* Director's Notes
* Message from Mia
* Announcing the 2012 Harvardwood Volunteer of the Year (HARVY) Award Winners!
* Pencil Me In:
- ***Harvardwood/Stanford 2012 Holiday Soiree! Tues., Dec. 4
- HCSC Invites Harvardwood to: Annual Harvard Holiday Salon, Sat., Dec. 1
- Harvardwood Special Offer: FREE tix to LA Premiere for PROMISED LAND w/ Matt Damon, Thurs., Dec. 6 (just a few spots left!)
- Harvardwood Heads To...CALIFORNIA SOLO Opens in Theaters! Fri., Dec. 7
- Ivy Entertainment Holiday Party, Thurs., Dec. 13
- Harvardwood Holiday Mixer, Fri., Dec. 7 - Chicago
- Harvardwood Presents: Art Basel Miami Art Show & Lunch, Sat., Dec. 8 - Miami
- WAIT LIST for Harvardwood Special Offer: FREE tix to NY Premiere & Afterparty for PROMISED LAND, Tues., Dec. 4
- Harvardwood Presents Harvard Professor Joyce Chaplin: "Round About the Earth," Fri., Dec. 7
- Marble Collegiate Choir Invites Harvardwood to CELEBRATE THE WONDER, Sun., Dec. 9
- Harvardwood Heads To...(un)common threads: Blurring Genres in the 21st Century, Mon., Dec. 17
- HBS EMC Invites Harvardwood to: Media's Next Frontier, Sat., Dec. 8
* Harvardwood pays your dues...and other GREAT reasons to join, renew, or upgrade TODAY!
* Start your bidding! View items in the 2012 Harvardwood Holiday Silent Auction
* Harvardwood Holiday Appeal
* Give the gift of Membership to Harvardwood
* Seeking volunteers for the Harvardwood/Stanford Holiday Soiree
* Join the Harvardwood Board of Directors
* Seeking company hosts and J-termship providers for Harvardwood 101
* Industry Successes
* Introducing our new partnership with Ameriprise!
* Featured Member Posting: Internship - Lin Pictures (LA)
* Member Profile: Mikael Södersten '84
I don't know about y'all but the holiday season always puts me in a good mood. And this year is even better for me because there's a TON to enjoy with Harvardwood this month. First, note that this is an awesome time to join, renew, or upgrade your membership. Between now and Dec. 13, Harvardwood will pay your dues for you if you set up a FREE, no obligation consultation with Ameriprise (see more details on this below!). In addition, we have a few fun prizes to raffle off to all dues-current members after Dec. 13, so don’t delay!
And of course the season wouldn’t be complete without our annual holiday shin-dig! This year we’re giving away a free year of IMDb Pro to one lucky attendee, courtesy of Ameriprise (they’re pretty generous over there I must say). Make sure to register in advance for discount pricing. You can find gifts here too – check out our Holiday Silent Auction and also note that you can give the gift of Harvardwood Membership to friends and family.
I could go on and on…check out all of the goodies below and enjoy this holiday season!
Message from Mia
It's that time of year again -- yes, a time to stuff your face with delicious holiday treats, but also a time for celebration, reflection, friends, family and community. It's been another banner year for Harvardwood members, events, and programs (you can review a list of our 2012 accomplishments by clicking here) -- please consider supporting Harvardwood so that we can continue to bring you cool offers like the free tickets to the LA and NY premiere screenings of PROMISED LAND (w/ Harvard alum Matt Damon)! Click here to find out how to support Harvardwood.
Read on to find out about our 2012 HARVY winners, the upcoming Harvardwood Board elections, and much more… Happy Holidays!
Announcing the 2012 Harvardwood Volunteer of the Year (HARVY) Award Winners!
We are thrilled to announce this year's HARVY Award winners! The HARVYs (clever, eh?) are awarded annually to one or more volunteers that have demonstrated exceptional leadership in the Harvardwood community over their 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 2012 HARVY awards go to...
When Stacey Collins was a graduate student at the School of Education, she worked in the Office of Career Services. After graduating she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a writing career. Her first job in Hollywood was found through Harvardwood, working for Writer/Director Peter Radar (’82, ’83) as a research assistant.
