Issue 85 | February 2012

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


  • ***Harvardwood Presents: Harvard ROCKS 2012, Tues., Feb. 28
  • CLA invites Harvardwood to Producer's Representatives for Independent Filmmakers, Sat., Feb. 11


  • Harvardwood Presents Suprina Berenyi: APHRODISIACS ARE GOOD FOR YOU! Tues., Feb. 21


  • Harvardwood Heads To...HBS Entertainment & Media Conference 2012 - Media's New Age, Sun., Feb. 12

* Seeking opportunities for the 2012 Harvardwood Summer Internship Program!
* Q&A with Broadway legend, IVA WITHERS, now available on the Harvardwood Channel!
* Join the HWP Comedy Writing Workshop in NYC
* Seeking volunteers for Harvard ROCKS
* And the 2012 Harvard ROCKS performers are...
* There's still time to submit to the Harvardwood Resource Directory for FREE
* Industry Successes
* Harvardwood Artist Showcase - Featuring Harvard ROCKS 2012 contestants!
* Harvardwood 101 Testimonials!
* Featured Member Posting: Assistant to Writer-Producer for NBC Comedy Pilot
* Member Profile: Baratunde Thurston '99Thurston.jpg

Director's Notes

We would be remiss to start off February without first thanking all of the amazing alums that contributed their time and expertise to making Harvardwood 101 a smashing success. Harvardwood would specifically like to thank: Theresa Botello, Andy Cadiff, Rob Cain, Jenny Calzacorto, Sandra Chang, Ted Chervin, Angel Dean Lopez, Dan Donahue, Jonathan Eirich, Helen Estabrook, Ben Forkner, Broderick Fox, Adam Fratto, Ghia Godfree, Josh Goldstine, Jennifer Graham, Teresa Hsiao, James Kearney, Robert Kraft, Franklin Leonard, Doug MacLaren, Matt Mazzeo, Noah Oppenheim, Jeremy Rabb, Mia Riverton, Couper Samuelson, Adam Shulman, Mark Sourian, Angie Sun, Larry Tanz, Krishnan Unnikrishnan, Larry Wasserman, and Nicky Weinstock. And a VERY special thank you to the program director extraordinaires that worked tirelessly to provide this rewarding experience to our students - Amit Samuel and Ansley Rubinstein!! And you don't have to take my word for on to find quotes from the students themselves.

And of course, this is the month that I've personally been waiting for (and no, not because of the Superbowl) -- this month we crown the winner of Harvard ROCKS 2012!! We've got three great performers in the running so don't miss the show and your chance to vote on February 28!

-- Kelley

Message from Mia

Another month, another mouthwatering array of tasty Harvardwood morsels from coast-to-coast! From Harvard ROCKS in LA, to a night of aphrodisiacs in NY, to a multitude of new offerings on the website and Harvardwood Channel, there's something for everyone this Leap Month -- so join in the February fun and make the most out of that extra 24 hours!

-- Mia

Pencil Me In...

LA - ***Harvardwood Presents: Harvard ROCKS 2012, Tues., Feb. 28

Ready once again to show the world how we ROCK. The musical showcase with both brains and brawn is BACK!!! Started in New York in 2009, Harvard ROCKS brings out the best of the best in Harvard’s undiscovered musical talent. This year's performers were chosen by a group of top tier industry judges and have promised to bring their A game. The overall showcase winner will win the ultimate music industry prize package…You can vote for your favorite artist online or at the show…This year’s showcase will be hosted by actor/musician/comedian/writer Andrew Burlinson (PARKS & RECREATION, THE WEDDING BAND)! …To view full posting, please visit:

LA - CLA invites Harvardwood to Producer's Representatives for Independent Filmmakers, Sat., Feb. 11

Producer's representatives assist filmmakers in arranging financing, marketing, and distribution of their films. They play a distinctly different role than talent agents, managers, distributors, sales agents or attorneys. This seminar explores how to choose a producer's rep, and how they can help filmmakers devise a distribution strategy, navigate the festival circuit, and avoid common pitfalls. Topics include conducting due diligence of potential distributors, understanding the common terms of distribution agreements, how producer's reps are compensated, determining the terms of a fair deal and understanding what producer's reps look for in a client and/or film. Handouts include a list of producer's reps, a self-defense checklist, and a sample producer's rep retainer agreement…To view full posting, please visit:

