Issue 79 | August 2011

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

NY EVENTS

  • Harvardwood Heads To...Wine Lovers the Wine Tasting Musical, Tues., Aug. 9
  • Film Society of Lincoln Center invites Harvardwood to COUNTRY MUSIC (with RECEPTION), Fri., Aug. 19
  • Harvardwood BEER Series - British Beauties and Brash Americans! Wed., Aug. 24

LA EVENTS

  • CLA invites Harvardwood to: Intellectual Property and Internet Media, Sat., Aug. 6
  • Harvardwood Heads To...BEAUTIFUL BOY, Mon., Aug. 8
  • CLA invites Harvardwood to: Grantwriting for Artists and Arts Organizations, Sat., Aug. 20

SF EVENTS

  • Harvardwood Heads To...Songwriters Unplugged at Yoshi's Lounge, Sun., Aug. 7

OTHER EVENTS

  • Harvardwood Heads To...Travel to the Heart of Undiscovered Europe, begins Thurs., Aug. 24

* TV Writers Wanted! Apply for Harvardwood's TV Modules
* Become a Spark Mentor this Fall
* Harvardwood Career Advisors now open to advisees!
* Donate to the A.R.T./Harvardwood Alumni Lab Grants fund
* Industry Successes
* Harvardwood Artist Showcase
* Featured Member Posting: Film Development Internship for Fall (LA)
* Member Profile: Shawn Ku '90

Director's Notes

I am honored this month by the many ways in which we, as a community, can give back. This August, be inspired to pay it forward, whether that be in the form of becoming a Spark mentor to a middle school student looking for guidance, donating funds to help support the artistic work of your fellow alumni, or taking a small amount of time out of your schedule to offer your expertise as a Harvardwood Career Advisor (thanks to all of those that have signed up already!). In whatever form it may be, take the opportunity to serve others in a positive way -- I'm betting it creates moments of bliss in your own life. Happy Summer!

-- Kelley

Message from Mia

Hope you'll join me in supporting some of the inspiring talent Harvardwood has on display this month -- a musical about wine in NYC, an evening with songwriters in SF, a screening of Shawn Ku's BEAUTIFUL BOY in LA, and much more... And help launch a new feature film from Harvardwood filmmaker Andrew Bujalski -- in the era of crowdsourced financing, your dollars and cents can make a real difference to independent artists!

-- Mia

Pencil Me In...

NY - Harvardwood Heads To...Wine Lovers the Wine Tasting Musical, Tues., Aug. 9

Wine Lovers is a 70-minute musical comedy about a wine tasting class, during which audience members drinks six glasses of wine. Wine Lovers tells the story of lovable painter Brian Scott and know-it-all businesswoman Katherine Reese. These two mismatched students attend a wine class led by an effervescent teacher, Charles Thompson, whose goal in life is to take the mystery out of wine. Over the course of the evening, Brian, Katherine and the audience learn all about reds, whites, screw caps, Zinfandels - and a little bit about love…To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=169387

NY - Film Society of Lincoln Center invites Harvardwood to COUNTRY MUSIC (with RECEPTION), Fri., Aug. 19

We're really delighted to announce that, thanks to Richard Peña, Harvardwood has begun a new relationship with the Film Society of Lincoln Center. About once a month, dues-paying Harvardwood members and their guests will be invited to a screening at the Film Society at a reduced price...This August, the Film Society invites Harvardwood to COUNTRY MUSIC…The film tells the story of Alejandro Tazo, a laid-back and mellow Chilean with no money or friends who is interested in country music and speaks almost no English, as he roams through Nashville hoping to find work and meet people. Writer-director Alberto Fuguet provides an original twist on the classic immigrant story with this amusing tale that explores with humor and brilliant, funny dialogues the experience of a foreigner wrapped in the textures, feelings and sensations of a strange city…To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=172590

NY - Harvardwood BEER Series - British Beauties and Brash Americans! Wed., Aug. 24

Announcing the start of a new Harvardwood series in New York--the Harvardwood BEER Series! Over the course of about a dozen tastings we'll be doing an in-depth survey of the world's greatest beer regions and styles…The tasting will be at one of New York's great beer bars, Jimmy's No. 43, and Jimmy's talented chef will provide an assortment of yummy hors d'oeuvres to complement the beers. This will be a perfect evening for every beer lover, as well as for anyone who just loves a great party! There'll be plenty of discussion of the beers, but there will also be lots of time to make new friends…To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=171811

