Issue 59 | December 2009

* Director's Notes
* Message from Mia
* Introducing...the Harvardwood Volunteer of the Year (HARVY) Award Winners!
* Pencil Me In:

  • Harvardwood Screenwriting Lecture with Corey Mandell, Thurs., Dec. 3 – LA
  • Harvardwood/Stanford Holiday Party, Tues., Dec. 8 - EARLY BIRD TIX STILL AVAILABLE!! - LA
  • Harvardwood Heads To...Screening of EVERY DAY IS A HOLIDAY, Thurs., Dec.3 – NYC
  • DTA Invites Harvardwood to the Grayson M.P. Murphy Holiday Luncheon, Tues., Dec. 8 – NYC
  • Happy Harvardwood Holiday Party! Fri., Dec. 11 – NYC
  • Harvardwood Heads To...A book reading of new suspense novel, A QUICKER BLOOD, by Susan Alexander, Thurs., Dec. 3 – SF
  • Harvardwood Heads To...Jewish Film Festival Opening Night @ French Embassy, Thurs., Dec. 3 – DC

* Seeking Opportunities (and Housing) for Harvardwood 101 Students!
* Re-launching the Harvardwood NYC Writers' Program! - NYC
* Launching the Harvardwood NYC Public Service Group - NYC
* Seeking Volunteers for the OCS Summer Opportunities Fair, Fri., Dec. 4 - Cambridge
* Seeking Entrants for HBS New Venture Contest
* Industry Successes
* Featured Member Posting: Right-hand Needed for New Music Biz Venture
* Member Profile: Jeff Schaffer '91

Director's Notes

December is truly a magical time, I know it's cheesy but I love the holiday season! I can't wait to see pictures of all of the crazy holiday hi-jinks that are bound to emerge from our parties this month! In line with a spirit of giving back, which is what this season is truly about, I am very excited to announce our first ever "HARVY" Award winners this December. Read on to find out just what a "HARVY" is (what will we come up with next...mwah, ha, ha, you'll never guess!) and why these winners continue to inspire us all. Happy Holidays!!

-- Kelley

Message from Mia

Never a dull moment here at Harvardwood...thanks to everyone who has gotten involved in the plethora of activities going on from coast to coast and continent to continent this year! Extra special thanks to our hardworking volunteer leaders -- especially Programs Director Allison Kiessling and NYC Co-Chapter Head Spence Porter, the first-ever recipients of our brand new "HARVY" awards! For those who aspire to be future HARVY winners, it's not too late to volunteer your services for the upcoming Harvardwood 101 program, one of the many writers programs, or other local events in your area. And in the meantime, hope to see y'all making merry at one (or more) of the holiday parties next week!

-- Mia

Introducing...the Harvardwood Volunteer of the Year (HARVY) Award Winners!

We are proud to unveil the inaugural winners of the Harvardwood Volunteer of the Year Award! The HARVYs (get it??) will be awarded annually to one or more volunteers that have demonstrated exceptional leadership in the Harvardwood community over the past year of service. Each HARVY winner will receive a $250 cash prize. Harvardwood thrives on the volunteer energy of its membership, and we are excited to highlight these ongoing efforts! Without further ado, the first annual HARVY awards go to...

Allison Kiessling GSE '05, Programs Director

allison-kiessling.jpgAt Harvard's Graduate School of Education, Allison studied how adults learn about the world through stories and television. She joined Harvardwood to find an L.A. television writing community and considers it a rare artistic experience to work with such talented and supportive Harvard alumni. Allison currently heads the television module of the Harvardwood Writers Program (HWP) and is working on her fourth script. In addition to serving as a Programs Director on the Harvardwood Board, Allison started the Actors Advisory Committee and produced the August 2009 Harvadwood Showcase of original television pilots. Allison plans to produce another showcase next summer and looks forward to seeing the L.A. writing community grow and create good work. "I was afraid this was going to be just another L.A. project where everyone starts off excited, and then it slowly dwindles away...but these writers are not only incredibly talented, they just keep showing up and pushing each other. We've been going on for a year and half like that now and it just keeps getting better."

Spence Porter, NYC Harvardwood Co-Chapter Head

spence_porter1.jpgAn honors graduate with a degree in Applied Math and Physics from Harvard, Spence got his M.F.A. in Playwriting at Ohio University. He writes unconventional plays that fuse dance, puppetry and masks with music and theater. "I love making stories in a way that will amaze and delight people," he says. Spence joined Harvardwood because of his interest in helping people make connections across the arts, and is now the New York Co-Chapter Head. He is proud of the robust schedule of film, theater, comedy, concert and other original events the chapter produces--an average of one each week. Highlights include a Harvard ROCKS event featuring alumni bands that drew 250 people, an upcoming Evening with Arthur Laurents as well as stand up comedy and food events. "We have a real opportunity right now in New York, if we all work together, to create a vibrant arts/media/entertainment community centered around Harvardwood!"

