In this issue:
- Directors' Notes
- Message from Allison
- Featured Member Posting: Literary Intern (Anonymous Content) - LA
- Submit your script to the 2015 Harvardwood Writers Competition - Deadline July 31st
- Get a sneak peek of Harvardwood's online Summer Silent Auction (July 13th-31st)
- Seeking poetry and short fiction for the Harvardwood Publishing original anthology - Deadline July 31st
- Exclusive Q&A with The Rumperbutts' Josh Brener '07 (Actor) and Marc Brener (Writer-Director)
- Harvardwood Artist Showcase: Nicolas Schwalbe '14 (Musician, L.A. Jeff)
- Industry Successes
- New Members' Welcome
- Alumni Profile: Megan Amram '10 (Author & Comedy Writer, Silicon Valley, Parks & Rec, Science...For Her!)
Calendar & Notes
- Musicians, share your latest tracks on Harvardwood Radio!
We are psyched about the great items we're lining up for our first Summer Silent Auction (bidding opens July 13th)! Items include a 2016 Sundance Film Festival ticket package for two, VIP lunches with Harvard alum industry execs, sports tickets, and one-of-a-kind swag/memorabilia from hit TV shows and movies. If you want to feature your company/service in the auction, or if you simply want to donate an item or gift certificate, you still have time to participate in our summer auction! All donations to Harvardwood are 100% tax-deductible.
I hope you all have a fun and fantastic July 4th celebration this weekend! After the festivities, join us at the Los Angeles Film School next Tuesday, July 7th, for our Harvardwood Seminar featuring Jonathan E. Steinberg (Black Sails) in a discussion moderated by Melinda Hsu Taylor (The Vampire Diaries). All Harvardwood Seminars are FREE to members!
Message from Allison
It’s Writers Competition time! The annual competition is all about helping to boost new voices in the industry. It’s a great way to get your new material noticed and get representation. The deadline is July 31st and results will be released in the fall.
Also—don’t miss this month’s alumni profile with Megan Amram '10, as well as our awesome Q&A with Josh Brener '07 and Marc Brener. All these alums collaborate on SILICON VALLEY, but this month we talked to them about some of their other headline-making projects.
Prestigious management and production company ANONYMOUS CONTENT (True Detective, The Knick, Winter's Bone) seeks an intern in its literary department. Responsibilities include script coverage, light administrative duties, and script research. Minimum two days a week.
The Harvardwood Writers Competition (HWC) was founded in 2006 with the aim of recognizing superior work by Harvard writers and giving these talented individuals the opportunity to gain industry exposure. The HWC features three categories:
- Feature screenplays (90-120 pages, all genres)
- Television pilots (half-hour and one-hour, all genres)
- Shorts (30 pages maximum, all genres)
Results will be announced in late Fall 2015. Winning scripts will be read by an array of industry professionals, including literary managers, agents, and development professionals. All winners and runners-up will also receive free admission to the 2015-16 Harvardwood Writers Program module of their choice and a small cash award. Deadline is July 31st at 11:59pm Pacific Time.
Get a sneak peek of Harvardwood's online Summer Silent Auction (July 13th-31st)
Get ready, folks! Check your Internet connection and hover over your mouse: bidding for the Harvardwood Summer Silent Auction will begin on Monday, July 13th! You can place bids on your favorite items until 11:59pm Pacific Time on Friday, July 31st.
We're certain that the Summer Silent Auction will have something for EVERYBODY, whether you want to snag a gift certificate for a screenwriting course with Jen Grisanti, Steve Kaplan, or Corey Mandell; grab lunch with one of our VIPs: Amy Retzinger (Partner, Verve Talent & Literary Agency), Mark Goffman (Showrunner, Writer, & Producer, Sleepy Hollow, The West Wing, White Collar), or Terence Carter (EVP, Drama Development & Programming, FOX Broadcasting Company); or simply get a collectible item from your favorite show (Bones and The Vampire Diaries, anybody?)!