LA - CLA invites Harvardwood to: Intellectual Property and Internet Media, Sat., Aug. 6

This workshop will provide insights and guidance about the special challenges of using the Internet as a source, medium, and distribution channel for creative content. Topics to be addressed include: The practicalities of establishing and protecting copyrights in online content; Ownership and control of collaborative efforts, including international collaborations; "Fair use” of copyrighted material and avoiding liability for unintentional infringement; Take-down notices and "safe harbors” under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act; Use of trademarks on the Internet; Selection and protection of website names and URLs (including cybersquatting and domain-name disputes); Creative Commons licensing…Full Members of Harvardwood receive a special discount through Harvardwood’s partnership with the CLA…To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=174131

LA - Harvardwood Heads To...BEAUTIFUL BOY, Mon., Aug. 8

The WGAW Asian American Writers Committee presents a screening and Q&A of BEAUTIFUL BOY, written by Shawn Ku ‘90 and Michael Armbruster HBS ’94, directed by Shawn Ku ’90. BEAUTIFUL BOY tells the story of a couple in a failed marriage who must turn to each other at a time of unimaginable trauma. A Q&A will follow with Shawn and Michael. Learn more about Shawn in the profile below!…To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=172580

LA - CLA invites Harvardwood to: Grantwriting for Artists and Arts Organizations, Sat., Aug. 20

This workshop will guide you in answering questions on the funding process and how to find funders for your project. We'll cover the basic elements of grant proposals, including formulating the description, budget, and mission statement of your project. We'll also engage in a breakout session to apply what we discuss and enable participants to network. This workshop is for individual artists as well as nonprofit agencies. Bring a pen and paper and be ready to work; this is an interactive class! Full Members of Harvardwood receive a special discount through Harvardwood's partnership with the CLA...To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=174229

SF - Harvardwood Heads To...Songwriters Unplugged at Yoshi's Lounge, Sun., Aug. 7

Come out to see songwriters Kate Isenberg, John Nash, and Mokai perform at Yoshi’s Lounge in San Francisco. Joined by bassist/guitarist Jon Evans, Kate Isenberg will deliver a special acoustic performance. Kate Isenberg ('97) is a San Francisco-based folk-pop singer-songwriter and guitarist. Both her 2007 and 2010 albums were named among the best albums of the year by the international Indie Acoustic Project. Jon Evans has recorded and toured the world as bassist for Tori Amos. At his Berkeley studio, he has produced and engineered albums for musicians from the Bay Area and beyond, including Isenberg's 2007 and 2010 albums…To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=172012

OTHER - Harvardwood Heads To...Travel to the Heart of Undiscovered Europe, begins Thurs., Aug. 24

Announcing a great opportunity to travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Co-organized by a Harvard alum who lived and worked in Sarajevo and adventure travel impresario, Richard Bangs, who pioneered international river rafting. Join us for a week of clear, clean water, wonderful wines and a cultural tour of a country at the crossroads of East and West. The Three Rivers Trip includes rafting on three of Europe’s most pristine rivers and the comfort of hotel lodging every night. For culture vultures, an alternative, city-based itinerary is available. Highlights include: Mostar, with it’s famous 16th century Ottoman bridge, Tito’s underground bunker he built for himself and 350 of his closest friends, and a cultural tour of Sarajevo, one of the most beautiful and unique cities in Central Europe…To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=159126

TV Writers Wanted! Apply for Harvardwood's TV Modules

TV Writers Wanted! Apply for the Harvardwood Writers Program's TV Modules - deadline August 24. Click here to learn more and apply: http://www.harvardwood.org/?tv_writer_harvard

Become a Spark Mentor this Fall

Are you a film director or television writer? Do you know someone who works in entertainment marketing or production? Or maybe even a music producer, DJ or acting agent? Spark is seeking mentors in dozens of careers and would like to pair Harvardwood members with Spark students that have a passion for the entertainment business! The Spark Program is the only youth empowerment program in the country that addresses the dropout crisis by re-engaging at-risk students through hands-on, individualized apprenticeships. These workplace-based apprenticeships—in professions each student has identified as a "dream job”—are complemented by a leadership curriculum, integrated in the classroom as an elective. Harvardwood is pleased to continue our partnership with The Spark Program through our Harvardwood Helps community service initiative…To find out more about how to become a mentor this fall, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/news/69272/Become-a-Spark-Mentor-this-Fall.htm

Harvardwood Career Advisors now open to advisees!

