Issue 191 | December 2020

In This Issue:

  • Message from Dona



  • Exclusive Q&A with writer/director and creator of Team Marco Julio Vincent Gambuto AB '00
  • Artist Showcase: SanYee Yuan AB' 12
  • Industry Successes
  • New Members' Welcome
  • Alumni Profile: Lori Lakin Hutcherson AB '90 (Film & TV producer currently working on Freeform’s The Bold Type, Founder/EIC of award-winning website Good Black News)


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

Message from Harvardwood

What a year! With the holidays arriving, I bet a lot of us are eager to put 2020 in our rearview and embrace the new year. Harvardwood also has a very exciting change on the horizon: after seven amazing and unforgettable years with the organization, I am passing the baton to my colleague, Justin White. Over the years, Harvardwood has played an instrumental role in my life, both professionally and personally, and I'm gratified to know it will continue to flourish as I embark on my next adventure as a staff writer on FBI: Most Wanted (Tuesdays at 10/9c on CBS)!

I've met some of my closest friends through this community, and I have truly enjoyed every event, every program, every party that enabled me to get to know our members from coast to coast. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been a part of the Harvardwood family and leadership team, and I look forward to keeping in touch!

With immense gratitude to you all, and warm wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season,

- Dona 

Campaign Outreach Director, Screenings (Brave New Films) - LA

Brave New Films is seeking a Campaign Outreach Director, Screenings to initiate, organize and lead its national film screenings program by connecting with civic advocacy organizations, educators and schools (middle school through college), and faith based organizations to screen documentary films virtually during COVID and in person when possible. Must have extensive experience working in the social justice or electoral landscape, with a knowledge of key players, organizations and progressive issues. Previous work as an organizer and with racial justice organizations is a big plus, as are bi-lingual candidates. Candidate must also have extensive experience with data collection, analysis and systems for reporting contacts and screenings. This role will report to the Vice President of Partnerships and Distribution.

Core responsibilities and duties include:

  • Securing nationwide film screenings with schools, faith and advocacy groups
  • Managing Screenings section on organization website including digital screening signups, emails and more
  • Tracking screenings and reporting progress 
  • Developing ideas for potential new collaborators

Next Thursday, December 10th: Harvardwood Virtual Holiday Party! Tickets reduced - get yours now! 

We've reduced tickets by 40%! Three hurrahs for Harvardwood!

Come revel in holiday cheer and happy festivities with your fellow Harvardwood members for our first ever Online Trivia Contest and Virtual Holiday Party on Thursday, December 10th! It'll be a wonderful way to kick off not just your weekend, but also the season of holiday festivities! Hosted by veteran trivia host SanYee Yuan ‘12, the evening will feature:

- Comedy and magic by Harrison Greenbaum AB '08 and James P. Connolly AB '88
- Performances by The Harvard Yardbirds
- Harvard in Hollywood Historical Trivia and Games
- Special Prizes, & More! 

Sign up here - all proceeds benefit the Harvardwood Fund.

Introducing our 2020 Harvardwood Heroes

We are delighted to present to you the following 2020 Harvardwood Heroes!

Daniel Banks AB '87 | DNAWORKS - Daniel co-directs DNAWORKS, an arts and service organization based in Fort Worth, TX, which has convened a cohort of six other local organizations to acquire the former local Ku Klux Klan meeting hall and transform it into an international center and museum for arts and community healing. The project models a pluricultural, shared-leadership approach to ensure that the building will be led and programmed by representatives of the cultural groups targeted by the KKK in this region, thereby returning resources to the communities who suffered at their hands. 

Amy Chu HBS '99 | Hepatitis B Awareness through Comics - For several years, Amy has written comics for the likes of DC and Marvel. In 2017, she wrote a comic book about Hepatitis B at the request of Perry Pong ’83 - the Chief Medical Officer for the Charles B. Wang Center, the primary nonprofit health care provider for New York City’s Chinatown population, a mostly low income immigrant community. Perry saw that his patients were frequently confused by the disease and thought a visual medium would be better for communicating and clearing misconceptions. The comic was illustrated by Louie Chin, a longtime Chinatown resident, and given away for free in both English and Chinese. This award-winning comic has been adopted by several states, and in several languages.


