Issue 183 | April 2020


In This Issue:

  • Message from Dona


  • Featured Member Posting: TV & Film Editor (The Verge) - Remote
  • Resources for artists impacted by the ongoing pandemic
  • Stay connected with your community: #HarvardwoodatHome
  • Deadline Extended: Apply for a 2020 Heroes community service grant


  • Exclusive Q&A with Sean O'Keefe AB '95 (Writer & Producer, Spenser Confidential)
  • Industry Successes
  • New Members' Welcome
  • Silver Linings Playbook: The Harvardwood Edition


  • Calendar
  • Harvardwood goes virtual!

Message from Dona

IMG_20190913_131029.jpgMost folks have so much weighing on their minds and hearts during these uncertain times, it's easy to forget that spring is here. It was disappointing to learn that Harvard Reunions are off this year, as I was looking forward to reconnecting with my old classmates, but I'm heartbroken for our Class of 2020 seniors and all the Harvard students whose school years and lives have been disrupted by the pandemic. 101 alums, seniors, students: please reach out to us if Harvardwood can assist you in any way! In the meantime, we still have our shared happy memories from campus, so here's a photo I took at Tercentenary Theatre from my most recent visit this fall.

The most important priority right now is everyone's health and safety. We wish President Bacow, his wife Adele Fleet Bacow, and everyone affected a very speedy recovery. And if you are looking for words of encouragement and solidarity or useful work-from-home tips, check out the special Silver Linings Playbook: The Harvardwood Edition further down!

- Dona

Featured Member Posting: TV & Film Editor (The Verge) - Remote

Verge 3.0: Logo recognition and refinement - Vox Product BlogWe are looking for a talented editor/writer to run The Verge’s TV/film section. As the TV/film editor, you’ll define what The Verge’s coverage looks like in a space where things are changing every day. You’ll help readers understand how the streaming business impacts the TV/film that gets made, how it’s distributed, and what it means for the future of the medium. But just as crucially, you’ll be the guiding hand that lets people know what to watch in a world with an overwhelming number of choices.

On a day-to-day basis, this means planning, commissioning, editing business stories, cultural criticism, and news hits; working with a team of reporters and freelancers; and writing the occasional story. You’ll be a part of The Verge newsroom, one that prides itself on its balance of speed and ambition, collaborative energy, and emphasis on inclusivity. A great editor has the patience to develop junior writers, and the strength to push and elevate seasoned ones.

Ideal candidates will come with substantial experience in culture writing/editing and familiarity with the business. They should have honed critical sensibilities for film/TV across genres, ranging from Criterion to Disney+, and be comfortable attending screenings and film festivals. Since The Verge is not primarily a culture publication, the TV/film editor should be excited by the opportunity to bring with them a focused perspective and plan on how to best serve an audience of informed, thoughtful readers.


Resources for artists impacted by the ongoing pandemic

It has been heartwarming to see people across the world band together in support of their friends and neighbors. As the entertainment industry adjusts to this new normal, we're aware that many support staff employees, independent contractors, and hustling artists might be struggling to find their financial footing. We've compiled a list of industry resources below:








Stay connected with your community: #HarvardwoodatHome

We may all be in quarantine, but that doesn't mean we have to be alone!

Harvardwood is YOUR community, and you can stay connected using the #HarvardwoodatHome hashtag on Twitter and Instagram. Share photos and videos that we can repost/retweet via the official Harvardwood account! These can be as simple as a shot of your work-from-home station or a fun selfie with your pet. If you've picked up your knitting again or you're churning out masks to help with the shortage for medical personnel, share your patterns! 

And we always encourage our members to share the art they're creating! While scientists research potential vaccines and treatments, and medical professionals work tirelessly on the front lines of the pandemic, we as artists can continue to do what we do best: inspire joy, feed our souls, and create points of human connection.


Deadline Extended: Apply for a 2020 Heroes community service grant

We are still accepting applications to receive a 2020 Harvardwood Heroes community service grant! Through the Harvardwood Heroes program, we award grants of at least $500 each to four individuals who have demonstrated a distinguished level of service to their organizations of choice. Every year, grant winners are determined by the strength of their proposal. They will receive the first $250 upon announcement of the winners and the balance of the grant upon submission of a final essay six months later.

The extended deadline to submit your service proposal is April 15, 2020.

This is our EIGHTH year of awarding grants via the Heroes program—read about the community service work that past Heroes have performed!


Exclusive Q&A with Sean O'Keefe AB '95 (Writer & Producer, Spenser Confidential)

By Joel Kwartler AB '18

Sean O’Keefe AB ‘95 is a writer and producer who most recently wrote Netflix’s Spenser Confidentialan action-thriller starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Peter Berg. It premiered on Netflix March 6th and was the #1 most-watched US Netflix film the week after its release.

