 1st...To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=79635

Harvardwood Heads To...Sarah Lockwood Barr in Cambridge! Sat., Oct. 24 – MA

Sarah Lockwood Barr is sister of Harvard College senior and Harvardwood member Nora Barr. A singer/songwriter in Nashville, attending Vanderbilt University, Sarah will be in Boston at the end of October to perform her most recent songs before she releases her EP this summer. See videos of Sarah’s previous performances on Nora’s YouTube account page...To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=79316

Harvardwood Writers' Program (HWP) for Screenwriters in Boston!

The HARVARDWOOD WRITERS’ PROGRAM is happy to announce the start of a feature screenwriting module beginning this October in Boston. This screenwriting workshop is for Full Members of Harvardwood who are serious about polishing up a script, writing a treatment, or completing a feature-length work. Several workshop meetings will offer interaction and consultation with media professionals. Upon completion of the workshop, participating writers will have the opportunity to post their work on the Harvardwood script menu, circulated to agents, producers, etc...To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/news/30888/Harvardwood-Writers-Program-HWP-for-Screenwriters-in-Boston.htm

Seeking Writers for HWP (Harvardwood Writers' Program) Fiction Group - LA

The HWP (Harvardwood Writers Program) Fiction Group seeks writers to fill two open positions in our group. We're writers working on novels who meet every third Saturday to critique each others work and provide support and motivation. You should be working on a novel, live in the Los Angeles area and be willing to both submit your own work and spend time reading others. In the interest of making sure you're a good fit, please include a summary of what you're working on as well as a 10 page, double-spaced sample of your work in your e-mail...To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/news/30656/Seeking-Writers-for-HWP-Harvardwood-Writers-Program-Fiction-Group.htm

Actors Reading Writers Seeks Small Space for 3-Hour Workshop - LA

The Actors Reading Writers Workshop is looking for free / sponsored space to run its monthly script reading. The group is small, about 11-13 people, and runs for 3 hours. We'd be happy to meet in a house, office, conference room, theater, etc. No commitment necessary, sponsors can host just one meeting, or whenever schedules permit. Please email [email protected]

Support Harvardwood by Shopping at Ralph's and get FREE Months of Membership

Support Harvardwood with Ralph's Community Contribution Program! In order to keep Harvardwood dues low, our organization participates in the Ralphs grocery store Community Contribution program -- every time one of our members or affiliates shops at Ralphs, a small percentage of the total expenditure goes back to Harvardwood! As an added bonus, if you sign up for the Community Contribution program before Oct. 31st, we'll add 3 FREE MONTHS of Full Membership to your account! To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/news/30657/Support-Harvardwood-by-shopping-at-Ralphs-and-get-FREE-months-of-membership.htm

Industry Successes...

Paul M. J. Suchecki '76 took home his first Emmy Award for "Outdoor Electrical Safety." He wrote, produced, edited, and hosted the 1/2 hour documentary which won in instructional programming. The show is playing online at http://www.checkmatepictures.com/oes.htm

Actor Andrew Burlinson '97 recently signed with Coast to Coast Talent Group's Adult theatrical division. The agency contacted him after seeing him in the Harvardwood TV Pilot Showcase. Burlinson is currently signed with LA Talent for commercial representation and has booked eight national commercials in the past eleven months. To see his reel and resume, visit www.gentlemanrockstar.com.

AN EVENING OF MUSIC AND COMEDY VI at Don't Tell Mama is a showcase and variety show taking place Monday, October 5th in NYC that will feature composer and lyricist Zoe Sarnak '09, who will perform songs from her original new musical "The Quad." Showtime is 7:00 pm, door opens at 6:30pm. For reservations call Don't Tell Mama at 212-757-0788.

KILLER - a short film written & directed by Jack Pettibone Riccobono '03 & Adam Leon - has been selected to screen at the 2009 Woodstock Film Festival on Friday, October 2nd and Saturday, October 3rd in the OUT OF OUR MINDS Shorts Program. KILLER premiered in April as one of six shorts selected for the 2009 New Directors / New Films Series at the Museum of Modern Art & Lincoln Center, and won Showtime's Tony Cox Award for Best Screenwriting at the 2009 Nantucket Film Festival. Watch the trailer at KILLERSHORT.com and visit WoodstockFilmFestival.com for full festival info.

