Issue 189 | October 2020

In This Issue:

  • Message from Dona

NEWS

  • Featured Member Posting: US Platform Manager, Editorial & Publishing (YouTube) - LA
  • Become a Mentor in the Harvardwood Mentorship Program
  • Harvardwood 101 Will Continue Virtually in January 2021

FEATURES

  • Exclusive Q&A with Actor & Harvardwood Director of Programs & Business Development Justin White AB '10
  • Artist Showcase: Adrian Diamond AB '11 (Writer-Director)
  • Industry Successes
  • New Members' Welcome
  • Alumni Profile: Ken Williams AB '78 (Executive Director & CEO, Entertainment Technology Center, USC)

CALENDAR & NOTES

  • Calendar
  • Become a Harvardwood member as we further engage in socially active programming, discourse, and action to help change the entertainment industry

Message from Harvardwood

I am delighted to introduce the newest member of Harvardwood's leadership team, Justin Walker White AB '10, who will be Harvardwood's Director of Programs and Business Development! Justin started his career in management consulting, before pursuing his passion of acting more seriously and receiving his MFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. After graduating, Justin maintained his consulting career while acting in television and theater, and he couldn't be more excited to synergize his career experiences by assuming this role at Harvardwood! 

Also, the Harvardwood Board is excited to dig into the great Heroes applications we've received this year. A record number, and we can't wait to announce who the 2020 Harvardwood Heroes are later this fall!

- Dona

US Platform Manager, Editorial & Publishing (YouTube) - LA

In the role of our US YouTube Platform Manager, you will be a part of our Editorial & Publishing team and responsible for the platform growth strategy, publishing strategy and content ideation across our US Youtube channel. To be a successful creative and strategic thought leader you will need to collaborate with our editorial creative development team, brand marketing team, and audience channels to understand each team’s priorities when it comes to brand channel real estate and make recommendations that will help develop our audience and grow key metrics through innovative and targeted best practices and solutions. To be a creative programmer, you’ll need to have a holistic vision around what our biggest YouTube channel should stand for and be a storyteller at heart. Excellent judgement, a strong voice, impeccable taste and an authentic love for the intersection of entertainment, pop culture and YouTube is needed to balance our audience interests with the needs of our business.

Key responsibilities include:

  • Lead, shape and implement the programming vision for the Netflix US YouTube Channel
  • Cultivate cross-functional relationships (content, publicity, regional editorial managers, ops) to ensure you have the best information and the ability to gain traction on your strategies and ideas. A big idea isn’t a big idea if you’re doing it alone
  • Build and manage annual editorial calendar and annual budget for US YouTube channel
  • Provide directional strategy and collaborate with audience leads on how to build out a stable of channel managers for audience YouTube channels (e.g. Netflix Film Club, Futures, Netflix Jr) and work closely to mentor those roles as they are hired
  • Work with our regional E&P managers around the world to scale YouTube efforts and content globally

Become a Mentor in the Harvardwood Mentorship Program

The Harvardwood Mentorship Program fosters meaningful professional relationships by matching Harvard graduates with more established alums in their fields of interest, for a period of nine months of one-on-one career mentoring.

The time commitment will be approximately 3-4 hours. Mentors will connect with their mentees in 3-4 meetings over the course of the year, usually October - June. Given COVID-19, virtual meetings are encouraged. 

Topics to be discussed during meetings can include the following:

  • The mentor's advice for perfecting one’s craft: acting, singing, songwriting, music producing, directing, or writing 
  • The mentor’s current position, what they do, their career progression
  • Career advancement advice
  • How to handle difficult professional situations

If you are interested in mentoring, please email the Harvardwood Mentorship Program at hmp@harvardwood.org.

Harvardwood 101 Will Continue Virtually in January 2021

Due to the pandemic, Harvardwood 101 will migrate to virtual this January, but students will still benefit from an immersive, high-touch experience that will connect them to key Hollywood executives and expose them to high-level creative business environments throughout Hollywood.

The Harvardwood 101 career exploration program will still immerse two dozen current undergraduates in these experiences, with the goal of demystifying Hollywood and educating them about careers in the entertainment industry.  