NY - Harvardwood Presents Suprina Berenyi: APHRODISIACS ARE GOOD FOR YOU! Tues., Feb. 21

Valentine's Day has come again, and it's time to think about APHRODISIACS. Cordon Bleu-trained Chef and Nutritionist, Suprina Berenyi, will discuss how what we eat can affect all aspects of our health. Using nutrition to enhance our sex lives can also strengthen the forces that make us feel young, vital, and alive…She has advised and inspired business leaders as well as professional athletes, some of whom also include her nutritionally programmed cuisine in their regimens. Suprina has co-lectured with CDC Epidemiologist Dr. Hylan D. Shoob of the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke, and has guest lectured at Georgia State University, as well as the Harvard Business School Club, and the Harvard Club of NYC…To view full posting, please visit:

BOSTON - Harvardwood Heads To...HBS Entertainment & Media Conference 2012 - Media's New Age, Sun., Feb. 12

We invite you and your colleagues to the 2012 Entertainment and Media Conference taking place on Sunday, February 12th, 2012 at Harvard Business School. We are excited to bring together top entertainment & media industry professionals representing both the creative production and business sides of the industry. Our theme, "Media’s New Age” will address some of the most pressing topics around the evolution of traditional media in a mobile and digital age. Keynote speakers include Harvardwood Advisory Board member, Carlton Cuse (Executive Producer of LOST), Frederick Huntsberry (COO Paramount Pictures) and Judy McGrath (Former CEO MTV Networks)…To view full posting, please visit:

Seeking opportunities for the 2012 Harvardwood Summer Internship Program

Harvardwood is pleased to announce the 2012 Harvardwood Summer Internship Program (HSIP), and is now seeking internship opportunities worldwide! HSIP provides a list of internship opportunities in the arts, media and entertainment to Harvard undergraduates and also coordinates career-related events over the summer for program participants in LA, NYC and other cities. If your company is interested in listing an internship via HSIP, please fill out our brief participant form. While your company can list your internship at any time, we recommend submitting by March 8th in order to be included in the first round of HSIP offerings and reach the largest number of potential candidates…To view full posting, please visit:

Q&A with Broadway legend, IVA WITHERS, now available on the Harvardwood Channel!

Dues-current Full Members and Friends of Harvardwood can now enjoy the Q&A with Broadway legend, Iva Withers (OKLAHOMA, GUYS & DOLLS) from our event at the Showbiz Store and Café on August 11, 2010! Dues-current Full Members and Friends of Harvardwood may view clips from this event and more, here:

Join the HWP Comedy Writing Workshop in NYC

Led by humorist and comedic storyteller, Dawn Fraser, this group welcomes a wide array of writings including sketches, essays, memoirs, fiction, stand-up and screenplays -- with one overarching agenda -- to make it funny! This group meets bi-weekly for 8 sessions, and each person usually presents his or her material during each session. If you're interested in practicing this wonderful art of tickling funny bones, please email [email protected] (open to dues-current Full Members and Friends of Harvardwood only).

Seeking volunteers for Harvard ROCKS

We are seeking a few volunteers to help at the Harvard ROCKS showcase on Tuesday, Feb. 28th in Los Angeles. Volunteers will help check people in at the door, tally audience votes for the artists, document the event with photos and video, and other duties as needed. Email [email protected] if you'd like to help make this night a smashing success…To view full posting, please visit:

And the 2012 Harvard ROCKS performers are...