Her involvement with Harvardwood has included many facets. She has volunteered at events, written profile articles for the newsletter, joined television writing groups, produced a television pilot showcase, and now is on the board as Director of the Harvardwood Career Connections.
The Mentorship Program is at the heart of Career Connections, and this is the third year Stacey has run the program. Each year a dozen or more members are matched with professionals who volunteer their time to mentor people in their desired fields.
Stacey’s responsibilities also include arranging informational interviews, recruiting employers to post available opportunities to the essential job listings section, and providing career search resources on the website. With her start at OCS, in a way she has never left.
She also organized the first ever Harvardwood showcase. Not only did she help the careers of the writers she recruited, the experience helped build her confidence and advance her own career. At its roots, Harvardwood is a place which offers its members opportunities to learn and grow.
Currently she works for filmmaker couple Terry Rossio and Jocelyn Stamat '92.
Michael Persaud HBS ’94 is Harvardwood’s current Director of Institutional Advancement. Since the start of his term he has worked tirelessly to help Harvardwood successfully manage its unprecedented growth –- from further developing Harvardwood’s corporate sponsorship structure & outreach strategy, to solidifying the financial structure of the organization. He recently joined Ameriprise, one of the country’s leading financial planning firms, and has firmly established Harvardwood’s ongoing partnership with the company (read more on this below). Michael brings to Harvardwood his diverse set of skills and boundless creative energy, and is excited to work with the organization (as well as with all members individually) to help it achieve its financial goals.
Pencil Me In...
LA - ***Harvardwood/Stanford 2012 Holiday Soiree! Tues., Dec. 4
We are delighted to bring back the annual Harvardwood/Stanford Holiday Soiree!! Come enjoy holiday revelry, good cheer, & tasty appetizers with our friends from Stanford in Entertainment in the beautiful & historic Culver Hotel…We are thankful to our sponsors at AMERIPRISE for supporting this function and helping us bring the ticket price down for all dues-current Harvardwood members! AMERIPRISE will also be giving away a door prize of a free year of membership to IMDb Pro to one lucky attendee (value = $125). All ticket buyers will be eligible for this prize…We will again host a toy drive for the holidays so bring an unwrapped toy for a child in need…Food, auction, toys and IMDb door prize – so much to enjoy this holiday season with Harvardwood! …To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=276116
LA - HCSC Invites Harvardwood to: Annual Harvard Holiday Salon, Sat., Dec. 1
Our friends at the Harvard Club of Southern California have invited Harvardwood members to one of the liveliest Holiday Performance Parties and Mixers in LA! Do you sing? Play? Perform? Dance? Or have another unique talent that would entertain others? This is your chance for fame, if not fortune! …To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=277239
LA - Harvardwood Special Offer: FREE tix to LA Premiere for PROMISED LAND w/ Matt Damon, Thurs., Dec. 6 (just a few spots left!)
Our friends at Focus Features have generously offered us FREE tickets, for the first 40 dues-paying Harvardwood members to respond (you can bring ONE guest with you), to the LA Premiere Screening of PROMISED LAND, starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski and directed by Gus Van Sant. Join cast members MATT DAMON, JOHN KRASINSKI, and others for this exclusive screening! The details of exact time and location will be sent to you after registration closes. BUT--you must be a dues-paying member (Full Member or Friend of Harvardwood)! So if you're an Affiliate (free) member, this could be a great time to upgrade to Full Membership ($45 per year)! And if your membership needs renewing, this is a great time to do it! …To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=280440&group=
LA - Harvardwood Heads To...CALIFORNIA SOLO Opens in Theaters! Fri., Dec. 7
CALIFORNIA SOLO opened in New York City on Friday, November 30th at the Quad Cinema! It opens in Los Angeles at the Nuart Theater on Friday December 7th. CALIFORNIA SOLO premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2012 and stars Robert Carlyle. The new film was written and directed by Marshall Lewy '99 and produced by Mynette Louie'97. They will be in attendance in both cities for Q&As following select screenings, and Robert Carlyle will be there for the December 7th evening screenings in Los Angeles. "A bravura performance...a don't miss" - Rex Reed, New York Observer. For more details about the film and links to purchase tickets for all screenings in all cities, visit www.californiasolo.com …To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=280776&group=
LA - Ivy Entertainment Holiday Party! Thurs., Dec. 13