This program is open to all current Harvard College students who are Full Members of Harvardwood. Students do not have to demonstrate prior experience in the arts, media, and entertainment—just a genuine interest in pursuing a career in one (or more!) of those fields!

Harvardwood strives to keep this program affordable to all Harvard students, regardless of financial status. If you are a 101 alum or simply someone who wants to help make Harvardwood 101 affordable for everybody, please make a donation to the Harvardwood 101 fund.

Exclusive Q&A with Actor & Harvardwood Director of Programs & Business Development Justin White AB '10

Q. What childhood experiences—whether you recognized it at the time or not—influenced your passion for acting?

A. I certainly didn’t recognize it. I had a few opportunities to act as a young kid and rejected them. Later, a friend at Harvard even asked me to audition for a show, and I shunned that too. I recall saying to them, “why would I memorize lines for no class credit?!?” Funny that I’ve easily spent hundreds of nights up late memorizing lines since 2014. Life's crazy.

My experiential connection was certainly through watching stand-up comedy. I vividly remember wanting to be a stand-up as a kid — never an actor. I made a (false, some would say) distinction in my head. I also remember being entirely too scared to try it. I finally tried in 2013, just as the acting bug caught me. I started with a stand-up class on Groupon, which should tell you all you need to know about how that went down.

My deep connection to—and passion for—acting, both dramatic and comedic, became apparent to me as a grown man, swimming around in corporate America.

Q. Why did you choose Harvard? Did you do any acting on campus?

A. I chose Harvard for the challenge. I knew the environment would impact me greatly. I visited on my own, and was ready to be done with what I felt at the time was a rough process.

I did no acting at school whatsoever. If you would’ve told me before my senior year that I’d be an actor 10 years later, I’d have laughed it off. It just wasn’t on my radar. Strangely, though, I wanted to be a sportscaster at the time, even interning at the NBA in Live Production. I didn't pursue it seriously enough, feeling I "had to" go into business. Part of the reason I’m so involved with Harvardwood is because I want to enable young grads and their networks to enter the entertainment industry and truly be set up for success. Or, at least, meaningful exposure, or even informed failure. I’ve experienced all three.

Artist Showcase: Adrian Diamond AB '11 (Writer-Director) 

"Some secrets don't stay buried."

Green Diamond Projects, a new media company founded by writer-director Adrian Diamond AB '11 presents, THE FIREBUGa new thriller series about a damaged young woman's fiery crusade against the horrors of domestic violencepremiering this Halloween.

A sneak peek of the project was recently screened at a drive-in theater in downtown Los Angeles for ProjectPro-ject's "Short Nights," showcasing new work by up and coming filmmakers of color. The first teaser was released on Monday, Sept. 28 and can be viewed here. The official trailer will be released Friday, Oct. 2. 'Chapter One: The Night From Hell' features compelling performances, a dynamic score performed by the Boulder Symphony Orchestra and will premiere on Friday, Oct. 23., in solidarity with Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Adrian would like to express his heartfelt gratitude to Harvardwood's Writer's Groups and other events where he workshopped THE FIREBUG and received critical feedback, support and precious camaraderie during the project's development. For more information and to gain access to 'Chapter One,' please visit www.GreenDiamondProjects.com and follow THE FIREBUG on social media!

Industry Successes

Actress Erinn Westbrook AB '10 has just joined the cast of the CW’s Riverdale as a new series regular for the upcoming fifth season. "Westbrook will play Tabitha Tate, the ambitious, entrepreneurial granddaughter of Pop Tate, who has come to Riverdale to take over Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe in the hopes of franchising the iconic diner, even as the town around it struggles to survive." Erinn has recently recurred on ABC's The Resident, and was a series regular on Netflix's Insatiable (Deadline). 