After much deliberation we are pleased to announce the judges' picks for Harvard ROCKS 2012!! Started in 2009, Harvard ROCKS brings out the best of the best in Harvard's undiscovered musical talent. This year's acts were chosen by a group of top tier industry judges...The performing artists for Harvard ROCKS 2012 will be: Todd Forman and Kevin Miso, Madison Greer, and Sara Melson! Runner-ups for this year's showcase are: Andrew Bordeaux, Soulfege, Army of Toys, and Moniker. And now, GET YOUR TICKETS for the musical showcase with both brains and brawn! Catch the performing artists LIVE on February 28th and help select the 2012 Harvard ROCKS winner! To view full posting, please visit:

There's still time to submit to the Harvardwood Resource Directory for FREE

The Harvardwood Resource Directory will be a listing of relevant businesses and services associated with our community, giving our members and visitors a quick and easy reference guide for their upcoming projects and industry needs. The deadline for free submission has been extended. All Harvardwood members and their contacts may list in the Resource Directory for free for a limited time…***PLEASE NOTE: This directory is being offered as a service from our website provider. If we do not reach a certain number of submissions we will not be able to offer this resource.***…To view more information and to sign up, please visit:

Industry Successes...

CALIFORNIA SOLO, a new feature film written and directed by Marshall Lewy '99 (BLUE STATE), produced by Mynette Louie '97 (CHILDREN OF INVENTION, MUTUAL APPRECIATION), and starring Robert Carlyle (TRAINSPOTTING, THE FULL MONTY), made its world premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. In the film, a former Britpop rocker who now works on a farm gets caught driving drunk and faces deportation after living in Los Angeles for many years. His efforts to stay in the U.S. force him to confront the past and current demons in his life. For more information and show times, visit

Rob Vilardi performed in an off-Broadway comedy showcase at the Abingdon Theatre on Monday, January 30th.

My name is Madison Greer, and I am a finalist for Harvard ROCKS 2012!! Please check out my video so I can introduce myself to you! Also please make sure to check out the following links to listen to one of my original songs and one of my performances!!! "Don't Let the Feeling End" - original song written by Madison Greer and "Summertime" - performance for Good Morning Texas of Madison Greer and WT Greer (father). *****DON'T FORGET TO VOTE MADISON GREER FOR HARVARD ROCKS 2012!!!

Cole Wiley HLS '07 has teamed up with California Pictures (A WARRIOR’S HEART) to produce his feature film project AFTER THE STORM. New Orleans native Wendell Pierce (THE WIRE, TREME) is attached to star. The film follows a young boy who must overcome the loss of his home and family in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Wiley's script has won the 2011 Urbanworld Screenplay Competition and a 2011 Spike Lee Production Fund Award. For more information, please visit the features recently published in Indiewire and Variety .

Harvardwood Artist Showcase

Each month the Highlights features a few artists from some of our various programs in the Harvardwood Artist Showcase. This month we are excited to feature the last contestant for Harvard ROCKS! Click the artist's name to learn more about what he does and then come and support them all at the showcase on Tuesday, February 28th!**

tforman2_pic.jpgTodd Forman enjoyed performing with the Harvard Jazz Band and Hasty Pudding Theatricals while in Cambridge. He played sax and keyboards for the alternative rock group Sublime before moving on to UCLA for medical school. After a long hiatus from playing, Todd moved back to his musical roots in 2005 in Long Beach, CA and the creative juices began to flow once again. He was able to blend his private family practice (which he shares with his mother) and music culminating in a world tour with the newly formed Sublime with Rome from 2009-2011. Post-tour, Todd has focused his creative energies on his songwriting partnership with singer-songwriter, Kevin Miso. Kevin, also a native of Long Beach, comes from a musical family and has honed his influences of folk, rock, Hawaiian, swing, country, pop and blues into a sound that is both unique and accessible. You can catch Kevin and Todd playing an acoustic set or with a full band around Southern California regularly.

Learn more about Todd and Kevin at then see them LIVE on Feb. 28th at Harvard ROCKS 2012!

Harvardwood 101 Testimonials!

Read just a few of the testimonials this year’s Harvardwood 101 participants provided:

"Harvardwood is an awesome experience: super fun, super interesting. I feel a lot less stressed out about moving to LA after school now because of what I learned this week. Two thumbs up!”

