Issue 162 | July 2018


In This Issue:

  • Message from Dona


  • Featured Member Posting: Assistant (Documentary production company) - LA
  • Make sure your script is ready to be read: Harvardwood Script Review
  • Last month to enter your feature, pilot, or short in our 2018 Writers Competition
  • Connect with Harvardwood friends at San Diego Comic-Con


  • Exclusive Q&A with Christian D'Andrea AB '94 (Author, Touching the Dragon)
  • Industry Successes
  • New Members' Welcome
  • Alumni Profile: Kayla Alpert AB '91 (Writer & Producer, Code Black; Series Creator, False Profits)


  • Calendar
  • Inviting current College students + recent grads to the 2018 LA Student Send-Off

Message from Dona

A couple weeks ago, the Harvardwood Board had a super productive summit in Los Angeles, as you can see below, and it also shows in our calendar. We have DOUBLE the social events and DOUBLE the masterclasses this month! We're thrilled to partner up with the Harvard Club of Southern California for the ever-popular Global Networking Night on July 12th, and if you're nervous about networking, we have another event just for you. ;-)

And don't forget: the deadline for our annual Writers Competition is at the end of this month, so get cracking, writers!

— Dona


Featured Member Posting: Assistant (Documentary production company) - LA

Seeking an assistant to cover the desks of the two partner-owners of an award-winning boutique production company with a focus on high end documentary film and television. Position will provide insight into many facets of creative and physical production at a small company that is growing quickly, with a diverse slate of projects. Prior desk experience at an agency, management company, or production company required. Position entails managing two partners' calendars, light accounting, phone coverage, and some office management duties. Seeking candidate with strong worth ethic, outside the box troubleshooting and ambitions of higher level production positions. Room for internal promotion.


Make sure your script is ready to be read: Harvardwood Script Review

Writers have the option to receive judges' notes in the Harvardwood Writers Competition, but wouldn't you rather get notes before you submit, so your script is in the best shape possible?

The aim of the Harvardwood Script Review service is to give writers specific and thorough notes to polish their scripts further before sending them to screenplay competitions (including ours), agents, managers, producers, and other industry execs. You'll get a pair of expert eyes to show you how your script could be improved in future rewrites. All comments and feedback are given by experienced, Harvardwood-vetted working TV and feature writers (writers who have sold/optioned scripts, are staffed, whose scripts have been produced, etc.).


Last month to enter your feature, pilot, or short in our 2018 Writers Competition

HWC-MSL_Graphic.pngNo more procrastinating, writers! Get back to your keyboards to write... and rewrite... and rewrite... and rewrite. The deadline to submit your feature, original pilot, or short to the Harvardwood Writers Competition (HWC) is July 31st! The 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. (Pictured to the right are last year's HWC winners).

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 2018-19 Harvardwood Writers Program module of their choice and a small cash award. Check out the full announcement, and do NOT wait until the last minute to apply so you can get multiple rewrites under your belt.


Connect with Harvardwood friends at San Diego Comic-Con

Are you attending Comic-Con this month? If so, definitely let us know if you are interested in connecting with fellow Harvard alumni in San Diego. And thanks to Amy Chu MBA '99, Harvardwood is hosting our second networking breakfast at SDCC (no pass required). The SDCC Harvardwood breakfast will take place Thursday morning, July 19th. Please RSVP in advance here so we know how many seats to reserve!

Co-Founder of Alpha Girls Comics, Amy is a writer renowned for Red SonjaKISSPoison Ivy, Ant-Man, Deadpool, Sensation Comics Wonder, and Wonder Woman ’77.

Exclusive Q&A with Christian D'Andrea AB '94 (Author, Touching the Dragon)

By Terence O'Toole Murnin

With a name as quixotically cool as Christian D’Andrea AB '94, it’s no wonder that this documentary filmmaker and writer lives a frenetic-paced life dedicated to telling stories that uncover the best moments of humanity. His latest project is Touching The Dragon: And Other Techniques for Surviving Life’s Wars, a book co-written with former special ops Navy SEAL James Hatch, and it has been profiled by CNN’s Anderson Cooper! Christian was previously a literary agent at ICM and VP of Production for Lawrence Bender and Quentin Tarantino at their Miramax-based company, A Band Apart.