You are invited to ring in the holidays with our seventh annual IVY Entertainment Holiday Party at Station located at W Hollywood. This year we will be celebrating holiday cheer with alums and friends in entertainment from Yale, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, U. Penn, and Dartmouth. Station will be offering exclusive IVY Holiday drink specials. Our guest list includes industry professionals from CAA, Sony Pictures, Paramount, ICM, WME, WB, ABC, and CBS. Step into the hottest new hideaway at W Hollywood’s exclusive outdoor oasis, STATION HOLLYWOOD. We'll have fun while sipping cocktails on the beautiful outdoor patio. Drop your business card off for our FREE card drawings for gifts including clothing, iTunes gift cards, and more…To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=274747&group=
CHICAGO - Harvardwood Holiday Mixer, Fri., Dec. 7 - Chicago
Celebrate the re-launch of the Harvardwood Chicago Chapter at the Harvardwood Holiday Mixer! Mix and mingle with old friends and new, and talk about new ideas to get the Harvardwood Chicago Chapter going again at this holiday time mixer! To view full posting and also learn how to join the Chicago Chapter, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=278124
MIAMI - Harvardwood Presents: Art Basel Miami Art Show & Lunch, Sat., Dec. 8 - Miami
See Art Basel Miami, the largest art show in the United States with fellow Harvard alumni! Our program will include visits to art exhibitions with art created or curated by Harvard alumni. A one-hour docent tour can be reserved on request. Art Basel Miami has arranged a special group rate for Harvardwood members and guests. The program fee includes one-day admission at Art Basel Miami and lunch cover charge and tip at the nearby Quattro Restaurant, recommended by Art Basel Miami…To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=276110
NY - WAIT LIST for Harvardwood Special Offer: FREE tix to NY Premiere & Afterparty for PROMISED LAND, Tues., Dec. 4
Our friends at Focus Features have just generously offered us FREE tickets, for the first 15 dues-paying Harvardwood members to respond (you can bring ONE guest with you), to the NYC Premiere Screening of PROMISED LAND, starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski and directed by Gus Van Sant. The screening will be immediately followed by the Official Premiere Afterparty. The details of exact time and location will be sent to you after registration closes…Although the original offer is now SOLD OUT there is a chance that up to 30 more tickets might become available. If you sign up on this Waiting List, you will be e-mailed if tickets become available. If you hear nothing, that means that no additional tickets have yet become available…To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=280446&group=
NY - Harvardwood Presents Harvard Professor JOYCE CHAPLIN: "Round About the Earth," Fri., Dec. 7
In her new book, ROUND ABOUT THE EARTH: Circumnavigation from Magellan to Orbit, Harvard History Professor Joyce Chaplin tells the enthralling 500-year story of around-the-world travel. Chaplin's book has been hailed by Sir Harold Evans as "a treasure of thrilling stories, replete with insights into the advances of science, technology and medicine" and saluted by Publishers Weekly for "its profusion of entertaining travel picaresques with their gallery of colorful figures on grand, eccentric, or piratical quests." Walter Isaacson writes, "Joyce Chaplin shows the interplay of aspirations and technology, from sail and steam to jets and rockets. More profoundly, she explores what it means to circle our globe, act on a planetary scale, and encompass, both figuratively and literally the whole earth." …To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=269927
NY - Marble Collegiate Choir Invites Harvardwood to CELEBRATE THE WONDER, Sun., Dec. 9
The renowned Marble Collegiate Choir, described by the Financial Times as "among the mightiest of the world's top religious choirs," has invited Harvardwood to CELEBRATE THE WONDER, their annual Advent concert, where the Choir will be joined by a chamber orchestra in a 90-minute celebration of the season through beautiful lighting, readings, and glorious music. Speaking on CBS Morning News, Charles Osgood hailed the Marble Collegiate Choir as one of America's three pre-eminent sacred music choirs, calling them "Fabulous . . . amazing depth of melodious timbre and vitality," and praising their "special concerts that will regale you with the beauty of their music and the special treat of attending one of these not to be missed events where you will experience the greatness of the best in choral music." …To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=276190
NY - Harvardwood Heads To...(un)common threads: Blurring Genres in the 21st Century, Mon., Dec. 17
Harvardwood members are invited to Carnegie Hall for (un)common threads: Blurring Genres in the 21st century, a performance with Gabriel Kahane and friends exploring the ties between distinctive musical styles. The event features songs by Kahane including excerpts from Craigslistlieder, his 2012 musical February House, and collaborations with special guests Aoife O'Donovan, Julian Lage and the American Contemporary Music Ensemble. The performance is followed by an after-party at the Empire Hotel Rooftop (includes a 2-hour premium open bar). The event is taking place on Monday, December 17th, at 7pm. Harvardwood members receive a 50% discount - the ticket price would come to $40….To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=271076&group=