Jeremy Juuso ’98 has written GETTING THE MONEY: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE FOR WRITING BUSINESS PLANS FOR FILM. Published by MWP (THE WRITER’S JOURNEY, SAVE THE CAT!, etc.), the book is launching October 1st at retailers nationwide. For more info, or for free data on independent films, visit his consulting firm at www.jeremyjuuso.com.

Rupert Russell GSAS '09-'12, PhD candidate in Sociology at Harvard University, received a grant from the National Science Foundation for his doctoral dissertation which seeks to unpack the paradox of why some shows get made and others don’t. He is looking to interview studio executives, agents, producers, and directors over the next couple of months in Los Angeles, and in New York this coming Spring. If you hold one of these positions yourself, or know somebody who does, please contact Rupert at [email protected] -- http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/soc/gs/Russell_Rupert/

Anne Toole (Harvard College) won the Write Brothers FBCC Comic Scriptwriting Competition for an original comic book story set during WWII. In other news, WIZARD 101, a game she wrote for, graced the cover of Game Developer Magazine in September. Also, she will most likely follow you if you follow her on Twitter @amely.

Katherine Boutry's GSAS '97 spec DEXTER, "Family Ties," is a Finalist in the 2009 Austin Film Festival teleplay competition. The winner will be announced at the Festival in October. Fingers crossed...Thanks!

Dani Dixon’s '97 short film IN CONFLICT WITH KISMET, which she wrote and directed, will be making its U.S. television debut on BET this month (check http://www.BET.com or http://www.ConflictFilms.com for air dates and times). Also on TV this month, books and art from two of the comic book series Dani created - “13” and ESCAPE! TO OUTER SPACE - will be featured in the 4th episode of ABC’s new Christian Slater vehicle THE FORGOTTEN (airing 10/20/09 on ABC @ 10:00PM). For more info on her comics visit http://www.TUMBLECREEKPRESS.com. Lastly, THE HIDING, a horror flick Dani wrote, releases on DVD October 13th (Netflix, Blockbuster, etc.). The indie title got a nod from IFC’s “Anywhere But a Movie Theater” list for the month (http://www.IFC.com).

HWP TV Pilot Showcase Success!

The most recent module of the Harvardwood Writers Program (HWP) culminated in The TV Pilot Showcase on August 18th at the Writers Guild of America in Los Angeles. The showcase featured the first collaboration between the Writers Program and the new Harvardwood Actors Program (HAP). The exciting evening attracted a standing-room-only audience of Hollywood producers, casting directors, studio executives and other industry luminaries. Directed by Nick Weiss, produced by Allison Kiessling and stage managed by Robyn Heller, the showcase featured Harvard actors Mark Bramhall, Andrew Burlinson, Katierose Donohue, Deborah Knox, Rebecca Lawrence, Voltaire Rico Sterling, and Angela Wiggins performing staged excerpts from four pilots written by Harvardwood writers Jamie Mayer, Sara Bibel, Alison McKenzie and Loni Steele. For more information on this event, please visit www.harvardwoodshowcase.org. To read the featured pilots – as well as other pilots not featured in the showcase—contact Allison Kiessling at [email protected]

Featured Member Posting: Assistant for EP/Director/Writer

SEEKING THE ULTIMATE ASSISTANT -- If you’re a perfectionist (that is, you sweat the details), industry savvy, team player, organized, creative, dynamic and not a timeclock puncher…read on. Established executive producer/director/writer seeks an assistant with a passion for both television and film. Phones, scheduling, coverage and interaction with some of the best in film and television. Should be available to work in both Los Angeles and New York...To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/networking/opening.asp?id=70468

Member Profile: Jonathan Mostow, '83 - No Surrogate for This Original

by Anthony Cistaro ART '97

You’ve seen the provocative billboards everywhere. Beautiful, youthful people lifting their shirts to reveal metal machinery where their midsections should be – “Human perfection. What could go wrong?” The posters announce the arrival of the heavily anticipated Bruce Willis/Ving Rhames action thrill ride, Surrogates, directed by Harvard’s own Jonathan Mostow.

