Issue 192 | January 2021

In This Issue:

  • Message from Justin

NEWS

  • Producer, Creative & Strategy (ViacomCBS) - NY

FEATURES

  • Exclusive Q&A with Producer Halle Phillips AB '11 (Creative Executive in TV Development at Kilter Films; Producer on HBO's Westworld)
  • Industry Successes
  • New Members' Welcome
  • Alumni Profile: Laura Weidman Powers AB '04 (Award-winning social entrepreneur and author of the new book Unstuck Together)

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


All - Happy New Year! It's been an amazing, challenging, and encouraging first few months with Harvardwood. While 2020 provided no shortage of difficult circumstances for us all to adjust to, it also provided unique opportunities here at Harvardwood: we've been able to serve & include more members, and bring you new programming that you've asked for in order to bring you closer to your goals, and this community.

In 2021, we will be rolling out new class structures, performance opportunities, events & more as we continue to grow and evolve. I'm personally excited for our Harvardwood 101 Boot Camp (underway as we speak!), monthly talent showings (revived digitally last month, in which members practice, perform, provide feedback, and simply enjoy), our increasing involvement in comedy and other forms of performance, and, most of all, meeting members from around the world at the click of a button. While it will be beyond exciting to continue in-person events at some point, the learnings from this period about how you are best served are invaluable. 

I'm so excited to continue to serve you here at Harvardwood. Please email me directly about anything at all. 

Wishing you and all of your families a strong start to the year.

- Justin 

Producer, Creative & Strategy (ViacomCBS) - NY

Job Description: ViacomCBS is seeking a Producer who brings strong production and post-production experience as well as an excellent creative background. The Producer's primary function is to produce broadcast quality short-form video projects from inception through delivery. They will be involved in all aspects of the production including production set-up, brainstorming, execution and post-production.

Responsibilities:

Produce video projects including on-air and off-air promotions, video installations, digital and interactive projects, marketing and sales tapes, and videos for ViacomCBS executives and events

  • Manage and oversee all aspects of video projects and all elements used within them, as well as work closely and maintain internal communications with department project managers, copywriters, and designers.
  • Other producing responsibilities include (but are not limited to):
  • Working with the department video team of staff members and project-based employees
  • Plan, execute, and oversee all aspects of shoot productions, including scheduling, budgeting, crew management, location scouting, and more
  • Stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in production and editing computer technology
  • Help find new and innovative video professionals
  • Manage a large volume of multiple assignments and tasks, while working under tight deadlines and budgets
  • By assisting in the creation of new and progressive video projects which reflect the attitudes and goals of the company
  • Direct on-location film and video shoots
  • Direct on/offline edits along with graphic creation and implementation

 

Exclusive Q&A with Halle Phillips AB '11

Halle Phillips AB '11, a Creative Executive in TV Development at Kilter Films, is a producer on HBO's Westworld

Q. Can you talk about your activities, involvements, and interests at Harvard, and how those play into your life as a producer / exec today? Or how they led you here?

A. I didn’t know that I wanted to work in entertainment while I was at Harvard—the only thing I knew about the Lampoon is that they had a nice building and a habit of stealing sh*t from The Crimson. But looking back, most of my activities were centered around media and management—I was the production manager for Eleganza 2009, probably the closest thing I’d done to film production in its scale, complexity and creative collaboration; Lead Manager for Lamont Cafe which portended a love of working with people, working late nights, and crafty; and the Photography Chair of the 137 Guard of The Harvard Crimson, a commitment that required managing and working with many different departments to get something engaging out the door, maintaining an integrity of craft all while under daily deadline (the signs were all there!)

Q. When did your interest in producing come? Can you tell us about it?

A. After a stint in TMT investment banking, I knew that I didn’t want to venture too far down a path in finance knowing that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I needed to—the hours were insane and only got marginally better as you rose in the ranks. I always liked math, science, and tech, but I was equally if not moreso interested in the arts, and was craving a creative outlet. So when my quarter life crisis came early, I resisted the urge to go to grad school and instead talked to friends who worked in the industry. I was a huge TV person, and grew up watching HBO and FX series earlier than I should have (Oz!!). I never considered working in Hollywood because I never saw myself as a writer or director, but it turned out that making TV is much more than that.





Industry Successes

Adam Goldberg has been tapped as a lead opposite Queen Latifah in The Equalizer reboot, which has a straight-to-series order at CBS to launch this season! A reimagining of the classic series, the series stars Queen Latifah as Robyn McCall, an enigmatic woman with a mysterious background who uses her extensive skills to help those with nowhere else to turn. Debra Martin Chase JD '81 is an executive producer for the series. (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. Learn more about the project here.

After receiving critical acclaim, over 21 million downloads, and an iHeartRadio Podcast Award, Man in the Window, the investigative series from the LA Times and Wondery, has dropped a new episode! Reported and narrated by Times Staff Writer and Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Paige St. John, the eight-part series launched in June 2019, tracing the Golden State Killer’s path of devastation through the eyes of police and his victims, while also examining how society once viewed sexual assault. Marshall Lewy AB '99 is an executive producer. (Los Angeles Times)

Rapper IDK will be launching No Label Academy, a Harvard course on the music business! In partnership with the Boston-based nonprofit No Label, IDK plans to educate and empower the next generation of artists and executives who are Black, Indigenous or members of other historically marginalized groups with lessons on finance, innovation, mental health and other topics. No Label was also founded by recent Harvard graduates Miles Weddle and Marcelo HD AB '20 during their time at Harvard College! (Billboard)

Filmmaker Kiran Deol AB '06 and Jon K. Jones have been selected by SFFILM to receive Sloan Science in Cinema Filmmaker Fellowships, which will support the development of their narrative feature screenplays. The fellowships come with $35,000 grants, virtual residencies at SFFILM’s Film House, access to SFFILM’s Artist Development programs, and connections to a science advisor and others in the Bay Area science and tech communities. (Filmmaker Magazine)

Locke and Key, from showrunners Meredith Averill and Carlton Cuse AB '81, has been renewed for a third season at Netflix! “We have some incredible adventures in store for the Locke family in season 3, and could not be more excited to continue telling our story with our great partners at Netflix,” said Cuse. (Variety)

Professional musicians, including Matthew Aucoin AB '12, from local symphonies and other groups, have banded together to perform virtual concerts for patients at Cedars-Sinai. The Vital Sounds initiative started funding these virtual hospital performances nationwide at the start of the pandemic. Aucoin’s ensemble, the American Modern Opera Company, signed up in late spring to hold weekly concerts for patients. Read more about their work here.