ABC is set to produce Mason Dixon, written by Julian Breece AB '03, with Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lee Daniels directing the pilot. "In Mason Dixon, in the wake of their spouses’ cheating scandal and untimely deaths, Angela Dixon, a beloved and liberal politician’s wife, and Paul Mason, a brash and conservative good ole boy, form an unlikely alliance that blends their families and shakes up a community divided by race and class." Breece previously co-produced Hulu drama series The First was recently consulting producer on Tracy Oliver’s BET series The First Wives Club. Breece’s short The Young and Evil was an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival (Deadline).

Marty Bowen AB '91 and Wyck Godfrey have reunited as partners in production company Temple Hill Entertainment! The two have produced a swarm of hit films including the 'Twilight' Saga and 'Maze Runner' series, as well as 'The Fault In Our Stars', 'First Man' and others. Bowen / Temple Hill is also producing ABC drama The Golden Child, about suburban motherhood, with writer Kourtney Kang and Temple Hill's Adam Fishbach AB '06. In 2006, Bowen stepped down as a partner at UTA to found Temple Hill (Deadline). 

Classical and jazz pianist Gerry Bryant AB ’76 recently received a wonderful review of Thinking of Some Other Time, the latest of his many primarily solo piano CDs, by noted jazz journalist/historian Scott Yanow for L.A. Jazz Scene and other major publications. The CD contains classical music, original compositions, and creatively reimagined popular songs. To read the review and to listen to excerpts from the CD, as well as excerpts from all of Gerry’s CDs, visit Gerry’s website.

A new feature documentary, The Palindromists, was released on September 3rd (the same day as the palindromic blockbuster TENET). It features the efforts of Mark Saltveit AB ’83 to defend his title as World Palindrome Champion. Saltveit, who recently relocated to Middlebury, Vermont, published articles this summer about standup comedy as Daoist practice (in the Journal of Daoist Studies), and about the continuing protests in his former home town of Portland, Oregon (in The Tyee, of Vancouver, Canada).

Congratulations to Lisa Henson AB '83, executive producer of The Jim Henson Company’s The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance, for the show's Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Program! 

Bashir Salahuddin AB '98 and Diallo Riddle AB '97, creators of Sherman’s Showcase and South Side, have signed a multi-year deal with Warner Brothers to create, develop, and produce a variety of TV projects on all platforms, ranging from animation to superhero series. Their recent works have aired on AMC, IFC, Comedy Central, and HBO Max, among other outlets (Deadline).

David Heyman AB '83 is adapting Peter McLean’s fantasy crime novel Priest of Bones for the small screen. He is the founder of
Heyday Television, the production company behind Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Marriage Story. "The company has optioned the rights to the book, which was published in October 2018 by Ace Books and Jo Fletcher Books, and is working with its joint venture partner NBCUniversal International Studios on the project. The book has been described as 'Peaky Blinders with swords'” (Deadline).

Earth to Ned, a talk show from The Jim Henson Co. hosted by an alien named Ned, is now available on Disney+. Sierra Katow AB ’16 was a staff writer for the series and appears in an episode as herself.

Tatyana Ali AB '02, best known for her role of Ashley Banks on the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, is dishing on the show's upcoming reunion special, and her thoughts on co-star Will Smith’s reboot project. Read what she has to say here.

Erin May AB '09 MBA '13 has just been promoted to Vice President, Drama Development at 20th Television. Congrats, Erin! Read about her promotion and expanded role here.

New Members' Welcome

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

  • Nicholas Basden, College, London
  • Brandy Benjamin, Ext.,SF/Bay Area
  • Melanie Boling, Ext., LA
  • Kathleen Lusk Brooke, GSAS, BOS/Campus
  • Anna Fitzgerald, College, LA
  • Kelda Fontenot, Ext., BOS/Campus
  • Paul Golob, College, NY
  • Ilona Holland, GSE, DC
  • Ian Hoorneman, College, LA
  • Draper Jeannette, College, LA
  • Sara Komatsu, College, BOS/Campus
  • Ashia Lance, GSE, SF/Bay Area
  • Kevin Lesinski, HLS, SF/Bay Area
  • Carol Lin, HBS, BOS/Campus
  • Kevin Madden, College, LA
  • Aretha Marshall, College, NY
  • Max McGillivray, College, LA
  • Hannah McLaughlin, College, LA
  • Maeve Miller, College, BOS/Campus
  • Heather Celeste Mitchell, College, NY
  • Claire Park, College, LA
  • Juano Queen, College, LA
  • Me'Lisa Sellers, ART,LA
  • Judy Shatkin, College, CHI
  • Andrew Tilt, College, SF/Bay Area, CA
  • Grace Varsames, College, BOS/Campus
  • Samantha Woolf, College, NY