Nosher Ali Khan AB '23 | Cultural Preservation in Hunza Hunza is a valley located amongst the mighty mountains of the Karakoram in Pakistan. Amidst its rich history, ancient shamanistic traditions, and recent Islamic influence, poetry and music have always been an essential part of Hunzukutz’s (people of Hunza) identity. As a Hunzukutz himself, Nosher is working with the Lakshmi Mittal Institute at Harvard to create a web-series of local folk music. Through his research-based web series, Nosher is working on cinematically documenting the relation of poetry and culture, as well as exploring how poetry and music in the Burushaski language have become an integral part of the Hunzukutz identity.

Crystal Wang AB '23 | Students for Oncological Aid and Relief (SOAR) - Crystal has founded a student-led, non-profit organization recognizing that cancer patients are forced to fight a vicious battle, a battle that they should never have to fight alone. SOAR's mission is to bring joy to cancer patients across the nation: for while we can't cure the disease or alleviate the pain, we can show them that they are not forgotten. SOAR's goal is to distribute care packages to hospitals through fundraising and philanthropic projects.

More info HERE


Exclusive Q&A with writer/director and creator of Team Marco, Julio Vincent Gambuto AB '00 

Julio Vincent Gambuto AB '00 is a writer and director, based in New York City. Team Marco, Julio’s debut feature film, is now available nationwide in the US and Canada, from Samuel Goldwyn Films. Check it out. Julio also wrote that viral essay about the pandemic that 20 million people read around the world. Now, he’s a weekly contributor to Medium.

Q. What about your upbringing in Staten Island first inspired you to write, direct, produce, etc. and get involved with the film industry?

Being an artist in an Italian-American family can be tough. We’re the children of immigrants, so when you get the chance to go to Harvard, the last thing your parents really want to hear is that you want to be an artist. My family has always been remarkably supportive, though. They trusted me from the beginning, and it’s really only because of their love and support that I was able to stay the course. Specifically, I think Italian-Americans are natural storytellers. We are a very dramatic culture — at least in my family — so stories are how we communicate. I actually discovered that for myself at Harvard. I realized freshman year that a lot of people around me communicated through intellectual sparring — not all, but a lot — but I just wanted to tell stories. It’s how I connect to people.

Q. What motivated you to continue studies at USC in Directing?

A. To be honest, I was just very frustrated that my acting career wasn’t going anywhere. I had a movie deal with an independent film company to make a film based on my one-man show (Julie from Staten Island), but it fell through during the recession in 2008, so I put myself back in school.

Artist Showcase: Sanyee Yuan AB '12

How did you measure quarantine year — in baking, hair-dyeing, Tweeting or Tik-Tok dancing? In memes that we shared, or in times that we cried? In pets that we hugged, or in DoorDash we tried?

Writer/actor Sanyee Yuan AB ‘12 recently received an Artist’s Grant from the City of LA to create art that speaks to the spirit of hope during the pandemic, and will showcase three pieces in their first-ever virtual exhibit, Reimagine Public Art, in January 2021.

Supported by the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and Center of Cultural Innovation, Inc. (CCI), she wrote an original song, Dear Quarantine Crush…, wrote a rom-com short inspired by true events, The Pandemic Pick-Up Artist, and wrote/produced/directed an original music video, Seasons of Masks, adapted from RENT’s Seasons of Love to measure life in quarantine year.

For Seasons of Masks, she collaborated with music producer Sam Cook-Stuntz AB ‘10
(@homespunaudio), who she met during their Harvardwood 101 trip in J-Term 2010, and also spotlights the talents of Harvardwood members Hua Szu Yang AB ‘12, Eric Cheng AB ‘20, Angelique Henderson AB ‘12, and Rebecca Maddalo AB ‘13, who performed with an ensemble of 18 singers. Video seamlessly edited by Dave Marandola.