- Reported by Dayna Wilkinson

Pencil Me In...

Harvardwood Screenwriting Lecture with Corey Mandell, Thurs., Dec. 3 – LA

Come to this provocative lecture to learn the five main reasons people fail at screenwriting and some specific tools and insights that can help you shape your ideas into the best possible scripts. Perfect for both experienced screenwriters as well as those who have never written a word, but are curious to learn more about this field. Corey Mandell is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter. He has written projects for Harrison Ford, Universal, 20th Century Fox, Fox 2000, Paramount, Warner Brothers, Touchstone Pictures, Trilogy, and Working Title among others…To view full posting, please visit:

Harvardwood/Stanford Holiday Party, Tues., Dec. 8 - EARLY BIRD TIX STILL AVAILABLE!! - LA

Come celebrate the holiday season with Harvardwood! We are again partnering with our friends from Stanford in Entertainment. This year’s fete will be held at the lovely urban oasis in Century City - X Bar. Meet up with old friends and mingle with new ones while enjoying tasty appetizers. There will be a cash bar. We look forward to seeing you there! We have extended the early bird ticket deadline until THURS, DEC. 3RD so get yours today! To view full posting, please visit:

Harvardwood Heads To...Screening of EVERY DAY IS A HOLIDAY, Thurs., Dec.3 – NYC

On Thurs., Dec. 3rd join us for a screening of the work-in-progress film, EVERY DAY IS A HOLIDAY. The event is FREE as part of Target Thursdays…When Paul Loong finally shares his secret wartime diary with his daughter, she embarks on a journey to understand his harrowing experiences as a POW in Japan during WWII, and his unwavering determination to become an American citizen. EVERY DAY IS A HOLIDAY is one hour and will be followed by a Q&A…To view full posting, please visit:

DTA Invites Harvardwood to the Grayson M.P. Murphy Holiday Luncheon, Tues., Dec. 8 – NYC

You and your family are cordially invited to celebrate the 2009 holiday season at the Down Town Association. The Annual Grayson M.P. Murphy Luncheon will feature Dickens Carolers dressed in period costumes and singing your holiday favorites. Following lunch a reading of "A Visit from St. Nicholas" will take place for the entire family! To view full posting, please visit:

Happy Harvardwood Holiday Party! Fri., Dec. 11 – NYC

What are the holidays without a great party? And what better party than our HAPPY HARVARDWOOD HOLIDAY PARTY! The party starts at 6 p.m., and will go on as late as it goes! From 8 to 9 p.m., we'll have LIVE JAZZ from some of New York's top traditional jazz musicians! And most of all, we'll have YOU--our incredible Harvardwood members! To view full posting, please visit:

Harvardwood Heads To...A book reading of new suspense novel, A QUICKER BLOOD, by Susan Alexander, Thurs., Dec. 3 – SF

Join us for a book-reading and –signing by Susan Alexander, a San Francisco author of a sensational suspense novel, A QUICKER BLOOD…In the novel, Karen B. Clark, a recent graduate of Harvard Law School, is weary of life in NYC, bored by the work at her Wall Street law firm, and fed-up with her two-timing boyfriend. She impulsively takes off for a lawyers' convention in Chicago, where she meets another HLS alumna named Karen B. Clark, whom Karen calls "K.B." When K.B. is fatally injured, Karen decides to turn her life around and take K.B.'s place in a small-town law firm. She soon uncovers terrible secrets that lead her to fear for her life. A romance with a Harvard College alum plays an important part in the plot…This is a FREE event. Light refreshments and wine will be served…To view full posting, please visit:

Harvardwood Heads To...Jewish Film Festival Opening Night @ French Embassy, Thurs., Dec. 3 – DC

Join us for the Opening Night of the 20th Annual Washington Jewish Film Festival…featuring the mid-Atlantic premiere of A MATTER OF SIZE (including appearances by the producer, the screenwriter, and an actor) and Opening Night Party…You MUST buy your own tickets in advance…To view full posting, please visit:

Seeking Opportunities (and Housing) for Harvardwood 101 Students!