*FOH = Friend of Harvardwood

Alumni Profile: Ken Williams AB '78, Executive Director and CEO, Entertainment Technology Center at USC

By Woojin Lim AB '22

Kenneth S. Williams AB '78 began our hour-long conversation with a flip-side marketing pitch on why film school students should consider returning to a virtual fall: having a firm grasp of collaborative software solutions and non-in-person digital tools could well-position a job-market candidate entering a world bestrewn with uncertainties such as the COVID-19 resurgence. “The old way of in-person work will soon be replaced by the new normal,” he says. “A lot of companies are not only looking for temporary work-arounds, but they’re trying to find permanent solutions to future-proof themselves.”

As the Executive Director of the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at USC, Williams shared his reams of first-hand observational knowledge on the colossal shifts in the film and entertainment industry. His work at the ETC, a collegial post he’s taken up for eight years, stands at the forefront of groundbreaking entertainment technologies. Bringing together major studios and tech companies, Williams has led research, projects, prototypes, and demonstrations in areas of immersive entertainment experiences, cloud-based remote production and post-production, AI, and machine-learning-driven applications for media and entertainment.

Williams’s career progression has been anything but linear. Starting out as a history major at Harvard, where he performed in Hasty Pudding shows and sang a capella with the Harvard Krokodiloes and the Glee Club, he later undertook an intensive training program in commercial banking and management at the former Chase Manhattan Bank (now JPMorgan Chase). Charmed by the creative process, he requested to join the media and entertainment lending group.

Williams was soon recruited by Columbia Pictures, headquartered in Manhattan, to join their finance staff. Climbing the traditional finance and operations chain of command while also acquiring a master’s degree from Columbia Business School, Williams became the youngest treasurer in the company’s history. He then moved to Los Angeles in 1990 as a senior corporate officer, as Columbia Pictures was acquired by Sony Corporation. There, Williams took charge of renovating and modernizing the company’s new home base, the old MGM Studios in Culver City, transforming it into Hollywood's technological jewel.

In 2000, having spent almost 20 years at Columbia, Williams decided to dive into the dot-com world, joining as partner a creative venture that Marvel’s Stan Lee had created. Afterwards, he took on a number of different jobs—from becoming president of Technicolor Digital Cinema, to starting a venture capital consulting and an out-of-home advertising business. Drawing from these experiences, and setting aside COVID-19 implications, Williams highlights the importance of being a lifetime learner since our generation is likely to hop to and from many employers.

He is no stranger to innovation and invention, having personally spearheaded many “firsts at the studio.” Williams has led projects for the first operational HD post-production facility in the country, the first H-authoring facility for DVDs, and the prototyping and installation of some of the largest digital mixing consoles to replace the old analog mixing environments for major motion pictures.

One of the most rewarding opportunities for Williams, he shares, was spearheading the development of Sony Pictures Imageworks, which remains to this day one of the country’s largest visual effects animation companies.

“It was a very risky business proposition back then to do anything that advanced the art.”

One day, while at lunch with the head of the studio, Williams was assigned an R&D task to create a photorealistic Stuart Little using advanced texture mapping—his “own little Manhattan Project.” Sure enough, his team delivered the first real-looking animated character with fur.

Another major shift Williams observed in the film and media industry was the standardization and interoperability of custom code. The industry started out with “everybody having their own secret sauce,” a proprietary pipeline that was often kept secret from other competitors in the market. Over time, however, companies realized that they didn’t want to train people in the visual effects and animation houses on a limited set of tools, and then have them leave and have to retrain new employees again. Companies began to standardize the software packages and use the cloud for more efficient and collaborative workflows.