We are pleased to announce that the Harvardwood Career Advisors Program (HCA) is now open to advisees! HCA facilitates informational interviews between Full Members interested in a particular field and more established alumni willing to give career advice. Harvardwood Career Advisors make themselves available to Full Members of Harvardwood that contact them for informational interviews. If you would like to set-up an informational interview in your field of interest, learn more about the program and where to submit your request here: http://www.harvardwood.org/?page=hca

Donate to the A.R.T./Harvardwood Alumni Lab Grants fund

The American Repertory Theatre/Harvardwood Alumni Lab Grants provide financial support to Harvard College and A.R.T. Institute graduates to help foster their artistic talents as actors, directors, dramaturgs, and writers. Over the past two years, A.R.T. Alumni Lab grants—totaling $12,000--have helped support three full theatrical productions, four theatrical workshops, two readings, and one film project. The Lab’s Artists Grants initiative is a unique opportunity for our alumni—to our knowledge, no other Alumni Association offers a similar program. With your help, the A.R.T. Alumni Lab can continue to inspire A.R.T and Harvard College graduates to take charge of their artistic lives. To learn more about how to donate to this dynamic program, please visit:
http://www.harvardwood.org/?page=artlabgrant

Industry Successes...

Congrats to Lou Howe '05 on being named a finalist in the 2011 Student Academy Awards for his narrative short film MY FIRST CLAIRE.

Terence O'Toole Murnin recently returned from The Great American Pitchfest where he was pitching his latest script: JOSE' O' SHEA'S. The script is receiving significant buzz around town and the screenwriter was also featured in Arizona Foothills Magazine: http://www.arizonafoothillsmagazine.com/extra-extra/news/2322-valley-based-writermarcompr-gurus-recently-returned-from-hollywood-where-hes-pitching-his-new-feature-film-project.html

Spence Porter's play THE WOMAN FROM THE SEA will be produced at the Titusville Playhouse in Florida, running from September 2 through September 11.

David Zeltser '97 and Max Faugno (NYU Tisch; THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS) recently wrapped their first feature film, THE NUMBER ONE VIDEO ON YOUTUBE TOMORROW. Acclaimed screenwriter/director and Harvard alum Caroline Thompson writes: "It's very powerful . . . very creepy to watch. It has an amazing cumulative energy." David and Max are looking for a festival-savvy Executive Producer or independent film rep to help take this improvised, groundbreaking, high-stakes drama to Sundance and beyond. Contact zeltser@mac.com.

Jonathan Dorf's one-act mash-up parody, HARRY'S HOTTER AT TWILIGHT, has been published by Playscripts and is available at http://www.playscripts.com/play.php3?playid=2332. A full-length version of the play is available from online publisher YouthPLAYS at http://www.youthplays.com.

Will Bailey's satirical humor blog, www.nailsbails.com, was "Freshly Pressed" by Wordpress.com on August 1. Selected from a pool of over 350,000 bloggers, his website was one of twelve spotlighted on the blogging platform's home page. He hopes to build his subscriber base, now in the hundreds, and continue writing and illustrating original comedic content published five days a week.

Rick Cipes, son of Harvardwood member Bob Cipes, presents his rock opera BAD DADDY: THE MUSICAL at the Oberon in Harvard Square, August 16-25. More info at http://baddaddythemusical.com.

Harvardwood Artist Showcase

Each month the Highlights is proud to feature one or two artists from some of our various programs. Click each person's name to learn more about what they do.

Bujalski.jpgCOMPUTER CHESS is a narrative feature film to be written and directed by critically-acclaimed filmmaker Andrew Bujalski '98. The movie takes place circa 1980 at a tournament of chess players and computer programmers. A majority of the film's budget has already been raised via private investors and we are seeking your help to raise the remaining funds to complete our budget! We are "crowdsourcing" tax-deductible donations via USA Projects to cover rental of equipment, location fees and post-production costs for the film. Please check out: http://www.unitedstatesartists.org/project/computer_chess to learn more about the project & see how you can help.