Q. Touching The Dragon is such a cool title for a book. Can you tell us what it means? (Spoiler alert!)

A. (Laughs) The book presents a set of tools and techniques to deal with darkness and pain—something we can all use, not just members of the elite SEAL Team Six. It’s really cognitive behavior therapy. If something in your past gives you grief, it becomes a dragon in your mind, and the dragons will kill you, especially when we ignore them. Touching The Dragon means that if you can “walk up to it and touch it,” you’ll ultimately find that the dragon won’t incinerate you.

Having recently lost high-profile individuals like Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, we’re often baffled by pain, and what we can do to confront it—and intervene. In this book, my hope is that we’ve offered techniques to go ahead and intercede. To get over the embarrassment and ask: “Are you okay?” It’s the tools to do something, and the greatest review that I’ve read so far said, “it’s saving lives—including mine!”

Q. Tell us about your work with The Story Foundry. Are you an adrenaline junkie, or just someone who loves stories?

A. I believe that America is a patchwork quilt, and stories are its stitching—they connect us and hold us together. I’m drawn to people who reflect all of us when we’re at our best, quietly, humanely, and selflessly doing what needs to be done.

For me, that has meant flying into the eye of a hurricane with the Hurricane Hunters as part of a documentary series for The Weather Channel, and I’m still amazed that in 2018, there’s still a need to send humans into hurricanes in order to get accurate measurements.

I’m then often attracted to valor, bravery and adventure—the things that can make us feel alive and at our best. Jimmy Hatch has lived this kind of astonishing life, and again, his story is one that expresses our humanity, and shows that even under the tremendous darkness of pressure and crisis, a light may emerge toward recovery


Industry Successes

Actor Amy Aquino AB '79 is participating in The Longest Day, a cause that raises funds and awareness for care and support while advancing research toward the first survivor of Alzheimer’s. The Longest Day is all about love—love for all those affected by Alzheimer's disease. Amy is participating to honor her father and his siblings. Please consider helping Amy reach her $10,000 goal and donate!

Head to the nearest bookstore or visit Amazon to order Springfield Confidential, a new book by longtime The Simpsons writer Mike Reiss AB '81. Pro tip: there will be a Harvardwood NYC event featuring Mike next month!

Little America, a half-hour anthology series by the writers of The Big Sick, has been picked up by Apple, with Master of None co-creator Alan Yang AB '02 as executive producer. "The TV series will... look at the funny, romantic, heartfelt, inspiring and unexpected lives of immigrants in America, at a time when their stories are more relevant than ever" (Deadline).

Baratunde Thurston AB '99 (author of How to Be Black) will deliver the keynote speech at the inaugural Connected Learning Summit this August at MIT. The summit will focus on progressive and inclusive learning. "You learn by doing. People facing challenges often are not alone so if people want to make more resilient communities, we have to make sure we’re always learning,” Thurston said.

Danny Samit MBA '14 has been named as Fox Searchlight TV's VP of Television Production, alongside Kara Buckley. Congratulations on the new position, Danny!

The second edition of DOCUMENTARY MEDIA: History, Theory, Practice by Broderick Fox AB '96 is now out through RoutledgeCheck out this great review in DOCUMENTARY MAGAZINEFox was also recently profiled by the Center for Media and Social Impact about the ways he teaches fair use considerations in media classroomsHe has also been promoted to the rank of Full Professor at Occidental College, where he chairs the Media Arts & Culture Department.