Harvardwood invites all Harvard alums and friends to get involved in the eighth annual Harvardwood 101 career exploration program, co-sponsored by Harvard’s Office of Career Services and Office for the Arts. Harvardwood 101 brings a group of Harvard undergraduates to Los Angeles during the January term (or "J-term”) and provides various career-related activities in an attempt to demystify "the biz" and educate current students about opportunities in the arts/media/entertainment industries. Please contact us at [email protected] if you would like to provide an office visit, tour, or 2-week "J-Term-Ship” for the students, or if you would like to participate in a panel. Please also contact us if you would like to host a student at any point between January 4-24…To view more information, please visit:

Re-launching the Harvardwood NYC Writers' Program! - NYC

We're finally delighted to announce the re-launch of the NYC edition of the Harvardwood Writers' Program (HWP). We have THREE new groups, with some really great leaders, plus one returning favorite. Each of these groups will meet either once or twice a month, at Manhattan locations chosen by the group leaders. If you'd like to register for a group, just e-mail us at [email protected], and we'll forward your message to the appropriate group leader. These groups are open only to Full Members of Harvardwood and, in limited numbers, to Friends of Harvardwood…To view full posting, please visit:

Launching the Harvardwood NYC Public Service Group - NYC

Once or twice a month, Harvardwood NYC's Public Service Group will meet for an afternoon of volunteering for a worthy cause. The group will be led by Harvardwood member Anushka Wirasinha. The group's December event will be - Operation Santa- Saturday, December 5. Let's pick up a child's letter to Santa from the post office and make their wish come true this Christmas. We shall head to the toy store and pick up the gifts and stop for an Eggnog break on the way!! To view full posting, please visit:

Seeking Volunteers for the OCS Summer Opportunities Fair, Fri., Dec. 4 - Cambridge

Connect with our undergraduate counterparts in the arts! Harvardwood will be present for the annual OCS Summer Opportunities Fair, on Friday, December 4th in Cambridge. We are looking for volunteers to help man the table and spread the word about Harvardwood to interested undergraduates. The fair will take place between 12pm-4pm, with set-up starting at 11:00am and clean-up from 4-5pm. Let us know if you are able to help out for a few hours at any point during this time frame. Please contact [email protected] with the subject line "OCS FAIR" if you are able to help out.

Seeking Entrants for HBS New Venture Contest

HBS has just announced its first-ever New Venture Contest, to highlight and support its many entrepreneurial alumni. The winner of the finals, to be held in Boston on April 27, 2010, will receive $25,000 in cash and mentoring time on-campus at HBS. Each venture team must include at least one HBS alum on its management team. This is a great chance to get a new venture in front of some influential judges from the venture community. HBSASC, along with Orange County and San Diego, is one of 10 selected worldwide to pilot this concept, with the intention of making it an annual event. Our local teams of start-up ventures will compete in March 2010 to determine the one team that represents Southern California in Boston…To view full posting, please visit:

Industry Successes...

Jason Holzman '93 was recently promoted to Senior Vice President, Creative at USA Network, where he'll be responsible for maintaining the overall creative vision behind all marketing and promotion for the network's original and acquired series, as well as USA's ongoing brand initiatives.

JC Cassis '06, a dance-pop singer/songwriter/producer, just had her first success with licensing one of her songs, and hopes to make this an ongoing occurrence. She will be playing a free house party show on December 19th with her band and the excellent Brooklyn-based electro-funk duo, Comandante Zero, which features her friend and fellow Harvard alum Dan Freeman '97. Please email JC at [email protected] to get exact location info for this show since it is at a private residence. To hear JC's drag queen dance-pop music, please check out and click on "Music." To hear the amazing Comandante Zero, check out

BEAUTY MACHINE, a short film by Rebecca Rojer '09-'10, has been selected to screen in the NEWFILMMAKERS FIRST SHORT PROGRAM at Anthology Film Archives on Wednesday, December 16 at 6pm. Anthology is at 32 Second Ave, New York, NY. Tickets are $6 and go on sale at 5:30 the day of screening. The film, produced in last spring's VES 150 course under the guidance of filmmaker Lodge Kerrigan, recently received an Award of Merit in the ACCOLADE COMPETITION. For more information or to watch online, please visit:

Jeremy Rabb, A.R.T. Institute ‘98, is currently playing the Duke of Buckingham in A NOISE WITHIN’S critically acclaimed stage production of RICHARD III, running in Glendale through December 12th. Tickets and further info at

Brian Wescott moderated the very lively "American Indian 101" panel at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences on Nov. 9. Other Harvard alums on the panel included Jason Gavin (College) and Angela Riley (HLS).