Originally from Woodbridge, Connecticut, Jonathan Mostow began his professional paying career in entertainment on the day he turned 16 (he ran down to the local movie theater and got a job as an usher). Later in college, while browsing Harvard’s course catalogue, Mostow found a single filmmaking class – available only to “Visual and Environmental Studies” majors. Mostow declared the VES major so he could take the filmmaking class.

Upon graduation, Mostow left the relatively small Boston commercial/industrial film scene and moved to Los Angeles. There, Jonathan embarked on a “very long, impoverished and setback-filled journey that finally led to me making my first film.”

It took Mostow seven years. During that time, he made a living coaching students preparing for the SAT. He also wrote business plans. “Somebody saw ‘Harvard’ on my resume and mistakenly thought I was an MBA or something,” said Mostow. “By the time I had finished, I had written up a plan for a billion-dollar company, which I had no business doing whatsoever. I don’t even know if they’re still financially solvent…”

Mostow got a lot of notice in 1991 for the Showtime movie Flight of Black Angel, which he developed with his recurring collaborators, writers Michael Ferris '83 and John Brancato '80. (Incidentally, Ferris was Mostow’s college roommate. Both Ferris and Brancato edited the Harvard Lampoon, and Surrogates marks the most recent team effort for Mostow and Ferris/Brancato).

Based on the strength of Black Angel, Mostow then caught the brass ring of a studio feature that was a definite “greenlight.” The script, however, just wasn’t material that Jonathan connected with. He passed on the project. “I thought at the time maybe I was making a mistake, but I also knew that it wasn’t a movie I could be passionate about. And I decided that if I can’t work as a director on the terms I want to have, then I should go and do something else.”

Ever self-effacing, Mostow continues, “It may sound silly coming from a guy whose pictures are all genre-based entertainment. It’s not like I’m making emotional movies about my grandmother or something. I’m making big, fast, hopefully mass-appeal studio movies. But for me personally in each of these films I’ve made, there’s always been something that I found compelling and interesting – so that every morning when I get up, I’m interested when I go to work.”

Mostow has found much that compels and interests him in Surrogates. Surrogates first found form as a popular graphic novel that painted a world in the not-too-distant future where people avoid the dangers of daily life by sending “surrogate” robots out to the world as stand-ins for them, while they experience life from the comfort of their own homes.

Surrogates struck Mostow as a metaphor for life in the digital age: “We’re in this transformative period in human history where you don’t actually leave your house for things – you can get all your information online, you can do all your shopping, you can communicate with people whether it’s by Twitter or Facebook or email. And so we’re more connected to the world and to people than we’ve ever been. Yet on a human level we’re far more disconnected because we’re not really interfacing with people in person any more.”

Mostow is also known as an actor’s director. Actors love to work with him. When asked why, Mostow said, “When I had all that free time early on in my career, I took acting classes. Not so much because I wanted to be an actor, but because if I was going to work with actors I wanted to be more tuned to the acting process. And I have to credit one of my acting teachers, Stella Adler, for teaching me how to get in touch with and develop that indicator inside that can cause you to recognize when a scene isn’t working – and just say ‘Stop’ and work to fix it.”

Mostow finds that the responsibility of oversight is sometimes the loneliest part about being a director, “Everybody in the process is most concerned about their own personal piece in it – the actors are worried about the lines, the cinematographer’s worried about the shots – but ultimately the director’s the guy who will be held accountable for whether or not the movie works.”

When asked for a few parting words of advice, Mostow shared the following: “Friendships and relationships will far outlast any business venture you’re in – and so I’ve always put my friendships and personal relationships as a priority. Always tell the truth. Don’t behave any differently in a professional Hollywood situation than in any other circumstance. Basically my experience of Hollywood has been that most of the people I’ve dealt with are really decent, really honest, hardworking people. I haven’t experienced what the cliché of Hollywood is – I think the outside perception is far less charitable and more negative than what it really is.”

Aspiring filmmakers take note – for Jonathan Mostow, it’s all about integrity. Check out Mostow’s latest at your local Cineplex and learn something about how to make an action picture with heart.


 

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