New Members' Welcome

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

  • Murray Beach, College, LA
  • Brooke Biederman, HBS, NY
  • Jonathan Brebner, HLS, Other U.S.
  • Linda Chin, SPH, Boston/On-Campus
  • Steven H. Cullinane, College, NY
  • Jean-Luc De Fanti, HBS, LA
  • Favia Dubyk, College, Other U.S.
  • Dawn Epstein, Ext., Boston/On-Campus
  • Andres Garcia-Lopez, GSE, LA
  • Lyndon Hanrahan, College, Boston/On-Campus
  • Frankie Li, Ext., Boston/On-Campus
  • Melanie Long, College, Boston/On-Campus
  • Jared Lopez, College, LA
  • Justin Macedonia, HLS, NY
  • Luke Martinez, College, Boston/On-Campus
  • Carolina Ribeiro, College, NY
  • Verdell Walker, HBS, NY
  • Susan Ware, GSAS, Boston/On-Campus
  • Blair Waters, FAS, NY
  • Coby Weiss, College, LA
  • Keyanna Wigglesworth, College, LA
  • Warner Wood, College, LA
  • Clara Yoon, College, LA

Alumni Profile: Kayla Alpert AB '91 (Writer & Producer, Code Black; Series Creator, False Profits)

Written by Cristina Slattery
Edited by Dona Le

Series creator finds comedy in multi-level marketing in upcoming ABC show False Profits

Kayla Alpert AB '91 says Harvard taught her that “everyone has a special gift,” and that it is important for each student to find out what that gift is for him or her. The writer-producer of False Profits, a new comedy that will air on ABC this fall, Alpert studied English in college and knew she wanted to be involved in the humanities when she graduated.

"I always loved reading and writing, so I had a vague idea about pursuing a career in the humanities (no med school or law school for me)—but it wasn’t until the end of my senior year that I specifically wanted to try my hand at screenwriting in Hollywood."

Now, Alpert says one of the phrases she most overuses is: “I’d be happy to do a rewrite.”

A former resident of Adams House, Alpert was an editor for The Advocate, a Signet Society member, and an active photographer while at Harvard. She cites David Sedaris and Jeffrey Eugenides as two of her favorite writers, and mentions David Benioff, Buck Henry, and Mike White as screenwriters she admires.

But Alpert enjoys a "huge range of genres—from black comedy like Election and Notes on a Scandal to period drama like Remains of the Day and gothic horror like The Others.... There’s so much good television now as well—Handmaid’s Tale, Silicon Valley, Difficult People, The Crown."

Alpert's diverse tastes are reflected in the diversity of success she has achieved throughout her career. She adapted for the big screen Confessions of a Shopaholic, as well as works by author V.C. Andrews, Flowers in the Attic and Petals on the Wind. More recently, Alpert served as writer-producer on Code Black.

"Movies have definitely taken a backseat to television, and I think that’s in large part because in TV, writers control the medium," notes Alpert.

Speaking of TV, next up on Alpert's docket is her new series False Profits, for which she has assembled a writers' room, now that ABC has ordered it for the upcoming season. Alpert thought of the idea for False Profits last summer, when she noticed friends and women she knew involved in businesses that were based on multi-level marketing, in which a seller makes a commission by convincing others in his or her network to sell a particular product. This is a common business model in the makeup and skincare industries.

Alpert observed that it is often women working in such capacities, and thus blossomed her idea for a series that focuses on women in Arizona who are fighting to reach the highest levels in the multi-level makeup business. False Profits, given its comedic bent, has been described as reminiscent of ABC hit series Desperate Housewives.

Alpert explains that she is drawn to stories about “strong, compelling women who are flawed.”

Her mother had a career as an economist in New York City at a time when most moms in the suburb north of the city that she grew up in were baking cookies and leading Girl Scouts. Kayla’s pathologist father was the one who was responsible for grocery shopping and cooking dinner, and the young Kayla never doubted that she would “have a career or make [her] own money.”

After graduating from Harvard, Alpert moved to Los Angeles and answered fan mail for American Gladiators at the film studio that later bought her first screenplay. Her advice to young graduates who want to make it in Hollywood: “Move to Los Angeles… and be willing to take any job, no matter how ‘low level’ or lame it sounds.” 

The Harvard network in Los Angeles has been “very impactful,” according to Alpert, and it exists as “an interconnected web” of social acquaintances and individuals she knows from projects and various work environments. 