In the meantime, it's not too late to donate to the Harvardwood Summer Silent Auction. It's a great way to promote your company's service or product for free to the entire Harvardwood membership + friends, while ALSO making a tax-deductible donation!
Seeking poetry and short fiction for the Harvardwood Publishing original anthology - Deadline July 31st
Lust! Anger! Gluttony! Greed! Pride! Envy! Greed! Sloth!
We've extended the deadline for submissions to Harvardwood Publishing's original anthology, The Seven Deadly Sins! Please send your short stories or poems on at least one of these juicy sins to us by July 31st. Writers do not have to be Harvard-affiliated or Harvardwood members, so spread the word to your fellow poets and authors who might be interested!
- Entry fee $15.
- Deadline: July 31, 2015
Congratulations to the talented Brener Brothers, whose indie musical comedy The Rumperbutts—starring Mates of State duo Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, Arian Moayed (Appropriate Behaviour, Rosewater), and Vanessa Ray (Pretty Little Liars, Blue Bloods)—was recently released in theaters and on Amazon, GooglePlay, iTunes, and Vimeo.
About The Rumperbutts: A married indie band duo (Mates of State) regretfully takes a job on a children's show The Rumperbutts. Despite money and success, their relationship turns to one of resentment. On one extraordinary evening, a magical man (Josh Brener) leads them on a path of rediscovery and gives them a second chance at happiness. Featuring original music by Mates of State.
Q. What was the inspiration behind this movie? Did the story come to you first, or were you big fans of Mates of State and wanted to build a story around them?
JB. I’ve been a huge fan of Mates of State for years. I turned Marc onto their music, and he took it from there. And then somehow I got to play drums with them on stage, which was pretty much the coolest thing ever. EVER. (Thanks, Marc!)
MB. I knew I had wanted to make a movie that used music to help tell the story. And having just worked with Mates of State on a short film after being a big fan of theirs for years (Thanks Josh!), I thought I’d see if they were up for a feature. They were. The original story was different than what came to be. The whole idea of selling out was not in the first outline. Something wasn’t right about that first take. And then all of a sudden everything just came together with the new version.
Q. Marc, did you write Richie’s super-funny character with Josh in mind? Josh, did you have any input in Richie’s character/dialogue?
JB. Aside from a couple of on-set improvs here and there, Richie is totally Marc’s creation. I just got lucky that I happened to fit the character description!
MB. Richie was written with Josh in mind 100%. I love writing for Josh.
Q. How did Arian Moayed and Vanessa Ray get involved in the project?
I had asked my agency if they could tell me a few names of actors who could sing and do comedy. Once I saw both Arian and Vanessa’s work, we sent out offers immediately. Everyone was thrilled to find that they were both available. I truly hope to get to work with them again.
Q. As brothers, what were the best and worst aspects of working closely together on The Rumperbutts?
JB. It was honestly really really fun. We’ve spent the last 30ish years goofing around and doing bits together; it was kind of cool to have that silliness be in service of something slightly more productive than annoying our parents. The only tough part was, um… Marc? Thoughts?
MB. On day one of filming we got to sit together during lunch and just talk about how amazing this was and how lucky we felt to be doing it. It’s also pretty great having someone there that you have know for thirty years. It feels good. Comforting. As for worst aspect—sometimes I just wanna hang out with Josh, but he’s busy getting prepared or I am being pulled away to do something else. So we just hung out after instead.
Q. What would be three key pieces of advice you’d give to someone making his/her first indie film?
1. You get one chance with friends and family for donations and fundraising, don’t waste it - make sure it is an idea you are passionate about and that you don’t want to just make a movie.
2. Don’t give up. There are so many hurdles and complications along the way that at times it will make you question everything. Stay true to what you want to do and try to remember WHY you want to do it.
3. If someone offers to help you in any way, pretty much always say yes. Whether it is with free food or drinks, or an idea to make the movie better, always be open to it. You may hear 99 bad ideas, but there could be that one which makes the movie so much better.