BOSTON - HBS EMC Invites Harvardwood to: Media's Next Frontier, Sat., Dec. 8
Harvardwood members are cordially invited to...the HBS Entertainment & Media Summit 2012 - Media's Next Frontier! Held annually, the HBS Entertainment & Media Summit facilitates an interactive network of current and future business leaders to engage in cutting-edge dialogue about the state of the industry. The theme of the 2012 summit is "Media’s Next Frontier” with a focus on the entertainment sector’s most pressing questions and issues. The summit is comprised of three keynote presentations and multiple panels across a wide range of topics related to entertainment and media, from the creative to the business end of the industry and including music, film, television, digital and more. The HBS Entertainment and Media Club is excited to announce this year’s confirmed speakers which include Arnon Milchan, the Chairman of New Regency, and Roger Faxon, the former CEO of EMI…To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/events/event_details.asp?id=274777
Harvardwood pays your dues...and other GREAT reasons to join, renew, or upgrade TODAY!
Now is the best time to join, renew, or upgrade! As a thank you to our members this season, we've lined up some fabulous membership perks, including the opportunity to have your next year’s dues PAID FOR by us! We are very happy to announce our new corporate partnership with Alexander, Harrison & Associates, a financial advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial. Ameriprise knows artists: all career and asset levels welcome. Schedule a FREE, no-obligation consult with Ameriprise by Dec. 13th and we will cover next year's dues for you! In addition, all members that are dues-current by Dec. 13 will have the opportunity to win some great prizes from the luxurious & scenic Shangri-la Hotel and the American Film Institute. Learn more about our 2012 Membership Drive and be sure to join, renew, or upgrade TODAY! Click here to learn more:
Start your bidding! View items in the 2012 Harvardwood Holiday Silent Auction
We are excited to announce the 2012 Harvardwood Holiday Silent Auction! All of the auction festivities have begun ONLINE, so click below to view the items up for grabs and start bidding. We have a TON of fun stuff - from a GLEE gift basket, to yoga & piano lessons, a personal training session, concert tickets, and -- a trip to the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans!! This auction is open to the public so feel free to share widely with family, friends, and associates. You can also bid live at the LA holiday party on Dec. 4th at the Culver Hotel…To view auction items and submit bids, visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/?page=auction2012
Harvardwood Holiday Appeal
As we enter the holiday season, we are honored to reflect on the ways in which you all have contributed to the success of Harvardwood over the past year -- we continue to experience overwhelming growth and are optimistic about the future of our organization. To get a sense of just how far we’ve come you can review a list of our 2012 accomplishments by clicking here!
With unprecedented growth come some growing pains, however. As always, we are committed to maintaining all of our existing programs, as well as building toward an overarching goal of utilizing the arts, entertainment, and media as powerful forces for positive social change -- but we simply cannot do this on dues payments alone. It is imperative that we continue to expand our fundraising and sponsorship initiatives to support and sustain Harvardwood's growth and well-being.
To assist in this effort we ask that you would consider supporting Harvardwood in some way this holiday season - either by making a tax-deductible donation, making an in-kind contribution, or by bringing in a sponsor. We are grateful for gifts of any amount -- thank you in advance for your consideration! To find out more about how you can support Harvardwood, click here:
Give the gift of Membership to Harvardwood
You can now offer Full or Friend of Harvardwood Membership as a gift to your family, friends, and associates! Click below to purchase the annual membership fee (you can purchase several years if you'd like), and just let us know the name and email of the person for whom you are buying the gift and we'll take it from there! Learn more and purchase a gift membership here (and remember, all dues-current members are eligible for the prizes in our 2012 Membership Drive):
Seeking volunteers for the Harvardwood/Stanford Holiday Soiree
We are currently seeking volunteers to help run the festivities at our Harvardwood/Stanford Holiday Soiree! The event will take place on Tuesday, December 4th from 8-11pm (volunteers should plan to arrive by 7pm). Please email [email protected] with the subject line "VOLUNTEER" if interested.