"Harvardwood 101 gave me not only a clear idea of the entertainment industry in general, but also the incredible support that Harvard alums can offer; I feel much more confident with the prospect of moving to LA and working in entertainment.”

"If you think you may be even vaguely interested in an entertainment career, do Harvardwood 101!”

"I thought I knew a lot about Hollywood. I was wrong. Harvardwood 101 was absolutely one of the most rewarding and wonderful experiences of my college career. It's often difficult to judge how much there is to know about entertainment since it's a very private industry, and Harvardwood 101 offered the insight, experience, and contacts necessary to gain a basic understanding of this crazy, convoluted business. Love it!”

Featured Member Posting: Assistant to Writer-Producer for NBC Comedy Pilot - LA

Seeking assistant to the writer-executive producer of an NBC multi-camera comedy pilot…To view full posting, please visit:

Member Profile: Baratunde Thurston '99

Thurston.jpgby D. Dona Le

Baratunde Thurston ’99 is an overnight success that took ten years, and he attributes this achievement to the fact that "I was the best, just amazing—the best blogger, the best writer, the best comedian. So that’s my advice: just be the best.”

Thurston also recommends, "Do something, go somewhere, be somebody, be with somebody, be with multiple somebodies who keep you on a certain velocity of change.”

If that’s his professional bucket list, then Thurston’s about ready for early retirement.

Fortunately for us, he "very much want[s] to know the world”—a drive that keeps him constantly generating creative content as a writer, comedian, political activist, guest speaker, Twitter personality, technology nut, and all-around awesome human being.

At Harvard, Thurston chose to concentrate in Philosophy purely because it was fun, a decision that he calls "another example of liberated thinking.” Math and science had always been his academic strengths, and he initially envisioned himself a career in "something really geeky.” However, alumni whom Thurston encountered as a Reunions worker told him that one’s concentration at Harvard ultimately does not matter.

"The study of philosophy really helped me do what I do. The philosophy student tries to understand complex, old ideas, so whether you’re watching Rick Perry or the president talk, your mind is a little better trained to pick through the words and define the meaning. For any artist, part of your job is to interpret the world through your art.”

Thurston does his job thoroughly, and his output is diverse, spanning print, stand-up comedy, television, social media, and more. He co-founded Jack & Jill Politics, a black political blog; has written for Huffington Post, Vanity Fair, and the UK Independent; and has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, Al Jazeera English, THIS WEEK IN TECH, as well as his own show, Popular Science’s FUTURE OF.

Currently, Thurston serves as Director of Digital at THE ONION, a position that enabled him to transition almost seamlessly out of consulting and into his more creative career. Thurston is frank about having taken a practical career move after graduating cum laude from Harvard.

"No one grows up wanting to be a strategy consultant unless they have extreme psychological problems,” he quips, "but it served a purpose, used my brain, paid off my loans. I had this notion that I would do consulting and make money until I had the financial independence that would give me the right to pursue art.”

One year into consulting, his then-girlfriend encouraged him to pursue his artistic ambitions instead. Although Thurston did not quit his consulting job, he began writing, blogging, and doing stand-up comedy. Thurston’s juggling act between consulting and creativity continued for seven years, and "eventually, the balance shifted so consulting became more of the thing on the side. This is where the pragmatism and creativity overlapped.”

In 2004, Thurston switched from full-time consulting to contractor status, a distinction he deems important because it marked that consulting—despite the benefits and financial security it afforded—was not his intended career path.

"Clinging to corporate life was too damaging to my creative life. The money was too easy, and it was creating bad incentives.” To physically detach himself from his consulting position’s demands, Thurston moved to New York, and within only a few months, he obtained the position at The Onion.

Since then, Thurston has worked extremely hard and cultivated a unique presence in comedy, politics, and journalism, especially online. During the swine flu epidemic, for example, Thurston created a Twitter account for a pig that spreads the disease across the world (@the_swine_flu). His own Twitter account (@baratunde), which he considers a "performance art space,” offers political insight, commentary on current events, and updated information about his comedy shows, television appearances, and upcoming projects.

