Issue 121 | February 2015



In This Issue:

+ Director's Notes
+ Message from Allison


+ Featured Member Posting: Production Assistant, Discovery Channel — New York
+ Call for opportunities to feature in the 2015 Harvardwood Summer Internship Program
+ Exclusive offer through our partnership with Ameriprise Financial: Harvard Hollywood Program — Feb. 7th
+ Help us recognize Harvard-affiliated OSCARS nominees (and watch the Academy Awards with Harvardwood) — Feb. 22nd
+ Still accepting Harvardwood Publishing Seven Deadly Sins submissions — Deadline Apr. 15th
+ Seeking panelists for "I Was a Showbiz Intern" ARTS FIRST Panel
+ Volunteer with ARTS FIRST — May 2, 2015


+ Industry Successes
+ Harvardwood 101 Testimonials
+ New Members' Welcome
+ Member Profile: Joe Toplyn AB '75, MBA '79 (Late Night with David Letterman, Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Comedy Writing for Late-Night Television)


+ Calendar
+ We're launching a NEW Harvardwood website soon — save your profile information!

Director's Notes

Early last month, 25 Harvard students came to Los Angeles for another fantastic year of Harvardwood 101! Congratulations AND thank you to the Directors of Harvardwood 101, Amit Samuel and Ansley Rubinstein, for giving the students their first magical glimpse into the entertainment industry.

We are also grateful for all of the Harvard alums and friends who participated in Harvardwood 101, including: Patric Verrone & Maiya Williams, Mia Riverton, Allison Kiessling, James Granger, Lyndsey Baldasare, Lee Jessup, Mark Gill, Beth Bruckner, Alexandra Zimbler, Julio Garcia, Michael Singer, Taylor Randall, Brian Baum, Brad Turell, Scott Henderson, Adam Shulman, Sandra Chang, Alix Madigan, Noah Oppenheim, Franklin Leonard, Couper Samuelson, Peter Dodd, Larry Wasserman, Marcy Ross, Jonathan Eirich, Seth Brodie, Lyndsay Harding, Neil Jacobson, Erin Cooney, Karen Abrams, Doug MacLaren, Ted Chervin, Adam Perlman, Charles Murray, Kate Schumaecker, Reuben Garcia, JB Monu, and Jamil Shamasdin.

Read what some 101 participants had to say about their great experiences below!

— Dona

Message from Allison

It's February! And our new website is just around the corner! (please see the note about saving some of your information that may not transfer).

Coming off the heels of another great Harvardwood 101 program, it’s time to start thinking about summer internship opportunities for current Harvard students. If your company has an internship to offer, please post them for free to the Harvardwood Summer Internship Program! Internship opportunities can be in Los Angeles or New York.

Finally, I'd like to take a moment to thank all of our dedicated Program Directors, Chapter Heads, Student Liaisons, and event volunteers, who generously donate their hard work and time to Harvardwood. We would not exist without YOU! Harvardwood is volunteer powered! More hands on deck are always welcomed and needed, so if you have an initiative for a program or event you'd like to see at Harvardwood, please contact Dona at [email protected]

— Allison

Featured Member Posting: Production Assistant, Discovery Channel — New York

The Production Assistant will provide administrative, production, and development support to the Production & Development team. The Production Assistant will support the Specials team in all facets of production, working with Executive Producers and Executive Vice President. Responsibilities include the following: PRODUCTION - 1. Create DVDs and keep track of distribution and copying; 2. Upload clips to DMC and manage the Specials rooms; 3. Research and fact-checking for programs; 4. Submit dub requests; 5. Coordinate with vendors if needed; 6. Format scripts/treatments/Dept meeting documents, etc.; 7. Coordinate with other DSC departments as needed; DEVELOPMENT - DEVELOPMENT - 8. Manage the tracking of Development; 9. Coordinate with Series development team; 10. Compile pitch tapes/treatments for meetings; 11. Update development grid... To view full posting, please visit:

Call for opportunities to feature in the 2015 Harvardwood Summer Internship Program

Harvardwood is pleased to announce the 2015 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 Sunday, March 15th in order to be included in the first round of HSIP offerings and reach the largest number of potential candidates. Complete the form here:

Exclusive offer through our partnership with Ameriprise Financial: Harvard Hollywood Program — Feb. 7th

financial.jpgThanks to the event sponsor of our February 7th Harvard Hollywood Program, Ameriprise Financial, event attendees may register free of charge! Ameriprise Financial is a financial advisory and investment firm that offers guidance at all career levels. As part of our partnership Ameriprise, your REGISTRATION FEE to the Harvard Hollywood Program will be complimentary when you receive a FREE, no obligation financial consultation with their firm.

Consultations can include:

- Investment Advice
- Personal Financial Planning
- Business Planning
- Retirement Planning

To take advantage of this offer, contact Harvardwood Board member Michael Persaud by 12pm on Friday, Feb. 6th to schedule an appointment at: [email protected] Consultations CAN occur after the program on Feb. 7th — you need only SCHEDULE your consultation by Feb. 6th to be eligible for complimentary admission to the Harvard Hollywood Program.

Help us recognize Harvard-affiliated OSCARS nominees (& watch the Academy Awards with Harvardwood) — Feb. 22nd

oscars.jpgWith the 87th annual ACADEMY AWARDS coming up on February 22nd, we want to make sure that Harvardwood recognizes all Harvard-affiliated nominees! If you or someone you know from the Harvard community is up for an Oscar this year, please let us know by sending a quick email to [email protected] Thank you, and congratulations to all of the well-deserved nominations!

And join Harvardwood in Los Angeles for an Oscars watch party with IVY Entertainment, Yale in Hollywood, Columbia University Entertainment, and Dartmouth Alumni in Entertainment & Media. This is a FREE event, but please register so we know how many folks to expect!

Still accepting Harvardwood Publishing Seven Deadly Sins submissions — Deadline Apr. 15th!

Harvardwood Publishing is seeking short stories and poems for our next anthology, which will feature the theme of The Seven Deadly Sins. Pick one (or several!) juicy sins and send us your original work for consideration in this anthology. Deadline for submission is April 15, 2015; the entry fee is $15 per short story or poem. If you have any questions about the anthology, please direct them to the Director of Harvardwood Publishing, Patricia Danaher, at [email protected]

Seeking panelists for "I Was a Showbiz Intern" ARTS FIRST Panel

Harvardwood is putting together an on-campus panel event, "I Was a Showbiz Intern," ahead of ARTS FIRST weekend. If you've participated in HSIP or a 101 J-termship in the last couple of years, live in the Cambridge/Boston area, and are willing to participate in this career-oriented panel for students, please email Dona Le at [email protected] with the subject line "Showbiz Panel." Thanks!

Volunteer with ARTS FIRST — May 2nd

arts1st.jpgDo you want experience working at Harvard’s longest-running arts festival? We are seeking volunteers to help set up, clean up, greet audience members, hand out ARTS FIRST guides, and keep performance venues running smoothly. All volunteers will get a free ARTS FIRST t-shirt! If interested, please complete this form. Feel free to contact Marin Orlosky Randow, Arts First Coordinator, with any questions or concerns: [email protected]

Industry Successes

RESULTS, written and directed by Andrew Bujalski '98, premiered at Sundance and was acquired by Magnolia Pictures. The film features Guy Pearce, Cobie SMulders, and Kevin Corrigan. Magnolia plans to release the film in theaters in the summer.

thewitch.jpgTHE WITCH, produced by Jodi Redmond GSE '08, premiered at Sundance (and took home the Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic, awarded to Robert Eggers). Universal Pictures International Productions acquired foreign rights to the film, and A24 & DirecTV have U.S. distribution rights.