Williams admits that in his earlier roles as a mid-level studio executive in the first 10 years of his career, especially on the financial side at the bank or as treasurer of Columbia Pictures, failure was not permitted without consequences. But as he swiftly transitioned into operations at the studio, he began to recognize that without the allowability of failure within certain parameters, there would hardly be any controlled risk-taking for creative and technical innovation.

Now that he is in a university environment, Williams has made a 180-degree turnaround from the competitive business atmosphere at the studios.

“Academic investigation is rife with failure,” he says. As long as the failure can be fed back into the next stages of exploration, it is welcomed as a part of the program of discovery. Around six years ago, Williams worked on an experimental film, using the cloud in its early days—not to make a successful film but to identify gaps in the current architecture and make recommendations for improvement. Undertaking projects that, by virtue of their failure, can provide valuable information, Williams much enjoys his freer work environment, where he is firmly settled after a wide-ranging career.

When asked to give advice to aspiring film students, Williams shares what he calls cliché but true statements: “Filmmaking is all about collaboration. There are many different entry points to the entertainment industry—I came at it from the aspect of finance and banking, whereas others may come with a background in production or animation or interactive media or creative storytelling. There’s a lot of cross-pollination that happens. Try out different roles and find your place of passion within the community.”

The process of switching among different tracks and pioneering creative ventures is an ideal that Williams has embodied throughout his career and aspires to pass onto future generations.

Woojin Lim (AB '22) is a philosophy concentrator in Winthrop House. An aspiring documentary filmmaker and journalist, he hopes to share more stories about art and lived experience.
 

Calendar

Harvardwood Heads To... The Path Forward Summit - Virtual Conference - Thurs., Oct. 1

The Path Forward Summit began as a response to the mounting fear and anxiety distressing artists due to the prolonged pause of the entertainment industry. Hundreds of artists came forward, and we listened. Our goal is simple: Empower artists to learn new skills that will allow them to adapt to the coming changes and thrive in a post COVID market. Professionals from all across the industry will share what they know, educate artists on how to adjust, and inspire us to keep moving forward.

We have over 30 speakers spanning the entertainment industry, specializing in everything from film producing and directing, to entertainment finance and taxes, to acting, voiceover and casting, gaming and engineering, and everything in between.

Speakers Include: 

  • Danya Taymor, Obie Award Winning Director: Playwrights Horizons, Lincoln Center Theatre
  • Chris Morrow, Amazon Alexa Games, Starfinder
  • Shariffa Ali, Director: The Public Theatre, Classic Stage Company; Faculty at Princeton University
  • Lynnanne Zager - Voice Over Artist, The Simpsons, iRobot, Avatar
  • Ryan Britton, Creative Arts Director, DudePerfect 
  • Molly Nussbaum, Screenwriter, FX's The Americans, Showtime'sThe Affair

Harvardwood Heads To... Empowering the Full Writer - Tues., Oct 6

Live-streaming Q&A Speaker Series

Great storytelling, and fresh voices, are now more important than ever. How will the film and television industry adapt to changing times, and how will new voices find the spotlight? What should you do to stand out and launch your career? The Launch Pad Insider Series will answer these questions and more, in an open conversation with Executives, Producers, Literary Managers and members of the Launch Pad Competition Jury.

The Launch Pad Insider Series is back! Our in-depth online discussion series featuring industry leaders returns to talk with literary managers and Launch Pad Prose Competition jury members Krista Sipp and Devon Byers of First Friday Entertainment on Empowering the Full Writer. Join us Tuesday October 6th for a discussion of how managers can celebrate and advance their clients’ authentic voices, especially during changing times.

SPEAKERS: KRISTA SIPP AND DEVON BYERS
Krista Sipp and Devon Byers founded First Friday Entertainment in 2017. First Friday is a management and production company representing writers, directors, and producers in the film, TV, and digital space.

Krista started her career at management company Circle of Confusion in 2008. After holding positions at studios and production companies across the industry, she returned to Circle of Confusion in 2015 before moving on to launch her own company. Her clients have worked on projects such as KATY KEENE, A BLACK LADY SKETCH SHOW, SAINTS & SINNERS, and the upcoming feature TUNNELS.