Q. You worked as a producer before becoming a feature writer. How did you make that transition? 

A. It was just a delayed awareness, unfortunately, because I wish I'd gotten an earlier start writing and had been able to bear-hug it sooner. When I moved to L.A. after college, I wrote two terrible scripts, but then I was on the producing executive track for an extended period of time. Eventually, I started my own production company. 

At that time I started writing again, really out of tortuous necessity. There was this one project in particular that I knew only one writer could sell as a pitch, and we wouldn’t get him for a thousand years. So I started writing again, because as a producer, I needed a script to produce. I kept writing for features after that, and I finally acknowledged that I was a writer.

Q. Given that Spenser Confidential is an adaptation of a Robert B. Parker character from a series of novels, how did you pick which of the novels to adapt? 

A. One of the books in the Parker series, Ace Atkins’ Wonderland, was given to me by the original film producer, and I had never read the book before. It was the one of Parker’s series that they thought had the most potential as a feature story.

Q. When did Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg get involved in the project? Were either of them attached at the start? 

A. I had originally asked of the producers and was told that we’d get one element, and I chose Wahlberg. Then he wasn't available when I turned in the draft, and they went out to Bradley Cooper. Then Six Billion Dollar Man fell apart, Wahlberg became available, and WME reached out again. They very quickly closed a deal with him. Wahlberg rides with Peter Berg, so he came along. 


Industry Successes

Catherine Lee MPA '11, aid worker turned filmmaker, premiered her directorial debut 9at38, a short documentary, at Tribeca in 2018. Aeon has decided to revive it, in light of more-polarized-than-ever global conditions, and it will be available starting April 1. Catherine is actively seeking support to complete her feature documentary Seeds of a Nation, which follows her friend Peter Ajak MPA '09, a child soldier turned Harvard graduate turned most prominent activist and government critic in his native South Sudan, who becomes jailed by the president during the course of Catherine’s filming. He was just released in January, and Catherine and her team have wrapped production. Help one Harvard graduate tell another’s harrowing and inspiring story by supporting her film at this Harvardwood donation page. Catherine also seeks urgent collaboration from incredible verité documentary editors, so please contact her..

Ian Steaman AB '91 just completed the BELL Media Prime Time TV Residency! Read more about the program and this year's participants.

BEDTIME_BONNET_BOOK_COVER.jpgNew York Times bestselling author Nancy Redd AB '03 has a new children's book out April 7th. Bedtime Bonnet celebrates Black nighttime hair rituals and has been called "the best children's book of 2020" by TheGrio and “a wonderful window and mirror that lends itself well to lessons on self-concept, bedtime routines, and learning about differences" by School Library Journal. Read Nancy's ESSENCE profile!

Kapena Baptista AB '16 was 1 of 24 students accepted into the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ Peter Stark Producing Program and was awarded a Shriram Family Fellowship to attend.

Ria Tobaccowala AB '10 was set to premiere her short film, Shadows, at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. Originally from Chicago, Ria Tobaccowala is a writer and director based in New York.

Tigertail, written and directed by Alan Yang AB '02 (Writer & Executive Producer, Master of NoneLittle America), will be released on Netflix this month! Described as a "fever dream" of his father's immigration storyTigertail is Yang's directorial debut. Watch the trailer and mark your calendar for April 10th!

ICYMI, Deadline's Dino-Ray Ramos interviewed Teresa Hsiao AB '07, co-creator, writer, and executive producer of Awkwafina is Nora from Queens. The comedy wrapped its first season last month, and Teresa chats about their plans for Season 2 of Nora from Queens

Also, Hulu's Little Fires Everywhere, the adaptation of the titular novel by Celeste Ng AB '02, is racking in viewers! Ng chatted with Buzzfeed about the adaptation of her best-selling novel.

Josh Simon AB '022 was recently named VP of Consumer Products at Netflix! Previously Simon was VP and Head of Global Strategy for Product, Design, Merchandising, and Categories at Nike.

Last week, The Hollywood Reporter released its annual list of top 100 entertainment lawyers, including the following Harvard Law School alumni. Congratulations to all!

  • Karl Austen
  • Jeff Bernstein
  • Dale Cendali
  • Ken Deutsch
  • Jamie Feldman
  • Rick Genow
  • Mitch Kamin
  • Tara Kole
  • Jared Levine
  • Joel McKuin
  • John Meigs Jr.
  • Aaron Moss
  • Ken Richman
  • Bobby Rosenbloum
  • Faiza Saeed
  • Kathleen Sullivan
  • Steve Warren

Dawn Hudson AB '77 has renewed her stint as CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for three more years! “Dawn has been a guiding force within the Academy for the past nine years, as we’ve become a more inclusive, forward-thinking membership organization, reflecting the diversity of motion picture artists and craftspeople worldwide,” said Academy president David Rubin. “The board recognizes her leadership and dedication, as well as her tireless efforts on behalf of the Academy Museum, a dream that is being realized this year" (Deadline).