Produced in less than a week, entirely from home, without any phone calls (solely through texts/emails/Facebook messages!), this music video is a testament to #CreatingInQuarantine — and you can watch it here before its official gallery debut!

From Sanyee: "We hope to warm hearts during this cold year — and thank Harvardwood for helping us put the UNITY in Community! Even when we’re apart, we can still be a part of something great. Keep the distance until we can see each other again!"

Industry Successes

Marty Bowen AB ‘91of Temple Hill, along with Issac Klausner and John Fischer, will produce the World War II action film Blessed Event. Set in the South Pacific during WWII, the film is about the American crew of a B-24 Liberator Bomber who pilots their wounded plane through a gauntlet of enemy fighters and anti-aircraft guns to complete an improbable but critical mission behind enemy lines. (Deadline)

Additionally, Hulu has acquired U.S. rights to Clea DuVall’s Happiest Season, the holiday romantic comedy starring Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis! Bowen co-produced, with Wyck Godfrey and Jonathan McCoy as executive producers. The film stars Stewart as Abby, who is planning to propose to her girlfriend Harper (Davis) during Harper’s family’s annual Christmas dinner — until she realizes they don’t even know Harper is gay. (Deadline)

ABC has placed into development Borderline, a single-camera immigrant-couples comedy from writer Chris Encell, Danny Chun AB '02, and ABC Signature, where Chun is under contract. In Borderline, written by Encell, goody two-shoes Steve falls for reckless Maria, and their whirlwind romance is cut short when she gets deported. They must decide whether to bail on the potential love of their lives, or take a leap of faith and get married. Congratulations, Danny! (Deadline)

Space Force, from co-creator Greg Daniels AB '85 and Steve Carell, has been renewed for a second season by Netflix! The series centers on a decorated pilot with dreams of running the Air Force, four-star general Mark R. Naird (Carell), who’s thrown for a loop when he finds himself tapped to lead the newly-formed sixth branch of the US Armed Forces: Space Force. (Deadline)

The docuseries We Are The Champions is out now on Netflix! The show explores an array of unique competitions and their passionate communities, from fantasy hair styling to dog dancing. Andrew Sachs AB ’97 supervised production for production company Dirty Robber!

Jon Chu is in talks to direct Disney’s live-action remake of Lilo & Stitch. The Hawaii-centric story told of the bond formed between a lonely human girl named Lilo and a dog-like alien named Stitch, who is engineered to be a force of destruction. Harvard alums Dan Lin MBA '99, Jonathan Eirich AB '03, and Ryan Halprin AB '12 of Rideback, the banner behind the live-action remake of Aladdin, will be producing! (Hollywood Reporter)

ABC has given a straight-to-series order to a multi-camera comedy both starring and executive produced by Alec Baldwin and Kelsey Grammer! Vali Chandrasekaran AB '03 will also executive produce.

HBO has given a series order to The Last of Us, the adaptation of the PlayStation video game, from Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin, game creator Neil Druckmann and Game of Thrones executive producer Carolyn Strauss AB '85! The series takes place 20 years after modern civilization has been destroyed. Joel, a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, out of an oppressive quarantine zone. What starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal, heartbreaking journey, as they both must traverse the U.S. and depend on each other for survival. Congratulations, Carolyn! (Deadline)

The Hollywood Reporter has released their list of 35 Rising Executives 35 and Under, including Harvard alums John Agbaje MBA '14, Tiffany Graddick JD '10, Ryan Halprin AB '12, Jon Kurland JD '11, and Richard Ruiz AB '07

The series DMZ by Ava DuVernay and Roberto Patino AB '06 has been handed a series order by HBO Max! The streamer has ordered four episodes of the limited series, a futuristic drama set amid a second American civil war and based on the DC Comics series. (Deadline)

Conan O’Brien AB '85 is ending his longtime late-night talk show on TBS next year to launch a new weekly series on HBO Max! WarnerMedia, which owns both TBS and HBO, described the new show as a “weekly variety series”, but offered no details.