Now a mom of ten-year-old twin boys, Alpert admits that finding balance with a demanding career and a husband and young children is a challenge. The responsibility of raising her actual children and the “baby” that is False Profits that she has brought to life onscreen means that she has little time for outside interests right now and any small moments to herself—such as when she walks her dog—are valued.

This writer and producer does “a little of everything” in order to realize her vision for the show, and we as viewers look forward to seeing the creation that results when False Profits airs on ABC in the 2018-19 season!

Cristina Slattery is a freelance writer currently based in New York. Her articles have been published
The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek Japan,, and elsewhere.


FEATURED EVENT Harvardwood Masterclass: Voice-Acting with Sumalee Montano - Sat., July 21 (LA)

Attend Sumalee's masterclass and learn how she transitioned from investment banking into acting—and what it takes to be a working voice-over artist. Sumalee's broad range of experience—from voice-over credits on 75+ animated shows and AAA video games, to recurring guest appearances on VEEP and Scandal—means this event will be an intriguing AND educational look inside the daily life of a working actor.

Harvard alumna Sumalee Montano is an actress and voice-over artist, who first worked as an investment banking analyst before pursuing her career in the arts. She has numerous recurring roles on shows like Scandal, VEEP, Animal Kingdom, NCIS, Nashville, and ER. Her voice-over credits include over 75 animated shows and AAA video games, including the Emmy Award-winning Transformers Prime, where she plays Arcee, the show's female lead. Sumalee happily lends her voice to everything from superheroes and scientists to mystical pandas and kung fu cats. She recently started producing as well, working on her first live-action feature film.

Los Angeles, CA

Harvard Global Networking Night - Thurs., July 11

Harvardwood and the Harvard Club of Southern California invite you to join fellow local alumni for Global Networking Night on Thursday, July 12th! Global Networking Night is a great opportunity to explore and expand your Harvard network in the greater LA metropolitan area. Attendance is free // cash bar. Just RSVP below to reconnect with classmates and make new connections. This event is open to Harvard students and alumni. Guests are welcome. No recruiters or external companies please.

Harvardwood Masterclass feat. DJ Jacobs SB '02 (MRC Studios) - Thurs., July 26

Attend this masterclass to learn how DJ Jacobs SB '02 went from The William Morris Agency to MRC Studios' CFO and Head of Business Development! MRC has developed, produced, and financed television series for premier TV networks including HBO, Starz, Netflix, AMC, ABC, Lifetime, and Comedy Central, as well as film projects for leading distributors including Sony, Warner Brothers, Universal, Paramount, and Fox.

DJ oversees MRC’s new business initiatives, film and TV underwriting, strategic planning, M&A, and financings. He is a member of the team overseeing MRC’s film co-financing efforts and greenlighting original films and TV. Previously, he was a buyside research analyst covering the media, telecom, cable, and digital media sectors. DJ began his career at The William Morris Agency and in the production division of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy before transitioning to Credit Suisse’s asset management division. He holds a degree in Engineering from Harvard University.

HLS + YLS Joint Event: Learn to Love Networking - Sunday, July 29

Harvardwood is teaming up with our friends from the Harvard Law School Association of Los Angeles and Yale Law School students and alumni for an enjoyable, stress-free networking event!

Studies have shown that business networking is the most powerful way to accelerate one's career and access new opportunities. However, most of us dread the word "networking"… but what if it were actually fun and engaging? Join this workshop led by HBS alumna Tram Lai and come experiment with new techniques and hacks for fun and efficient networking. The workshop will begin with a short presentation, followed by guided live exercises, and conclude with (optional) brunch for attendees who want to put their newfound skills to use right away!

Tram Lai graduated from the HBS PLD executive program in 2016, after which she embarked on a year-long sabbatical that took her to 17 countries and led to the most interesting encounters. She participated in networking workshops in the US and France, and discovered that she had been looking at networking in reverse. Over the course of her sabbatical, Tram developed new networking techniques and hacks that have transformed not only her rolodex, but also her perception of fun.