Join the Harvardwood Board of Directors
The Harvardwood Board of Directors (BOD) is coming up on elections for its next term and we are looking for some energetic individuals to fill a few great positions! The Harvardwood BOD is the managing body that oversees the volunteer efforts of Harvardwood members worldwide, and it has worked to create an impressive array of events, programs, and online resources over the past decade. As a member of this dynamic team you will play a large role in determining the priorities and setting the course for the entire organization…To find out more about the available positions, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/news/110065/Join-the-Harvardwood-Board-of-Directors.htm
Seeking company hosts and J-termship providers for Harvardwood 101
Harvardwood invites all Harvard alums and friends to get involved in the 11th 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.
There are two segments of the Harvardwood 101 program:
- The Harvardwood 101 "Boot Camp" program takes place during the first full week of J-term, this year from January 7th - 11th, 2013. The entire group of about two-dozen students participates in office visits, panels, tours, and other activities sponsored by alums and friends working in the arts/media/entertainment industries.
- The Harvardwood 101 "J-Term-Ship" program provides opportunities for the duration of the J-term (this year from Jan. 12th - 27th, or a portion thereof) for individual students to further explore their area(s) of professional interest. J-term-ship opportunities might include such experiences as shadowing an alum, doing an intensive 2-week "internship” at one or more companies, observing on a film or TV set, assisting with project research, etc. PLEASE NOTE: "J-term-ship" opportunities do not have to be LA-based.
Please contact us at [email protected] if you have questions or are interested in any/all of the following:
- Providing a "J-term-ship” opportunity for an individual student (or students)
- Hosting all of the students for an office/set visit and/or participating in a panel discussion
For more information on Harvardwood 101, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/?Harvardwood101
Thanks for your support!
Dani Dixon directed the music video "Make Stew" for artist Chris White "DaGeneral". It was released Thanksgiving Day. She re-teamed with her "Kismet" DP, award-winning cinematographer Yasu Tanida. Fellow alums on the production were editor Jennifer Fischer (GSAS) and casting director Sara Bibel (College). Watch the video here - http://bit.ly/Ti1eV8
Katherine Bergeron EXT 2011 and E. Stephen Frederick launched their fundraising campaign via Kickstarter on November 1, 2012 to benefit Torrent Engine 18 (http://www.torrentengine18.org). Torrent Engine 18 is a 19th-century decommissioned firehouse in Dorchester that has suffered years of deferred maintenance and neglect. All profits from the fundraiser will benefit the restoration of the firehouse. After the restoration is complete, Torrent Engine 18 will accommodate resident and visiting artists, house the Empire S.N.A.F.U. Restoration Project, and provide a flexible theater/gallery/performance space for local, national, and international artists of all stripes. Learn more at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/182095077/old-boston-firehouse-to-become-art-space-torrent-e
THE SEVENTH FIRE - a character-driven vérité documentary directed by Jack Pettibone Riccobono '03 - has been selected for final review by the distribution arm of PBS and currently seeks producing partners for post-production funding. The film tells the story of three Ojibwe men caught between the violent rise of Native American criminal gangs and the struggle to maintain the traditions of their ancestors. From Sundial Pictures (Pariah, Jiro Dreams of Sushi) and Executive Producer Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals, We Shall Remain), with Co-Editors Michael J. Palmer '03 (George Harrison: Living in the Material World, History of The Eagles) and Adelaide Papazoglou '02, and composer Nicholas Britell '03 (Gimme the Loot). For more information and sample link, contact [email protected]
CALIFORNIA SOLO, written and directed by Marshall Lewy '99 and produced by Mynette Louie '97, opened in New York City on Friday, November 30th at the Quad Cinema! It opens in Los Angeles at the Nuart Theater on Friday December 7th. CALIFORNIA SOLO premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2012 and stars Robert Carlyle. Marshall and Mynette will be in attendance in both cities for Q&As following select screenings, and Robert Carlyle will be there for the December 7th evening screenings in Los Angeles. "A bravura performance...a don't miss" - Rex Reed, New York Observer. For more details about the film and links to purchase tickets for all screenings in all cities, visit www.californiasolo.com.