Carlton Cuse '81 (Lost) co-wrote Point of Honor, one of the Amazon Pilots released last month and available to view here, with Randall Wallace. At the start of the Civil War, a prominent Virginia family makes the controversial decision to defend the South while freeing all of their slaves, pitting the family against one another and testing their strength, courage and love. Watch and review the pilot to select the next Amazon Original Series!

From creators and Harvard alums Samuel Baum '98 (Lie To Me) and Sam Shaw '99 (WGN's Manhattan), Amazon pilot Cocked is the darkly comic tale of the Paxsons, a broken family working together—and against each other—in the most quintessentially American business, the business of guns. Watch the pilot and take the survey to select the next Amazon Original Series!

Congratulations to the following Oscar nominees! We wish them all the best on February 22nd!

  • WHIPLASH (Writing, Adapted Screenplay—Writer-Director Damien Chazelle '07/'08; Best Picture—Producer Helen Estabrook '03; Best Supporting Actor; Film Editing; and Sound Mixing). Also, congratulations to Executive Producer Couper Samuelson '02, and J.K. Simmons received the SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role.
  • BIRDMAN (Best Picture—Producer John Lesher '88; Best Actor; Best Supporting Actor; Best Supporting Actress; Best Director; Cinematography; Sound Editing; Sound Mixing; Writing, Original Screenplay). The film also received the SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
  • SELMA (Best Picture—Producer Jeremy Kleiner '98; Best Original Song)

Cameron Palatas, the youngest son of Mike Palatas (KSG - MC-MPA) and Vicki Palatas, is the lead in a faith-based movie that releases on February 6th in Carmike Cinemas across the country. The nearest one in the Los Angeles metro is in Thousand Oaks. Check out the Pass the Light trailer.

testimonials.jpgHarvardwood 101 Testimonials

"Harvardwood 101 is a thorough introduction to the entertainment business." - Aaron Aceves

"Before the trip, I knew that I wanted to do something in the entertainment industry but wasn't sure exactly what. After meeting with agents, producers, writers, and various other people in the industry, I have definitely gained a better sense of what it is truly like in Hollywood and what I want to do. Thank you Harvardwood for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime!" - Sophie Lipson

"Harvardwood 101 has been an invaluable experience to someone like who's always wondered what working in Hollywood was like. This program was filled with informational panels and meetings with all types of people in the entertainment and media industry, including directors, producers, agents, and writers. This program is perfect for giving people who are interested in coming to Hollywood the chance to learn about it before making the big move to LA!" - Pamela Yau

New Members' Welcome

Harvardwood warmly welcomes all members who joined the organization over the past month, including:

+ Luciana Baigun, HBS, NYC
+ Caroline S. Brettler, College, NYC
+ Michelle Brilliant, FOH, NYC
+ Amy Click, HDS, Boston/On-Campus
+ Julia G. Cohn, College, Boston/On-Campus
+ Victoria Elliott, College, Boston/On-Campus
+ Jess Fleischer, College, NYC
+ Christian Guzman, HBS, Boston/On-Campus
+ Kimberly B. Harshbarger, College, DC
+ Robert Henning, EXT, DC
+ Susan Horowitz, FOH, NYC
+ Tania M. Inala, College, SF/Bay Area
+ Benjamin Jarvis, College, NYC
+ William Kendall, FOH, LA
+ Susan L. Kingsolver, FOH, NYC
+ James E. Low, HBS, LA
+ Noah Madoff, College, NYC
+ Olivia H. Moseley, College, Boston/On-Campus
+ India Patel, College, Boston/On-Campus
+ Catherine Powell, College, LA
+ Yigit P. Sezener, College, Boston/On-Campus
+ Matthew Siegel, College, NYC
+ Michael Skerrett, College, Boston/On-Campus
+ Gram Slattery, College, Boston/On-Campus
+ Derek P. Speedy, College, Boston/On-Campus
+ Brooke Sweeney, College, Boston/On-Campus
+ Thomas B. Waddick, College, Boston/On-Campus

*FOH = Friend of Harvardwood

Please join us in welcoming the new Associate Director of Membership Experience, Donna Mandosa, who will be assisting our amazing Director Lano Williams!