New York, NY

Harvardwood Presents Helen Zuman AB '99: MATING IN CAPTIVITY - Wed., July 11

When Helen Zuman graduated from Harvard in 1999, she didn't go to law school. She didn't go to med school. She didn't get a job on Wall Street. She joined a cult—and one based on very unconventional sexual practices at that. And she stayed for five years. Now she has written a memoir of those five years, Mating in Captivity, and she'll be talking to us about why she went into the cult, what it was like, why she stayed, and why she left.

Mating in Captivity will be available for purchase at the event, and a booksigning will follow the interview.

Harvardwood Heads To... French choral evening on Bastille Day - Thurs., July 12

8 singers, 1 pianist and conductor Kelly KaWai Lam join forces to explore the music of French masters on July 12th & 14th. Bring your friends, family & yourself to a truly elegant evening exploring gorgeous vocal masterpieces of the ages, including Debussy, Poulenc, Faure and more. Get your tickets today!

Harvardwood Salon: Inside the Writers Room with Adam R. Perlman AB '04 - Tues., July 24

After leaving a promising law career to pursue his writing dreams, Adam R. Perlman AB '04 (Co-Executive Producer, Billions) successfully climbed the ranks from Writer's Assistant to Co-EP on a series of one-hour dramas, including Drop Dead Diva, The Newsroom, The Good Wife, and, most recently, Billions. In this moderated conversation, Adam will talk about his non-traditional path to Hollywood, offer an insider's look at the workings of a TV writers room, and share his thoughts on what it takes to make it as a TV writer.

To attend, please register in advance. Tickets are $5/person for Harvardwood Members & Friends; $15/person for non-members.

San Diego, CA

Harvardwood Comic-Con Networking Breakfast - Thurs., July 19

Harvardwood goes to Comic Con! Join us for a networking breakfast hosted by Amy Chu MBA '99 (writer, Poison Ivy, Red Sonja, Wonder Woman). Check out Harvardwood's alum profile featuring Amy! Advance registration at the bottom of this page is required. Your registration reserves you a seat at the table and covers the breakfast buffet (all-inclusive, no additional tax/gratuity).

Washington, DC

Harvardwood Meet-up at the Blacklist DC Happy Hour - Wed., July 11

The Black List is creating social hubs for writers around the world where they can meet other screenwriters and discuss the craft and the reality of the screenwriter's life. So join your fellow writers at the DC happy hour! Come to enjoy the drinks and the company. You never know who you might meet!

Boston/Cambridge, MA

Harvardwood Meet-up at the Blacklist Boston Happy Hour - Wed., July 11

The Black List is creating social hubs for writers around the world where they can meet other screenwriters and discuss the craft and the reality of the screenwriter's life. We'll be hosting happy hours on the first Wednesday of every month, 6PM at The Outlook Bar at the Envoy Hotel. The event is free and open to the public (cash bar), so spread the word to your writer friends but be sure to RSVP.

Coconut Creek, FL

Harvardwood Heads To... Colin Jost AB '04 at the Pavilion - Sat., July 14

Saturday Night Live head writer and star Colin Jost AB '04 performs at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek. Emmy®-nominated Jost celebrates his fifth season of SNL as co-anchor of Weekend Update and will host the 2018 Primetime Emmy Awards in September. He has also appeared on Late Night with Seth MeyersThe Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and in the hit comedy film, How to be Single

Inviting current College students + recent grads to the 2018 LA Student Send-Off

Next month, in a joint Club & SIGs event together with the Harvard Club of Southern California, HLAA, First Gen, Phillips Brooks House Association Alumni, and HBAS, we will be sending off Harvard's incoming Class of 2022 to Cambridge with a pizza party! Remember how nervous YOU were as an incoming freshman at Harvard? Now, you can "pay it forward" by attending this event on the afternoon of August 5th to meet with incoming students and answer their questions about life at Harvardwood, not to mention assuring the students' parents that their kids are about to embark on an exciting new stage of life! 

The Harvard Send-Off Pizza Party will be on Sunday, August 5th, from 1-3pm (address to be given upon confirmed registration). If you are a current student in Los Angeles for the summer or a recent alum, and you're able to attend and help us send off the newest batch of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed Harvard students, get in touch!


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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