Harvardwood Artist Showcase: Nicolas Schwalbe '14 (Musician, L.A. Jeff)
L.A. Jeff is a psychedelic garage rock band formed in late 2012 in the dank basements of Harvard University by Nicolas Schwalbe '14. While the band's sound is grounded in sixties psychedelia and late eighties/early nineties shoegaze, echoing artists like the Doors, the Sonics, Spacemen 3, and the Brian Jonestown Massacre, L.A. Jeff's highly energetic live performances also evoke the swagger of seventies glam rock and bring to mind T. Rex, the New York Dolls, and "Exile on Main Street" era Stones. Their debut LP "Holidaze Inn" was released by Wiener Records on June 2nd. L.A. Jeff's music can be heard here.
This summer, Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri '10 published a hilarious memoir, A Field Guide to Awkward Silences. Petri is also a playwright, and her latest work, Never Never, will be featured in the Capital Fringe Festival this month. Read Petri's memoir and head to Never Never with Harvardwood DC!
Harvard writers are on a roll these days! Harvardwood extends our congratulations to Sue Chung, recently staffed on Agent Carter; Adam Perlman, recently staffed on The Good Wife; and writer-director Nick Weiss, who signed a two-year overall deal with ABC Studios. Congratulations, everybody!
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, the 2012 debut novel of Jesse Andrews '04, has enjoyed a phenomenal theatrical release! Andrews also wrote the screenplay, and the film was acquired by Fox Searchlight Pictures after premiering at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival to a standing ovation.
Susan Bin is the recipient of this year's scholarship from Women in Animation for her visual development portfolio. We're especially thrilled for Susan, who has been a great member of the Harvardwood team as our Undergraduate Outreach & Administrative Assistant.
New Members' Welcome
Welcome to our newest Harvardwood members, many of whom we met at last month's Global Networking Night, hosted by the Harvard Alumni Association.
- Michael Attanasio, FOH, NY
- Martha Boles, A.R.T., LA
- Kara Brady, GSE, LA
- Danelle Brown, EXT, NY
- Jacqueline Clark, College, Other U.S.
- Marc Cosentino, GSE & KSG, LA
- Sean Fredricks, College, LA
- Tom Freudenheim, College, NY
- Rita Funaro, College, DC
- Catherine Gamble, College, NY
- Simon Hedlin, KSG, Boston/On-Campus
- Kevin Hilgartner, College, Boston/On-Campus
- Jennifer Hsu, College, LA
- Trevor Katende, College, LA
- Bernard Kripkee, College, NY
- Elizabeth Leimkuhler, College, NY
- Jill Letteney, Staff, NY
- Jeanne Mantell, HLS, LA
- Alexi Mazareas, College, LA
Christy McKerney, HDS, LA
- Victor Moye, EXT, NY
- Caitlin Ner, College, LA
- Jeff Norton, HBS, London
- Maria Ortega, GSE, DC
- Rebecca Panovka, College, Boston/On-Campus
- Robert Popa, EXT, LA / NY
- Shana Sandborn, College, Boston/On-Campus
- James R. Shorter, Jr., HLS, NY
- Maera Siddiqi, EXT, Boston/On-Campus
- Kenyatta Smith, College, LA
- Heather Sullivan, GSD, NY
- Joyce Yang, GSAS, SF/Bay Area
FOH = Friend of Harvardwood
Alumni Profile: Megan Amram '10 (Author and Comedy Writer, Silicon Valley, Parks & Rec, Science...For Her!)
By D. Dona Le
Most classical musicians start taking lessons in early childhood. Olympic-level athletes often begin training as soon as they’ve learned to walk.
But contrary to what her meteoric career as a comedy writer would suggest, Megan Amram ‘10 didn’t sprout from her mother’s forehead, fully formed and armed with the mighty pen. In fact, Amram wasn’t even funny as a child, describing herself instead as a math and science nerd.
Her first foray into comedy writing happened shortly before college, when she took a comedy class offered at her high school. With the encouragement of her teacher, Amram considered a career in comedy writing as “something that maybe I could do” for the first time.