Member Profile: Joe Toplyn AB '75, MBA '79 (Late Night with David Letterman, Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Comedy Writing for Late-Night TV)

by Terence O'Toole Murnin

Toplyn.jpgAfter Years of Writing Comedy for the Likes of Leno and Letterman, Joe Toplyn Now Shares His Secrets in the First Book Ever on Writing for Late Night TV with His Sights Set on a New TV Show

Photo Copyright: Nate Williams

“As my stockbroker friends might say, ‘You can’t fight the market,’” deadpans Joe Toplyn on his need to write hilarious, topical humor, often skewering Bill Cosby, or Kim Kardashian, or whoever is currently making the news. His Twitter feed (@JoeToplyn) mines the same topical gold that Toplyn has been perfecting for years for comedy heavyweights like Letterman and Leno:

Today an ice storm hit the East Coast. Roads were so slippery that 27 unlucky people ended up inside theaters showing Annie.

Today police in Garland, Texas, are preparing for protests at an Islamic event. Undercover officers will be wearing ten-gallon burqas.

NASA says 2014 was the hottest year ever. It was so hot that North Korea hacked into Dairy Queen.

Toplyn majored in engineering at Harvard where his analytical mind also performed amazing comedic gymnastics as editor of the Lampoon. This astoundingly led to a twenty-plus year career, writing and producing television comedy, including writing for Late Night with David Letterman (where Toplyn garnered four Primetime Emmy Awards) and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

“It wasn’t always this way, but Jim Downey, then President of the Harvard Lampoon, and Andy Borowitz really paved the way for all of us Harvard folks who have followed,” notes Toplyn. “These guys were role models, and suddenly, entertainment vehicles like Saturday Night Live and Letterman became career paths for Crimson graduates. And like in any industry, people like hiring people they know. It also helps to be smart in order to construct clever verbal surprises—and you have to be mentally agile to make surprising connections that are true, as well as a wordsmith who can put words together economically.”

Toplyn has always found that the news—what’s happening today—and his personal reaction to it in the real world as the most fertile source for comedic inspiration.

“Just living my life—or really listening to things my wife says to me—is really the best way to get over any form of writer’s block,” imparts Toplyn. “Whether you’re writing jokes, or a sitcom, just look at the news, and look at your own life, and the page is never blank. There’s always a way to manipulate it into something funny.”

This passion for writing humor and upending the myth that you can’t teach comedy is why Joe teaches at the Peoples Improv Theater in New York, and it’s also why he wrote Comedy Writing for Late-Night TV, the first book ever written on how to write comedy for late night TV, and really any short form comedy piece.

“Hey, Jerry Seinfeld could have written this book, but he doesn’t have to—He’s Jerry Sienfeld!” laughs Toplyn on writing the first book on how it’s really done in late night.

Toplyn has always had this ability to deconstruct jokes and he offers proven methods for writing comedy like the “Rule of 3” that inevitably makes a punch line funnier.

“I love looking at comedy as an intellectual exercise, and I really am the right guy to write this book, hopefully sharing my knowledge with people who can’t make it to New York,” adds a humble Toplyn.

Toplyn’s scholarly approach to this funny business is also the antithesis of the dark, tortured soul often portrayed by the media that you need in order to be successful in comedy. Instead, like any student, Joe recommends reading as much as you can to see how other writers think, fine-tuning your ability to construct a joke.

“Like any profession, there are comedians and plumbers who had dark, messed-up childhoods and went on to be very successful, and there are those who had perfectly happy childhoods, but I really don’t see any pattern in it,” remarks Toplyn. “Why are dentists so sad? What’s the correlation? Don’t be a dentist-comedian (Laughs). I now apologize to all dentist-comedians,” smiles Joe.

And while Toplyn greatly admires gifted writers who also became star performers such as Tina Fey and Seth Meyers, he feels no urge to do both, preferring to live on the East Coast where his two sons are educated very similar to how he was, and Toplyn remains close with his family in Boston.