Featured Member Posting: Right-Hand for New Music Biz Venture

Right-Hand Needed for New Music Biz Venture -- Canadian/U.S. music management and record label with an active roster is looking to hire a part-time/full-time assistant to projects. If you are interested in excellence and being a part of music that makes a difference, this job is for you. Ideal applicants will have music industry experience in publicity, marketing, and/or management, though applicants with experience in other artistic fields (book publishing, theatre management, graphic design, web development, blogging, etc.) could qualify for the position…Applicant need not live in a specific city. This job can be done from anywhere if you have a flexible schedule, a high-speed internet connection, a telephone, and excellent communication, problem-solving and time management skills. The position is full-time and could involve travel (to SXSW, major festivals here and abroad) if you are a perfect match for the company…To view full posting, please visit:

Member Profile: Jeff Schaffer '91

by Sean O'Rourke MAT '68

In college the friends we make and the groups we join are sometimes more important than the professors whose courses we take. This is certainly true for Jeff Schaffer '91. He came to Cambridge with vague aspirations to become a doctor, an archeologist, or at least a scientist of some sort, and it just did not work out that way.

He drifted from classics to archeology to biological anthropology. But more importantly, he joined the Lampoon. And he spent more time in the Castle than the Yard. His was not a classic Harvard experience (is there such a thing?), but it was great education for a comedy writer.

In fact, when he was taking his oral exams in biological anthropology, Harvard professor Irv DeVore asked what he intended to do with his degree. Jeff responded, "Go to L.A. and write for TV.” Dr. Devore was not at all disappointed. In fact, he explained that much of comedy comes from exploring and breaking societal taboos. Jeff realized how right he was, and that is what he has been doing ever since.

The year Jeff graduated, the Lampoon’s summer project was to do a TV show for Comedy Central parodying MTV’s tenth anniversary special. Jeff and his friends Alec Berg ‘91 and David Mandel ’92 wrote the special, which put them in the unique situation of having a writing sample that, unlike most samples, was actually produced.

After graduation, Jeff and Alec moved to Los Angeles, where their first job was writing an episode of a show created by Tom Gammill ‘81 and Max Pross ’81 called Great Scott starring Tobey McGuire, now better known as Spiderman.

That show was cancelled after a few episodes. Then Jeff and Alec spent a year writing shows which were produced and shot and later, for various reasons, cancelled. This led to some awkward situations. Asked what they did, they said that they wrote for television and then had to explain why no one had ever -- or could ever have -- seen any one of their shows.

In 1994 they spent four months in New York writing for Conan O’Brien and returned to Los Angeles to find that the show they had expected to work on had been cancelled.

Tom and Max were then working on Seinfeld and asked Jeff and Alec to submit ideas. They did, and after hearing nothing for two months, they decided to return to New York and again write for Conan O’Brien. The day before the moving truck was scheduled to arrive, Seinfeld called. They met with Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David and were hired that day. They worked on Seinfeld for four years, rising from staff writers to executive producers and show runners.

Television comedies are usually written in "the room” where the entire staff breaks stories and writes the show before it goes to the cast for rehearsal and filming. Seinfeld was different. Writers worked on their own and came back with original ideas, often based on things that actually happened.

It was necessary to come up with one idea for each of the four characters, weave them together in an outline and then write the script. "The idea was to go out in the world, and whenever you were uncomfortable, or made a fool of yourself, that was a potential story idea” says Schaffer.

But this was not the end. The writers were also responsible for casting, blocking, editing, mixing, everything. This went on seven days a week for four years. They only knew when it was Sunday because "that was the day you went to work and stepped over the big paper.”

Later, with fellow Lampoon alum David Mandel (who joined them for the last three years on Seinfeld), they began working on movies, doing both rewrites and originals. On Eurotrip they both wrote and directed. Since Directors Guild rules permit only one directing credit, they put their names in a hat and held a drawing. Jeff won.

Working alone, Jeff co-wrote Bruno for Sacha Baron Cohen. Shooting involved travel in America, Europe and the Middle East. Scenes were improvised with locals, celebrities, fashion designers and high-ranking government officials who did not realize they were in a movie. Sometimes the locals did not cooperate. In Jerusalem, Hasidic Jews took exception to Cohen’s costume. He had to run for his life.

Jeff, Alec and David are back together again on Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. For the last two seasons they have written, directed and served as executive producers. This season, Jeff’s professional life has come full circle as the cast of Seinfeld "reunited” on the show. Being back on the set with the Seinfeld cast ten years after the show went off the air has been an amazing time-travelling experience.

This fall, Jeff has another series on the air as well. With his wife (Jackie Marcus Schaffer), he has created The League, a show about a group of fantasy football enthusiasts that uses a structured outline and improvised dialogue on the model of Curb. It runs on FX Thursday evenings at 10:30 PM.

For Jeff, Los Angeles is "Lampoon West” and he still sees and works with many friends from college. And he is still using his anthropology degree. He is studying his fellow men, noting their mannerisms and their foibles … and turning them into comedy gold.



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