Lately, Thurston’s Twitter and Facebook accounts have been buzzing about his latest book, HOW TO BE BLACK, available for purchase this month. HOW TO BE BLACK—which has already garnered excellent reviews from Publishers Weekly and MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry—unleashes valuable information to meet "every reader’s blackness needs,” according to a press release. However, Thurston envisions HOW TO BE BLACK taking on a life of its own as an ongoing project.

"The book is beyond blackness and goes to the question of identity. We are of a generation, a technological time, when our ability to be closer to who we are is probably higher than it’s ever been in all of human history. Previously your identity was wrapped in your flag or your tribe, and now more recently, declared by media institutions. Those central authorities of identity message are collapsing, and now we’ve got all this ego that has the ability to express itself.”

He continues, "In an age where we have a greater power to be who we are, this book is a signal of that shift. I want to allow it to become a platform for all kinds of people to talk about identity. We are all contending with who we are.”

Thurston will expand this dialogue about identity to include other perspectives through television, additional books, blog posts, and online at

Employing technology as a platform for self-expression is extraordinarily important to Thurston, partially due to his early exposure to computers and the Internet. Thurston’s mother, a deeply influential figure in his life, was a computer programmer, so his household was the first in his Washington, DC neighborhood to have a computer and the first to go online. In addition, he attended Sidwell Friends School, one of the first secondary schools in the United States to enjoy a dedicated, high-speed Internet connection.

"My early access to the Internet helped shape my understanding of the world, and I think technology is important because it’s becoming the primary infrastructure and language for literally everything: commerce, politics, love, conflict, spirituality. To not know it is to not know the world, and I very much want to know the world.”

Likewise, the world very much wants to know Thurston because his creative work not only entertains, but also offers insightful political and social commentary.

These interests are rooted in Thurston’s own family history and upbringing in Washington, DC, as well as in his "unfortunate position of caring” about race, politics, and satirical journalism, to name but a few issues he explores constantly. His maternal grandmother was the first black person employed at the U.S. Supreme Court, and Thurston’s mother was a Civil Rights activist. Her accomplishments cultivated in Thurston an appreciation for his rich heritage, awareness of and engagement in political activism, and the fortitude to grapple with racism.

"You can face racism, counter it, and challenge it without the ego hit, without the crisis of self-confidence that often befalls minorities. The cancer of racism is that it creates doubt about yourself and about others’ intentions and motivations.”

Part of Thurston’s success—in addition to ten years of "unhealthy levels of work”—is adhering to his own intentions and motivations.

"I stayed true to myself and weighed in on things that I care about, things that I know about and am curious about, instead of trying to be someone I think people want. People smell your real-ness, and even if they don’t agree with you, they still respect you.”

Those ten years of work were crucial. Musing over the roots of his unique career, Thurston says, "All of those efforts that were years in the making have paid off. What’s interesting is that everything I did at Harvard—I did The Crimson, The Computer Society, I did the black stuff, I did theater, and I worked many jobs—everything I’m doing now essentially got its start at Harvard.”

Yet Thurston warns that graduating from Harvard or a similar college can discourage one from exploring less conventional careers.

"One of the tragedies of being educated at a place like Harvard is that people often do non-creative things with that platform. You get these great minds and all of these super-motivated people, obviously lots of talent, and then a handful of industries just exploit the shit out of them and make them believe they’re worth your creativity.”

Thurston finds the creative business worthy of his mind and efforts because of what he modestly calls the "once-every-ten-years moment,” though he’s certainly had more than one.

"I like those moments when I feel 100% satisfied with what I’ve put out into the world, and in turn, the world responds in a way that says, ‘Yes. We agree with you. You have said it.’ I wish it happened every time I opened my mouth, but then I would be a wizard, and that’s a whole other line of work.”

Off the cuff, Baratunde Thurston is effortlessly funny and eloquent, unabashedly frank and genuine. HOW TO BE BLACK is just as engaging and hilarious as its author—and for those concerned about having to be black to purchase it, get the book online because won’t find out you’re actually a Smurf.

ddonale_page.jpgD. Dona Le is a freelance editor and writer currently residing in Chicago, IL.



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