Maybe was quite the understatement. Five years after high school—about five months after Amram arrived in Los Angeles after graduating from Harvard—she landed her first writing job… for The Academy Awards.
College was an artistic haven for Amram, who hit the ground running as soon as she arrived at Harvard. On her first day, before classes even started, she met a fellow writer, playwright-author Alexandra Petri ‘10 (Washington Post, A Field Guide to Awkward Silences), through the Freshman Arts Program. The two collaborated extensively as undergraduates, writing their freshman musical and then two Hasty Pudding shows together.
“Harvard is a very interesting place where you immediately have to realize that everybody is super-talented,” notes Amram. “I got to Harvard and immediately thought, ‘Everyone is so awesome and I want to work with them because of that.’ I think it was very fortunate that Alexandra and I were able to meet.”
Harvard was fortunate to be Amram’s college of choice as well. Having never been to the east coast when she applied, Amram had to be convinced not to stay in her hometown of Portland for college.
“My mom said, ‘Please just go to Harvard for a day. If you want to drop out after a day, you can come home. I will not be upset.’”
Participating in the Freshman Arts Program made her fall in love with Harvard, where she plunged into the world of musical theater and writing. Amram also took many poetry classes, although her desire to “take the opportunity to study something I didn’t know very much about but was amateur-ly interested in” led her to select Psychology as her concentration.
“I never wanted to become a therapist or a research psychologist,” Amram says, “but I thought that it can’t hurt as a writer to take classes on how the human mind works.”
Amram’s keen perspective of human behavior is probably a factor that makes her one of the most talented and versatile comedy writers on television and Twitter today. In the five years since her college graduation, Amram has written for The Oscars, Adult Swim’s Childrens Hospital, NBC’s Parks and Rec, and Comedy Central’s The Kroll Show.
When Amram moved to Los Angeles to become a comedy writer, she was “totally convinced I could do this, even though in retrospect, there’s no reason I should have had that confidence.”
She had never written a TV spec script or taken a screenwriting course. Before she left home, her mother gently asked, “Megan, I don’t mean this as an insult, but can you do this?”
“I got very defensive,” laughs Amram. “I said, ‘Of course! Why would you ask me that?’ But in my head, I thought, ‘No, that’s a very rational question.’”
Amram describes her mother as “the best person in the world” who has fully supported both her children in their career aspirations. “She’s a doctor and raised my twin brother and me saying, ‘I do this job where I can support you, but because of that, I want you to do whatever you want.’ It’s the best thing a parent can tell their kid.”
Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, while writing and performing stand-up comedy, Amram also began tweeting several jokes a day. She quickly amassed a following that now stands at nearly 475,000 Twitter users.
“The Internet is an amazing thing for writing. Yes, it’s often for free,” Amram concedes, “and you’re not getting paid to do a lot of work, but the immediacy with which you get to reach thousands of people, or even millions, is awesome.”
Amram’s time spent composing her trademark irreverent, incisive tweets quickly paid off. In lieu of a resume or a spec script, her Twitter success paved the way to her first industry gig as a writer for the 83rd Academy Awards® in 2011.
“I didn’t truly believe it was real until The Oscars aired and my name was on the credits,” Amram shares. “So many forces all came together and I was just the luckiest person in the world.”
Luck doesn’t explain the solid upward trajectory of Amram’s career since then, which is solely due to her prolific writing talent (she’s also a poet and author), unique and often dark sense of humor, and willingness to engage the world around her, even if—or especially when—that means expressing her opinions frankly on polarizing political and social issues.
“I do write jokes that probably offend people, but they’re very optimistic or the satire is making fun of bad people,” Amram explains. “I choose topics that are edgy, but I try to think through who might be offended because I might be making fun of them. I’d never make fun of a victim of assault—I’d make fun of assault itself.”
This comedic sensibility defines her first book, Science… For Her!, a subversively feminist science textbook written in the “BFF”-voice typical of women’s magazines such as Cosmo and Marie Claire. Through the satirical persona that narrates the textbook, Amram makes readers laugh even when addressing very real and very serious topics such as date rape.