Introducing our new partnership with Ameriprise!
We are very happy to announce our new corporate partnership with Alexander, Harrison & Associates, a financial advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial. Ameriprise FInancial is one of the country's leading financial planning firms and they understand artists. Ameriprise takes a personal approach to financial planning and advice, and can offer support and guidance to our members at all career and asset levels, with the ultimate goal of understanding each client's aspirations and creating a plan to achieve them.
Through our partnership, Amerirprise will be supporting many of Harvardwood's programs throughout the year (including our LA holiday party where you can mix and mingle with them in person!). With their generous commitment and contributions to the organization, Harvardwood is able to pass on additional benefits to our members. Don't forget that from now until Dec. 13th, Harvardwood will cover next year's FULL or FRIEND OF HARVARDWOOD MEMBERSHIP for any members that meet with Amerprise for a FREE, no obligation consult.
To take advantage of this offer, contact Michael Persaud (HBS '94) by DEC. 13th to schedule an appointment at: [email protected]
Featured Member Posting - Internship: Lin Pictures (LA)
Lin Pictures (TERMINATOR: SALVATION, SHERLOCK HOLMES, GANGSTER SQUAD) is looking for sharp, enthusiastic interns for the spring semester. This is a uniquely integrated intern experience in a fast-paced, high-volume production company. The job includes attending story meetings with writers and directors, reading scripts in development and learning how large features and network TV shows are put together at a top studio. You'll be doing notes and learning tons about storytelling! Of course there are also other day-to-day tasks such as making copies, going on runs on the lot and helping out with general office duties. However, the amount of access and input the internship provides is unique. Due to the hands-on nature of this for-credit internship we are looking for people who are dedicated and responsible and will become a part of our close-knit Lin Pictures team during their internship. Our next movie, GANGSTER SQUAD, opens on Jan 11, 2013, we are currently in production on LEGO: THE PIECE OF RESISTANCE, our first animated feature, and we're in post on SECRET LIVES OF WIVES, a pilot for Lifetime. Beyond that we have a myriad of other projects in active development in both features and TV. Three days a week are required but we encourage you to come more often if you can fit it into your schedule…To view full posting, please visit: http://www.harvardwood.org/networking/opening.asp?id=143385
Member Profile: Mikael Södersten '84
by D. Dona Le
Director and dramaturg Mikael Södersten ‘84 does not take the word "happy” lightly when describing himself.
"For a Swede, that’s a word we rarely take into our mouths; not that we are not happy, but to say you’re truly happy — that’s something you might say when you hold your firstborn in your arms. It’s a very special word.”
Despite having lived in the United States for the last ten years, Södersten remains closely in touch with his Swedish heritage. Since graduating magna cum laude from Harvard, he has worked extensively with leading Scandinavian directors, producers, and actors, including Tomas Alfredson (TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY) and Thomas Vinterberg (CELEBRATION).
Never glib and powerfully self-aware, Södersten offers thoughtful insights into his motivation to pursue film, his professional collaboration with wife and partner, Harvard alum Cornelia Ravenal, and his work as a dramaturg. Above all, he remains conscious of maintaining balance, whether between his work in independent film and in Hollywood, or between his European and American identities.
From a family of Swedish church musicians, Södersten first came to the United States as a high school student on scholarship to Lawrenceville. At Harvard, he selected Visual and Environmental Studies as his major concentration and Psychology as his minor. "My interest in film is based in an interest in human nature,” he explains. "In order to work in film, I thought I would focus on psychology first.”
His senior thesis project was a narrative film called FISSURA, based on a true story of a victim of a devastating stroke. Called the "best Swedish short of the decade,” FISSURA gave Södersten invaluable hands-on filmmaking experience.
"Having made a thesis film, you’ve touched upon all aspects of filmmaking,” Södersten says. "You write it, you do the research, you apply for the money, you produce it, you engage all the actors, you shoot and edit it.” He also distributed it and it ended up both broadcast on Swedish TV and used as a teaching tool in Swedish hospitals.