Kaleidescape, the leader in products and content that enable the finest home cinema experience, announced today that Tayloe Stansbury AB '83 has been appointed its new CEO! Congratulations, Tayloe!

Producer Aaliyah Williams AB '02 has signed a first-look deal with CBS Studios under her Just A Rebel production company! With the new deal, Williams brings her commitment to storytelling centered on Black women. (Deadline)

Theresa (Tree) Loong AB '94
shared audio tour and documentary clips from her community-based project, Feed Me a Story, in a celebration of Thanksgiving traditions

Eric J. Cheng AB ’20 stars in Boy Luck Club, coming to Amazon Prime Video on December 8th! Directed by Quentin Lee (White Frog, The People I’ve Slept With), Boy Luck Club features an all Gaysian (Gay + Asian) cast of best friends who get together every week for cocktails to get through quarantine life. Shot on Zoom and entirely improvised, the conversations between the six cast members leave anything up for possibility.

New Members' Welcome

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

  • Stephanie Bridges, College, NY
  • Bonnie Kathleen Discepolo (Ryan), ART, LA
  • Izzy Aiden Graf, FOH, LA
  • Taylor Hamilton, FOH, LA
  • Steven Kunis, College, UK
  • Sarah Mostafa, KSG, Other U.S.
  • Eliana Reeves, College, LA
  • Samuel Reiss, College, LA
  • Katie Runions, College, ATL
  • Elizabeth Seibert, Ext., BOS/Campus
  • Jeremy Smith, College, Other U.S.
  • June Tan, HLS, LA

*FOH = Friend of Harvardwood

Alumni Profile: Lori Lakin Hutcherson AB '90, film & TV producer currently working on Freeform's The Bold Type, Founder/EIC of award-winning website Good Black News

By Simi Shah AB '19

In 1990, a few months out of Harvard, Lori Lakin Hutcherson found herself back in her old stomping grounds: Los Angeles. An ardent lover of the arts -- music and television and all things LA -- she took up a job at The Wherehouse, a record store. She recalls, “It was back when everything wasn't just in the iTunes Store or Apple. You actually had to go into a physical store.”

But music wasn’t the only thing at Hutcherson’s fingertips. While working there, Hutcherson doggedly shopped her resume around Hollywood. But her big break came in the form of a friend who couldn’t believe that this young, talented Harvard grad hadn’t nudged her way into the industry yet. Within a week, she landed her first Hollywood job as a “glorified production assistant,” on Fox’s series, True Colors. By the second season, she found her way to the writer’s seat as a writer’s assistant.

From there, a cascade of opportunities followed.

It was the 1990s. The NAACP and media outlets like Variety were doing deep reporting on the lack of diversity in the industry, including at Fox. “There were no Black executives at Fox and barely any in Hollywood in general,” Hutcherson confirms. In an effort to hire more diverse talent, a Senior Vice President at 20th Century Fox that Hutcherson was well acquainted with tapped her for a development role. Six and a half years into reading scripts and overseeing development and production, Hutcherson herself had earned the title of Vice President in the studio’s development department. 

Despite advancing to what she describes as a “dream career” as a high-paid Hollywood executive, there remained a nagging feeling in the back of Hutcherson’s mind as she approached her 30th birthday.

Hutcherson’s first love was always writing. “I started writing because I love telling stories and I always gravitated toward them.” A history and literature major at Harvard, in the midst of taking film classes and the like, she found herself doing television roundup write-ups for The Crimson. Any opportunity she got, she would take, to write about music, television, and the arts. And after nearly seven years at Fox, she decided to bet on herself and find her way back to the writer’s seat. 