Andrew says about the project:

"I’ve been a movie nerd as long as I can remember... I compulsively kept lists of all the movies I’d seen, the actors and actresses I liked—when Premiere Magazine came along I eagerly devoured every issue and kept a collection of all the little 'movie trading cards' they printed (are those worth anything yet?).

"While my destiny may have been set early on, there was a moment at least where it seemed like I could have been another kind of (and I use this loaded word with the most respectful of intentions) nerd. I might have been a computer nerd! I might have been a chess nerd! I had tremendous respect for the genius-seeming kids who instantly excelled in such rigorous intellectual pursuits. Both chess mastery and serious computer programming seemed to take intense concentration, on the bleeding edge where vast memorization morphed into a magical meditative intuition…which ultimately, was not where my scattered brain was headed. Blame the movies for wrecking my attention span.

"So all these years later I’m trying to make a very odd movie indeed, about computer chess programmers circa 1980, and perhaps deep down it’s my attempt to vicariously peek into the fantasy braniac life I ought to have pursued as a kid. It happens to be a fascinating era for the field. As computers were exploding into the public sphere, and regular folks were just getting used to seeing them in the workplace, or home, a group of geniuses at the vanguard of the technology were trying to teach it what seemed like an almost unimaginable skill—could these machines, these glorified calculators, ever conquer the human world champion in chess? Obviously a human being would have to be a genius to be the world chess champ, so if they could get a computer to do it, the computer would have to acquire a kind of genius, right?

"From our current vantage we know how the story went: Deep Blue beat Kasparov in 1997, and headlines proclaimed that the "human era” in chess had come to an end. But back then, this was very much up for grabs. The whole society was up for grabs—we knew computers were going to change our world, and depending on your outlook, this was thrilling and/or terrifying. Nothing less than the human spirit seemed to rest in the balance! I want to go back to that place with this movie, and have fun with it—the big philosophical questions may seem charmingly nostalgic, but lord knows we haven’t answered them yet...and they’re not just for nerds."

Learn more about Andrew in the November 2010 issue of the Harvardwood Highlights, and learn more about how to support his work, here: http://www.unitedstatesartists.org/project/computer_chess

Featured Member Posting: Film Development Internship for Fall

Mandate Pictures (HAROLD & KUMAR, STRANGER THAN FICTION, JUNO, NICK & NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST, DRAG ME TO HELL, 50/50) seeks smart, motivated, and detail-oriented interns for its fall semester Film Development internship program. Responsibilities include but are not limited to: reading and evaluating script, book, and article submissions, updating company script and DVD databases, pitching material to executives, attending weekly staff meetings, compiling film festival grids, researching short films and up-and-coming talent, and covering executives' desks/phones when relevant. In addition to daily administrative/creative tasks, the internship also involves a Q&A dinner with Mandate's creative executives and intern seminars on film finance and film marketing…To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/networking/opening.asp?id=102686

Member Profile: Shawn Ku '90

by Dayna Wilkinson

Ku.jpgShawn Ku’s new film, BEAUTIFUL BOY, tells the story of a couple in a failed marriage who must turn to each other at a time of unimaginable trauma. "At first glance this movie appears to be about tragedy, but I think it’s actually a story of hope,” Shawn says.

How did a pre-med Chemistry major end up in Hollywood? The plan was for Shawn to enter a 6-year combined college and medical program, as his sister had. "It was eating away at the back of my mind—I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in medicine,” Shawn says. "I decided to go to Harvard instead and there was a huge, huge war in my house. It wasn’t the agreed-upon trajectory.”

At Harvard, Shawn was introduced to modern dance. "This girl downstairs was a dancer and she said we should audition for a dance group,” he explains. "She didn’t get in, but they took me because guys are so rare. I was completely green so it was a little frustrating, but I guess I had a knack for it. After that I started taking dance class in Boston.”

Shawn moved to New York to go to Columbia Medical School but his heart wasn’t in it. When he asked Columbia for a third deferral, Shawn recalls, "they were like, ‘uh, no’.” He continued dancing and modern dance led him to the world of musical theater.

Shawn danced in such shows as FOSSE, MISS SAIGON, and THE KING AND I, but found that he preferred working behind the scenes. "There were a lot of Broadway community events and I was always the one putting them together--conceiving, directing and, to a certain extent, choreographing them,” Shawn says. "I always liked that much more than being on stage.”