“[Satire] is an easy way to guard yourself from being labeled as preachy or angry, which is something that a lot of feminists are called,” Amram says. “My first and foremost goal was to write a funny book and then to make it mean something.”
That’s another important aspect of comedy to Amram: meaning.
“There’s a big streak in me that’s extremely serious. That’s not to mean there isn’t levity to that,” Amram clarifies. “But when I see comedy writers I love write things that they really care about—even if they have jokes—it’s real and it comes from a really serious place; I love that.”
Her favorite examples of shows that embody this type of comedy, that have “real moments,” are Parks & Rec (“a very unbiased opinion!” she insists with a chuckle) and Lisa Kudrow’s The Comeback on HBO, also home to Amram’s current show, Silicon Valley. She was recently hired as Co-Producer on the show, which HBO has renewed for a third season.
Remarking upon the transition from network to premium cable TV, Amram jokes, “It’s so amazing to swear and have nudity because your life is rated R.”
But she credits her experience writing for Parks and Rec and A.N.T. Farm for challenging her creativity and exercising her writing chops. “It can be really good to put constraints on yourself like children’s shows and even network shows. What are more creative types of jokes that are cleaner but still funny? You can’t just rely on swearing and nudity as the punch line for everything.”
Amram also raves about her current work on Silicon Valley, where she has learned about start-up life and the tech industry. Although she’s found success as a Twitter celeb, an author, and a poet, she is most at home in a writers’ room.
“I like writing for sitcoms because it’s so satisfying when you develop characters so that they can have emotional or comedic payoffs after years of working for them,” she says. “I think better writing always comes from groups of people, so TV is really great for that. You can also be reflective of what’s going on in the world.”
And Amram’s “serious streak” keeps her continually reflecting upon the world—not just as a feminist, but simply as a thoughtful human being who strives to include and support all voices.
“I feel so strongly about every cause that is anti-discrimination,” Amram states. “I could not be more liberal on every issue. I can’t speak as a black woman, a trans woman, or a homosexual woman, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t remember they exist and have a very different experience from me.”
She continues, “I think it’s really important to realize that you can’t speak for groups you aren’t part of. But that doesn’t mean you can’t support them, open a dialogue, learn about them, and be an ally.”
The impressive breadth of Amram’s work thus far—ranging from daily snarky one-liners and satirical social commentary to memorable jokes uttered by iconic TV characters—leaves no doubt that her career will be just as explosively successful as her Twitter account. She advises aspiring writers: “Maintain your own compass of what you think is funny, what you think is good, and the types of people you think are good in the world. If you develop a really clear personal view, your writing will be better because you’ll be able to see what is working, what is not, and you’ll also see what is worth writing about.”
Given the powerful combination of her worldview, enormous sense of compassion, and wicked humor, Amram is exactly the type of writer we need to shape the stories and characters we see on television. Then hold out hope that life imitates art—as long as Amram is the one wielding the pen.
In addition to serving as Harvardwood's Director, D. Dona Le '05 is a small business owner and writer based in Los Angeles.
FEATURED EVENT: Harvardwood Seminar Series | An Evening with Jonathan E. Steinberg (Black Sails, Human Target) - Tuesday, July 7th
Please join us for an evening of industry insights in an informal, low-key setting. We'll explore the mysterious worlds shaped by prolific storyteller Jonathan Steinberg in a moderated conversation with Melinda Hsu Taylor, Co-Executive Producer of The Vampire Diaries. Light snacks and wine served at 7:30 PM; the conversation begins at 8pm. Seating is limited, so please register in advance below. Tickets at the door will be $15 for all walk-ins, regardless of membership status (cash only).
All Harvardwood Seminar events are free to members who register online in advance.