Eli Shibley AB '04 has been brought on to Jada Pinkett Smith & Will Smith's company, Westbrook Studios, to head International Film & Television. From Deadline: "Shibley was previously President, International Distribution & Co-Productions at Global Road Television. Prior to that role, he was Senior Vice President at Electus where he launched Electus International and looked after co-production and distribution into UK and northern Europe."

New Members' Welcome

Harvardwood warmly welcomes all members who joined the organization last month:

  • Josie Abugov, College, LA
  • Dana Caffee-Glenn, GSE, DC
  • Jackie Canino, College, LA
  • Odessa Deng, College, BOS/Campus
  • Jen Eason, College, BOS/Campus
  • Christy Gressman, HLS, NY
  • Minh Le, GSE, LA
  • Caleb Lee, College, LA
  • Arlesia McGowan, College, BOS/Campus
  • Priya Bhatia Monahan, College, LA
  • Samantha O'Connell, College, BOS/Campus
  • Noelle Parks, College, NY

*FOH = Friend of Harvardwood

Silver Linings Playbook: The Harvardwood Edition

Ordinarily, we feature an alum profile in this section of the monthly Highlights, but this month, we're using this section to bring you some messages of solidarity from Harvardwood leaders and members!

mra.jpgI hope you are staying safe, healthy, and hunkered down during this surreal time! My family and I are looking for the silver linings each day—being able to eat every meal together, enjoying lots of family read-alouds and movie nights on the couch, and getting really good at riding bicycles (while practicing proper social distancing). Wishing everyone deeper connection to and gratitude for one another as we move through this act of human solidarity!

- Mia Riverton Alpert, Co-Founder

Hi everyone,

I hope everyone is holding up alright and staying safe.

Life has been pretty chaotic for me and the many other students still participating in Zoom classes, and I'm still learning to adjust to online learning and focusing outside of my usual study spots. I've been feeling super fatigued with school work now that class has started again, and going out for hikes in Golden Gate Park has been critical to my sanity. For those of you who can get out, I highly recommend going for walks/runs/hikes in any local nature by yourself.

Hope things are alright for the community, and if there's anything that anyone wants to relay to campus email lists, please do reach out to me! 

- Jenny Tram, Student Assistant & Outreach Coordinator

― Tara Brach from her book, Radical Acceptance

Over the past three weeks when all of our lives have been turned upside down, I’ve been really appreciating listening to some of Tara Brach’s talks and meditations about radical acceptance. The world is so insanely imperfect right now, a lot of what she has to share has been ringing true.

Wishing everyone safety and health during this time. 

- Allison Kiessling, President

IMG_3318.JPGBoard member Gene Pao shares the following photo of his home office (left)!

If there ever was a time to embrace slow cooking, this is it! Take advantage of being home by embarking on some recipes that call for simmering or broiling for hours. Chopping and stirring can be a nice break from Zooming. Julia Child's classic recipe for stew can be daunting for some, but think of this as your warm-up for the fabulous dinner party you'll throw when this is over. Bon Appetit! 

- Andrea Schmitt, Development Officer

On Sunday, March 23rd, I did a little guerrilla art installation at the MFA, putting a surgical mask onto one of Antonio López García’s large bronze baby heads that flank the Fenway entrance to the museum. It got a bit of press, as well as many retweets and Instagram reposts!

- Peter Agoos AB '75 


HSIP.JPGThe other day, I facetimed a Harvard senior who is now back home in Singapore since Harvard's campus closure. I met her two summers ago through the Harvardwood Summer Internship Program (HSIP), and now she has an exclusive job lined up in Hollywood upon graduation. THIS COULD BE YOU! So while the world around you is unresolved, be resolute in your ambition. Submit your resumes and cover letters to these valuable HSIP listings. Because if you don't, someone else surely will. Applications are being received daily, so don't miss out. You should plan for anything this summer!

Forever HSIP,
Marie Kim, Director of HSP



Harvardwood Heads To... Zoom Author Event: John Wasowicz & Derek McGinty Discuss JONES POINT - Wed., April 1

WAMU host and news anchor Derek McGinty and local author John Wasowicz will discuss their collaboration on the audiobook version of Jones Point, a legal mystery. Two actors from Avant Bard—the Arlington theater known for its experimental productions—will join in.

The discussion will be broadcast on Zoom—tune in at It will be moderated by WPFW-FM’s Ciera Shine on whose show it will also air live (7-8 pm on 89.3 FM).

Mystery readers and audiobook fans alike are sure to enjoy this talk!

Harvardwood goes virtual!

Though we have postponed all in-person events, Harvardwood staff and volunteers are hard at work transitioning to virtual programming. We're happy to report that The Jeff Sagansky Harvardwood TV Writers Program has been able to continue the Spring 2020 semester without interruption with virtual meetings. In the meantime, if you have a specific idea for a webinar or other virtual event you'd like to see, contact us! We welcome your suggestions, and organizing events online gives us a certain amount of latitude in terms of speaker, format, and attendance.


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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