A truly bad art house film put Shawn on the road to film-making. "A friend and I went to see this terrible film. I walked out thinking ‘I can’t believe someone put a million dollars into making that movie. We could write something at least as bad as that.’ So the two of us wrote a script.”

Shawn gave the script to his talent agent, who was also a literary agent. "He gave us notes and we did some re-writes,” Shawn says. "Pretty soon we found ourselves meeting with a producer and director and it looked like they were going to make the movie.”

The movie wasn’t made, but Shawn decided to learn more about the film world. "I became a production assistant on one of my agent’s other client’s films and rose up the ladder to become a second second Assistant Director,” he says. Making a clean break from the New York theater scene, Shawn enrolled at USC Film School. He put his Broadway experience to good use when it was time to do his thesis film. "They encourage you to write what you know, so I decided to do a musical.” The short film, PRETTY DEAD GIRL, is a musical retelling of Romeo & Juliet in which a necrophiliac finally learns to love a woman who’s alive. "It’s quirky, a little edgy,” Shawn allows.

The film won awards at film festivals around the world and was selected for the Sundance Film Festival. "The producers, talent and everyone in the crew put a lot of energy into the Sundance experience,” Shawn says. "Every morning we went around in the freezing cold putting up posters. We made toe tags with the screening times and handed them out to get people to go see the film. By the time we got to the later screenings, I felt like we had a bit of a cult following. It was crazy.”

The film made a big splash. "I was wooed by every agency there was and talent law firms and managers--it was overwhelming,” Shawn says. "I would have been completely conceited to have expected that.” PRETTY DEAD GIRL is currently being developed into a full-length stage production.

After USC, Shawn directed and co-choreographed THE AMERICAN MALL, an MTV musical film for which he received a DGA Award nomination. He then fielded offers to direct light comedies, musicals, and youth-oriented fare, but they didn’t interest him. "I wanted to do something small,” says Shawn, "something that would tap into the darker side of my nature.” That evolved into BEAUTIFUL BOY, Shawn’s second screenplay with his writing partner Michael Armbruster (HBS ’94).

"I like writing with a partner because there’s that friction, Shawn explains. "If I believe something and he believes something different, I have to fight for it. I’ll either convince him that I’m right or convince myself that I’m wrong. There’s a trust that nothing is personal and that we both have the same goal, which is to write the best story we can.”

They were working on a script about a couple in a seemingly perfect relationship when the Virginia Tech killings happened. "My sister called me immediately,” Shawn says. "Our parents had met and married at Virginia Tech. My sister was born there. And add to that the fact that the shooter was Asian…though we suffered no direct loss from the incident, my family was rocked.

"Mike’s and my script took a turn. We decided to use a campus shooting and yet write nothing about it. The script would be the story of two people we rarely empathize with in such a circumstance—two people who more often than not get the brunt of the blame for the tragedy: the killer’s parents.”

Shawn had always pictured actors Maria Bello and Michael Sheen as the parents. "I just had a feeling that their unexpected pairing would be magical,” he says. "I prepared myself for what I assumed would be a hardcore pitch to convince Maria to do the movie and trust this novice director. But once we sat down, the first thing she said was, ‘So when are we gonna make this movie?’ She was in.

"The same was true for Michael. We got on the phone together—very, very late one night—and we had an instantly deep conversation about life and self-esteem and societal pressures. It was clear that he had already begun to envision himself in the role.”

Shawn, who describes his tastes as "slightly to the left of mainstream,” has several new scripts in the pipeline. "It’s kind of a turtle race to see who crosses the finish line and gets financed first,” he says.

When asked what he would say to aspiring screenwriters and directors, Shawn offers this advice: "Chasing fads is not the way to go—you always look like an also-ran. The artistic compromises make the whole experience less than satisfying. If you’re an artist, why aren’t you exploring your voice? Everyone has something to say. You should tell the stories that resonate within you.

"I’ve had to assess whether my personal goal is to be rich or famous or what. As long as I have money to put food on the table, I’d rather be telling the stories I want to tell.”

For more information about BEAUTIFUL BOY, go to http://www.beautifulboythemovie.com.

And don't miss a special, FREE screening of BEAUTIFUL BOY on Monday, August 8th. A Q&A with Shawn and Michael will follow the film. Click here to learn more!

daynawilkinson.jpgDayna Wilkinson is a proud New Yorker currently living, working and writing in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

 


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