Jonathan E. Steinberg is currently the showrunner and co-creator of the STARZ Original series Black Sails. Before that, he was the executive producer and creator of Human Target, which he developed along with Wonderland Sound and Vision, DC Comics, Warner Bros., and FOX, and a co-creator and producer of the CBS series Jericho. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
Melinda Hsu Taylor is a Co-EP on The Vampire Diaries and a proud genre geek. Previous credits include Lost, Falling Skies, The Clone Wars and Medium, as well as drama pilots for NBC and Lifetime. She is an alum of the Warner Bros. TV Drama Writers' Workshop. As part of her commitment to engaging the film community in public service, she is on the Board of Directors of the Sarah Jones Film Foundation (SafetyForSarah.com).
Harvardwood Heads To... The Black List's July Happy Hour - Wednesday, July 15th
The Black List is where moviemakers find great screenplays to make and screenplays find moviemakers to make them. The Black List hosts a monthly happy hour for writers, and this month's event will be on July 15th at Melrose Umbrella Company.
C.L.A. invites Harvardwood to Introduction to Copyright Law - Wednesday, July 15th
You have written, developed, drawn, painted, or produced a creative work – now, who owns the work and controls the right to exploit it? Separate fact from fiction in this workshop that covers the basics of copyright law and protection of your art. Join CLA and Pierce Law Group LLP attorneys Azita Mirzaian and Vera Golosker for an overview of United States copyright law as it relates to the arts and entertainment industries. Topics that will be covered include: what is and is not protected by copyright law; rights conferred by the Copyright Act; the benefits of registering a copyright; works-made-for-hire; fair use (including a discussion of parody and satire); the difficulties with so-called “idea theft” claims; and the evolution and future of copyright law.
C.L.A. invites Harvardwood to Employment Issues in Arts and Entertainment - Tuesday, July 21st
From a producer hiring assistants for a new film to a freelance graphic designer taking on a new project, employment issues are an inescapable part of nearly all artistic disciplines. Join CLA and attorneys Shanen Prout and Lee Cotugno for a presentation covering some employment law basics for both employers and employees in arts and entertainment fields. Some of the topics to be covered include the differences between an employee and an independent contractor, wage and hours laws, contract clauses affecting future employment, and wrongful termination claims.
Harvardwood Heads To... Skybar Summer with The Ivy Plus Society - Wednesday, July 29th
Last time, The Ivy Plus Society had 200+ guests, this time let's make it 300+! The Ivy Plus Society is going back to Skybar at the Mondrian and getting all of LA's sexiest and smartest together once again. Steam up your July with a Buy One Get One Free ticket today before they sell out!
C.L.A. invites Harvardwood to Collaboration Agreements & Copyright Basics - Wednesday, July 22nd
This workshop is a concise guide to the copyright basics of "Joint Authored" works with Alan Korn, Esq. Topics covered include:
- what is a joint-authored work
- derivative works
- copyright infringement
- fair use
- public domain
- registration of copyright
- when & how to use a written Collaboration Agreement
C.L.A. invites Harvardwood to Understanding the Artist-Gallery Agreement - Wednesday, July 29th
This workshop is for artists, dealers, and gallery owners who want to better understand the legal relationships between artists and galleries. California state laws governing consignment sales will be reviewed - as well as how to negotiate standard consignment agreements covering agency, consignment, warranties, transportation, insurance, pricing, gallery commissions, promotion, and return of art.
Harvardwood Heads To... The Capital Fringe Festival - Saturday, July 25th
Join us for Alexandra Petri’s '10 newest play! Never Never is about a man who thinks he can control his deviant tendencies, but now faces his greatest temptation. It’s a poignant, troubling drama, but it also delivers the biggest laughs you’ll have at this year’s Fringe.
*Evening performances are available on 7/11, 7/15, 7/19 and 7/23. Buy your tickets, and then let us know you're coming at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Musicians, share your latest tracks on Harvardwood Radio!
With the online Harvardwood Karaoke Contest just around the corner, we're especially tuned in to our musicians, amateur and professional, and we encourage you all to submit your latest tracks to Harvardwood Radio for all of us to enjoy! Only Harvardwood members can join the Harvardwood Music Directory and then submit to the radio channel, so if you're not already a member, join today or renew your membership.
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.