Devon was formerly a Creative Executive at production company Ideate Media (Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency), and before that, an award-winning freelance producer working in short form, music videos, commercials, and features.

MODERATOR: NATALIA TEMESGEN
Natalia Naman Temesgen is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter, most recently a staff writer on “Dear White People.” Her plays have been produced in New York, Princeton, Philadelphia, Boston, and Atlanta. Her original TV pilot BEA ROSE was a 2019 Launch Pad Top 50 Finalist.

Harvardwood Talk on How Sexual Violence Is Portrayed On-Screen: Featuring Author Winnie M. Li AB '00 - Tues., Oct 13

When sexual violence appears on screen, what problems do we have with these portrayals? And have these issues with representation changed in the wake of #MeToo?

I_May_Destroy_You_.jpegFrom A Streetcar Named Desire to Saturday Night FeverThe Evil Dead to Game of Thrones, rape has long been a staple ‘plot point’ in film and TV narratives. But given how frequently sexual violence is experienced by real-life individuals, don’t these portrayals deserve to be more nuanced and realistic in their depiction of victims and survivors? 
More recent TV series like 
UnbelievableI May Destroy You (pictured to right: Michaele Cole, series creator and actor), and even the long-running Law and Order: Special Victims Unit have started to break new ground in exploring the complexity around consent and sexual coercion. But what does the future hold? 

Author and activist Winnie M. Li AB ’00 leads this open discussion on the ethics of representing sexual violence on-screen.  


Harvardwood Heads To... Hollywood Now 2020 - Weds., Oct 14

Join the top entertainment schools in the country as we rub proverbial elbows, exchange ideas, and make things happen at the annual event using the platform Hio. This is the perfect opportunity to expand your network of creatives, executives, agents and lawyers to include passionate and driven alumni from USC, NYU, AFI, UCLA, LMU, Northwestern, DKA, Southwestern, Harvard, Emerson, Chapman, and CalArts. Join us as we have one on one and small group conversations all done through the Hio app that you can download on your phone or use on your desktop.

When you purchase a ticket, you'll receive an email to download the Hio app and create an account. A day or 2 before the event, you will receive an email with Zoom info for introductions as well as a Hio desktop link to the event.

Harvardwood Presents: How to Launch an Audiobook with Author John Wasowicz MPA '88 - Weds., Oct 28

Your questions about writing, narrating, scoring, recording, producing, and marketing an audiobook will be answered by John Adam Wasowicz MPA '88, author of the upcoming novel Slaters Lane and two previous Mo Katz mysteries. Slaters Lane is a mystery about a murder that’s committed in Alexandria, VA in April 2020—in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.  John will be joined by the team of independent artists who created the audio version of Slaters Lane.  

The program will be moderated by NPR newscaster Nora Raum.  Confirmed panelists include Nicole Lacroix, on-air host of Classical WETA in Washington, D.C., who narrated Slaters Lane; James Jacobs, a WETA host and composer, whose music is heard in the audiobook; and Matt Lynch, who engineered the project.In addition, Journalist Derek McGinty, who narrated the second Mo Katz audiobook Jones Point, has been invited to join our virtual audience to comment on his experiences providing narration in the pre-pandemic environment. 

Don’t miss your chance to learn the ins and outs of audiobooks and sign up today! You can also purchase an advance copy of Slaters Lane (instructions below), and a portion of the proceeds will benefit Harvardwood!

Become a Harvardwood member as we further engage in socially active programming, discourse, and action to help change the entertainment industry

In these unprecedented times, we are doubling down on providing impactful programming that not only helps our membership build and further entertainment careers, but create socially active habits and spheres of influence and knowledge. The entertainment industry is changing before our eyes, and our recent programming is just the tip of the iceberg. We'd love your help in furthering this mission. In various capacities, we work hard to create programming that you, the membership, would like to be engaged with. Please consider joining Harvardwood and becoming an active member of our arts, media, and entertainment community


DISCLAIMER

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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