Immediately after graduation, Södersten returned to Sweden and worked "in every capacity in film production and development.” FISSURA's success brought the young writer/director to the attention of numerous film companies. In 1990, he wrote and directed PASS, starring Michael Nyqvist (GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO).
Then, the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s led Södersten on a detour and he worked as Head of Production for an interactive media company. But in 2001, Cornelia Ravenal, whom he’d met at Harvard nineteen years before, emailed him out of the blue. They talked about their dreams of making films. One thing led to another and in 2004 they got married.
Since founding Wilderness Films together in 2005, Södersten and Ravenal have become partners in every sense of the word. Their films include the award-winning off-beat documentary FIVE FEELINGS ABOUT FOOD (2005), which focuses on two Harvard alumni, Doug Fitch (AB ’82) and Mimi Oka (AB ’81), WHITE MAN'S BLUES (2006) and THE OTHER WOMAN (2007).
The production company strives to find, originate and develop projects that combine the best of American and Swedish film. In their collaboration, they co-write the stories, but Ravenal is always the screenwriter. Upcoming projects that she has written and that Södersten will direct include THE INITIATION, a sports thriller loosely based on the true story of a brutal hazing at an Ivy League school.
Södersten does not describe himself as a writer, despite having written throughout his career and having been commissioned to write the treatment for director Tomas Alfredson’s next film, an international movie based on THE BROTHERS LIONHEART, by Pippi Longstocking author Astrid Lindgren.
His bread and butter work is as a dramaturg, a theater term for the person who structures the story material to display onstage. A dramaturg is not to be mistaken with Hollywood’s script doctor, who is brought in to rewrite a script the studio is not satisfied with.
"In the European tradition,” Södersten clarifies, "the director is often also the writer, so it’s essential for producers and financiers to bring somebody on the project – the dramaturg – who will take the writer/director from promising material to a script that can be financed and produced.”
Södersten has worked as a dramaturg on over sixty projects, both feature films and television series. Out of these, fifteen films have premiered, while several others are in production or pre-production.
He acknowledges that as a dramaturg, he may encounter scripts or subject matters that he does not initially find compelling.
"But if I work with the creator and understand his or her needs, I will undoubtedly find a common ground, and it is from that common recognition of a human emotion that we can develop a script together. Because ultimately, all art is designed to move our emotions and hopefully also to expand our minds.”
Of all art forms, why has Södersten selected film as his lifelong passion? He answers with seeming ease.
"Being an athlete combined with being a musician drew me to film because it’s a kinetic medium. And it has word, sound, images, music, acting. Film is the most dynamic of our art forms.”
In addition, Södersten views his father’s musical career as analogous to his own in film: "As artists, we have to accept being teachers in combination with our own execution. Unless we make it to the top and become soloists, then it’s hard. My dramaturgy is my teaching, my projects are my art.”
More than simply acknowledging the difficulty of pursuing a career in the arts, Södersten elaborates on the personal drive needed to do so.
"I too, like Cornelia, have had my fair share of drought, and you cannot go into the field of your passion unless you are prepared for years of drought.”
Having commented that people in the United States, compared to other countries, often define success in materialistic and financial terms, he continues, "You have to have the courage to define success in your own unique way.
"If Harvard is to teach you anything with its motto, veritas, it is not only the scientific truth that we shall seek, but also the subjective, personal truth; and that is found in the arts, if we have the opportunity and the obligation to express our personal truth and our personal subjective experience of life. And if we do that rigorously enough, we will speak for other people, and they will be able to recognize themselves in us.”
Together with his wife and partner, Södersten speaks for and to his audiences, and does so with a startling clear conception of both the stories he conveys and the artistic medium through which he conveys them.
One might venture to say, Södersten must be happy.
"Now, having found Cornelia, having these projects, living in New York City, and also working so frequently in Scandinavian countries, my life is fully integrated. I can use two languages and two cultures and be at my full potential, and that gives me a sense of great joy, and great joy is as close to happiness as one can find in this life.”
And that is certainly a subjective, personal truth that we can recognize and hope to attain.
D. Dona Le is a freelance editor and writer currently residing in Chicago, IL.
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