This life balance has equated into a very successful career for Toplyn in an industry where work is never steady, and he firmly believes in one mantra when it comes to giving advice to up-and-coming talent:

“Don’t do it unless you can’t imagine doing anything else.”

“Unlike most comedy writers, Joe Toplyn is well-organized, systematic, and methodical,” notes Steve O’Donnell, former head writer of Jimmy Kimmel Live and Late Night with David Letterman in his assessment of Toplyn and his book on Amazon.

“Hang-out where people do this, and really participate in the comedy community,” imparts Toplyn. “Take classes and try a stint at stand-up comedy and this network will hopefully lead to meeting more people, and finding out which shows are hiring. Join a writer’s group and work on your sit-com spec script until you can’t make it any better. ”

Reading, studying, taking classes, and learning from the greats who have made classic comedy structure what it is seems to be all in a day’s work and natural for Toplyn in his logical approach to getting big laughs.

“Hey, maybe that’s why Harvard creates so many funny people—it’s what we do best,” smirks Toplyn.

As for the future, Toplyn is of course, writing jokes and pitching a sitcom spec pilot. After all, he did write the book on this, and in our increasingly scary world, the one thing we can always use is a laugh, and Toplyn’s raw material is a never ending stream of events and life keenly observed in this really weird world.

“When I was writing for Monk, a show devoted to mysteries, I was on vacation and a scuba diver actually told me a perfect way to kill someone and get away with it,” relates Toplyn.

murnin.jpgRaw material, indeed.

For even more inspiration and comedy writing tips, check out

Terence O'Toole Murnin is a raconteur and provocateur currently pitching his latest feature-film screenplay, LOVE YOU. MISS YOU. KISS YOU., as well as a TV Pilot, CLUB CASUALTIES.


***Featured Event*** LA - Harvard Hollywood Program Presented by Harvardwood & the HBS Association of Southern CA, Saturday, Feb. 7th

HiH.jpgIs traditional media dead? Hear from entertainment industry executives, many of whom have made the transition from traditional to digital media discuss the magnitude of the shift from traditional to digital media. How is consumer behavior changing? How are business models evolving? And how does one successfully manage a career in entertainment today? Join Harvard alums, HBS students, and entertainment executives as we discuss these and other issues facing the entertainment industry. This event will sell out! View the full list of panelists and register:

in Los Angeles:

Harvardwood Heads To... CreatorUp's LIVE Courses in Los Angeles

Harvardwood members receive a $100 discount off all CreatorUp LIVE courses in Los Angeles this month! Join CreatorUp and register for these live courses (listed below) using the Harvardwood discount code! More info here:


C.L.A. invites Harvardwood to Protecting Creativity: Collaboration Agreements, Tues., Feb. 10th

People collaborate at all stages of development and production, but writers especially need to know the ins-and-outs of protecting their work product, particularly when they collaborate on the creation of "ideas," writing of scripts and pitching to producers. Learn how the basics of copyright law works when writers don't have collaboration agreements, the benefits of having an agreement in place before starting to work as well as how to approach things "after the fact." For more details, please visit:

Harvardwood Heads To... The Ivy Plus Society's February Mixer, Thurs., Feb. 12th

Break hearts this Valentine's Day with The Ivy Plus Society, which produces social networking events for young alumni of a select group of schools, with the aim of creating a community of talented, dynamic individuals. The chance to meet incredible people was one of the best aspects of the schools we were privileged to attend. TIPS events extend those opportunities beyond the iron gates of our alma maters. The Ivy Plus Society recognizes the need to set the roof on fire and raise a glass with friends, new and old.... For more details, please visit:

C.L.A. invites Harvardwood to Protections for Visual Artists: Moral Rights Laws in CA, Wed., Feb. 18th

Join CLA and Daniel Y. Zohar, Esq. for a program providing an overview of moral rights laws that allow artists to protect their art from being destroyed or defaced. Topics to be covered include the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 and the California Art Preservation Act. Mr. Zohar will draw from his experience in representing artists Mear One, Chor Boogie and Shark Toof against AEG regarding the destruction of his clients’ art. For more details, please visit:

Harvardwood Co-Hosts an Oscars Watch Party, Sunday, Feb. 22nd

How accurate are your picks for Best Actress and Best Actor? Who's going to take home the Oscar for Best Picture this year? Watch the fashion, excitement, and drama of the 86th Academy Awards with Harvardwood this year and fill out your Oscars ballot for a chance to win some great prizes ($5 buy-in). For more details, please visit:

C.L.A. invites Harvardwood to Relax with Tax for Artists & the Self-Employed, Sat., Feb. 28th

Don't miss this annual seminar on the essentials of income tax for individual artists and artist groups of all disciplines, and the self-employed. Learn how you can efficiently track income and expenses throughout the year and correctly file your taxes. Topics will include record keeping, form 1040, Schedule C, the self-employment schedule, deductions, hobby losses, home offices, and more. A comprehensive workbook, "The Art of Deduction," is included with the admission fee. Additional handouts will also be provided. For more details, please visit:

in DC:

Harvardwood DC Writers' Meetup, Wed., Feb. 4th

Come out and meet fellow metro DC writers/aspiring writers! Are you working on a book, play, screenplay or other text? If you like, bring something to share with the group. It could be an outline, a scene--no more than five pages so you can read it aloud and receive feedback in a motivating and supportive environment. If you have any questions or would like to RSVP, please contact DC Chapter Head Dayna Wilkinson at [email protected] More info here:

​in New York:

Harvardwood Presents GEORGE KAUFMAN & MOSS HART Remembered, Wed., Feb. 11th

The collaboration of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart produced some of the greatest comic classics of the American theater, including Once in a Lifetime (1930), The Man Who Came to Dinner (1939), and, of course, You Can't Take It With You (1936), currently running again on Broadway in a star-studded and critically acclaimed production. Discussing Kaufman and Hart will be Anne Kaufman Schneider, daughter of George Kaufman, and Christopher Hart, the son of Moss Hart and Kitty Carlisle. For more details and to register, please visit:

in SF / Bay Area:

C.L.A. invites Harvardwood to Relax with Tax for Artists & the Self-Employed, Wed., Feb. 4th

Don't miss this invaluable 3-hour seminar on the essentials of income tax for individual artists of all disciplines. Learn how artists and artists groups can efficiently track income and expense throughout the year and how to correctly file their taxes. Topics will include record keeping, form 1040, Schedule C, and self-employment schedule, deductions, hobby losses, home offices and more. Complimentary tax workbook, The Art of Deduction, included with paid admission! More info here:

C.L.A. invites Harvardwood to Design Patents: How to Protect Your Art, Tues., Feb. 17th

Experienced patent attorney, Louis Wu, will guide you through the ins-and-outs of patent law for creative artists-- with a focus on design patents. Learn how patents are different from copyrights, trademarks and other ways to protect your creative art. Find out what features qualify for design patents and how to get a design patent. See the steps necessary to get ready to prepare a design patent application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. An excellent introduction to the design patent process from A to Z... For more details, please visit:

We're launching a NEW Harvardwood website soon — save your profile information!

Harvardwood is launching a brand-new, user-friendly website soon, but before we make that move, we wanted to give all of our members a heads up! All of your profile and account information will transfer over to the new website seamlessly, but any messages you may have exchanged with other Harvardwood members on our site may not be saved. So if you'd like to save all of that data, please do so now before we switch to the new site! Simply log on to your account at to access any messages you may have written or received. Thank you!


Harvardwood does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any of the information, content or advertisements (collectively "Materials") contained on, distributed through, or linked, downloaded or accessed from any of the services contained in this e-mail. You hereby acknowledge that any reliance upon any Materials shall be at your sole risk. The materials are provided by Harvardwood on an "AS IS" basis, and Harvardwood expressly disclaims any and all warranties, express or implied.

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