She hasn’t looked back. “Since then, it’s been a typical writer’s life. Sometimes you’re on a show, and sometimes you’re not. It’s a roller coaster, but being a television writer is a role I enjoy deeply.”

Her oeuvre includes: NBC’s Daddio (starring Michael Chiklis), Abby (starring Sydney Potier), Fox’s London-based American Embassy, and All of Us, a show based loosely on its producers, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. The latter two opportunities hold particular significance for Hutcherson. The early episodes of American Embassy coincided with the World Trade Center attacks, which forced the show off screen as it focused on terrorist plots that felt irrelevant in a post 9/11 world. All of Us aired for four seasons, a longer stretch than Hutcherson’s other gigs. The experience enabled her to gain experience in all aspects of television production and shaped her future career as a producer. 

A testament to Hutcherson’s hustle, she had the sort of career where she was constantly working, but oftentimes on shows that didn’t progress past a first season. After this period on television came the writer’s strike in 2007. Married to another television writer, the two decided that whoever got called back to work first would forge ahead, while the other took care of their young son.

After a hiatus, Hutcherson found herself thrust back into the industry with a golden ticket call years later. Through a former colleague, she was offered the opportunity to partner with Terry McMillan on a sequel to Waiting to Exhale as a writer. It was at this point in 2010 when Hutcherson founded her news site, Good Black News, a platform that covers Black achievement. She recognized the dearth of reporting on Black American success after hearing about an academy in Chicago where 100 percent of graduating seniors had matriculated in college. Discovering little to no mainstream coverage of the achievement, she was inspired and began authoring her own coverage of Black success that she runs to this day. 

Centering stories focused on underrepresented individuals, be it women, Black people, or people of color, has been a tenet of Hutcherson’s career. “I’ve seen a change from the time when I was the only person in that division who was Black.” Hutchison, ever a wordsmith, pauses to appropriately articulate the significance of the sea change she’s witnessed in the industry over the last four decades. “Yesterday, I was walking my dog, and I was listening to Michelle Obama's podcast. And then when I came home, I was watching an episode of Empire. And then there was something else that I did. And I just thought, oh my God, I finally live in a world where everything I’m legitimately interested in reflects me.”

The depth of that care is reflected in her more recent professional life as well. Shortly after her work with McMillan, Hutcherson joined the staff of Single Ladies, where she spent a number of seasons. And after another drought, Hutcherson received another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: Hidden Figures. She was hired to do a production polish with a team of writers, which opened up a wealth of opportunities in script-writing. It eventually paved the road to her latest role as a consulting producer on Freeform’s The Bold Type, a story that focuses on the friendship between three eclectic, Millennial women. 

To the next generation of aspiring executives and writers, Hutcherson offers, “Find it within yourself to be secure in your ability and talent, even if it's not being recognized outside of you by jobs or other people. Focus on yourself and remember that what you have to offer is unique. Make sure you love it enough to deal with the famine and the food of it because it’s a roller coaster. If you have the opportunity to be rooted in a career you love, bet all your chips on you.”

If it isn’t obvious, Hutcherson has bet on herself time and time again and emerged an icon in industry, and at home: the proud parent of two kids. Her success is in her repertoire and her ability to fight for the food through the famine, an ability grounded in her passion for this art. Safe to say, Lori Lakin Hutcherson -- not unlike her latest project -- is the bold type.

- - - 

Simi Shah AB '19 graduated with a degree in economics. She currently leads business development at Paperwork Studios, a media startup backed by the NYC-based venture studio, Create. Prior to Paperwork, Simi spent time in private equity as an Investment Analyst with the Audax Group. Beyond the workplace, Simi serves as Founder and Head of Trailblazers, a content platform with a newsletter and podcast showcasing trailblazing South Asians in America.

Simi also currently serves as a Fellow for Yard Ventures, a fund that invests in Harvard alumni-led startups. Additionally, she continues to serve as one of eight elected Class Marshals for the Harvard Class of 2019 and as Secretary of the Harvard Asian American Alumni Association.  

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


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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