Supported by Zero Gravity Management (Ozark), Grandview Management, QC Entertainment (Get Out, Us), and Bellevue Productions (Infinite) among others, Script Pipeline has selected Penn Javdan’s (GSA '11) screenplay, River Kings, as the lone Runner-Up in the drama category of the 2020 First Look Project. River Kings follows prisoner Nick Notch as he confronts the unlikely relationship between his estranged son and the father of the boy he is incarcerated for killing. Unlike Script Pipeline’s main screenwriting and TV writing competitions, entries for the First Look Project are judged equally on writing ability and commercial potential.

Peter Lawson Jones AB '75, JD '80 will be guest starring in the January 13th episode of NBC’s drama, Chicago Fire. He is also featured in a national Marathon Oil commercial that is presently airing and appears in Judas and the Black Messiah, a Warner Brothers film about the murder in 1969 of Fred Hampton, the Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party. The movie, set for release February 12th in theaters and on HBO Max, stars Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out and Queen and Slim), Jones’s scene partner in the film.

The Wasteland, a new novel by W.A.W. Parker AB ’07, will be published by Level 4 Press on January 5th.

New Members' Welcome

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

  • Suzie Abdou, FOH, LA 
  • Kenneth Alexander, FOH, Other U.S.
  • Ian Chan, College, BOS/Campus
  • Scott Chatley, Ext., LA 
  • Callia Chuang, College, DC 
  • Deborah Cincotta, College, LA  
  • Sawyer Ellis, Ext., BOS/Campus 
  • Clare Goslant, College, BOS/Campus
  • Marie-Anne Harrigan, College, BOS/Campus
  • Yaray Ku, GSAS, BOS/Campus
  • Lindsay Laguna, GSE, BOS/Campus
  • Kristina Latino, College, BOS/Campus
  • Lawrence Litt, GSAS, SF
  • Rachel McClain, GSAS, Other U.S.
  • Christine Mckenna-Tirella, Ext., NY
  • John Nugent, College, BOS/Campus
  • Gavin Olsen, College, NY
  • Aida Rocci, College, London
  • Robert Rush, College, NY
  • Lauren Sallinger, College, NY 
  • Deborah Skolnik, College, NY
  • Madison Trice, College, BOS/Campus
  • Prazul Wokhlu, College, BOS/Campus

*FOH = Friend of Harvardwood

Alumni Profile: Laura Weidman Powers AB '04 (Award-winning social entrepreneur and author of the new book Unstuck Together)

By Jenny Tram AB '22

2020 was a year of immense challenge, adaptation, and reevaluation. 

Our diverse membership touches professions and spaces that span every corner of every industry, all of which have changed immensely due to the global pandemic and its subsequent effects. 

We at Harvardwood believe we should begin 2021 by profiling a delightful, standout professional who exemplifies purpose-driven passion -- not merely success -- in all of her endeavors. If nothing else, we hope this read shines light on what is a truly stellar creative career. We couldn’t be prouder to introduce Laura Weidman Powers AB ‘04.

- - - - - 

Powers is an award-winning social entrepreneur, speaker, teacher, coach, consultant, and author. Her journey since Harvard is one to marvel at. 

Her new book, Unstuck Together, is a non-fiction story about how she and her husband packed up their lives -- and their new baby -- and set off to travel across 11 countries and 48 cities in under a year, in order to reconnect with what makes each of them happy. From spending 2 months in Marrakech, to finding time (and childcare) to go on 100 “dates” while traveling, to having a multilingual child that considered home to be “wherever the three of us were… no matter how long we’d remain”, the book is a fascinating read. It speaks to those who are both ambitious and adventurous, those who have obligations and want new opportunities, and those who are looking at uprooting their lives and creating a new normal for their families. So how’d Laura arrive at this juncture?

I was way more interested in extracurriculars than academics while I was at Harvard!” said Powers of her time in undergrad. 

In particular, her passion back then was CityStep, a program in which students at the College volunteered to teach dance at nearby public schools with under-funded arts programs. She had joined the organization during her freshman year, and remained actively involved during the rest of her time in college, even serving as Director during her junior and senior years. Passionate about dance, she spent a great deal of time dancing outside of CityStep as well, performing in several pieces with the Expressions Dance Company most semesters. Powers even considered pursuing her love of travel by studying abroad, but ultimately could not bring herself to leave CityStep. 

When it was time to graduate, most of my classmates were going into consulting and i-banking -- two things that I had no interest in (to be honest, I didn't understand what either was, just that they were supposedly desirable).

Upon graduation, Powers decided to lead CityStep professionally. The program had been at Harvard for 20 years then, but it had never expanded beyond Cambridge. She moved to West Philadelphia and spent a year setting up CityStep at the University of Pennsylvania and in the local public school system; by that spring, she and her team had a sold out performance at the main theater on campus, and Powers even had a set of undergrads lined up to run the program the following year. She then handed CityStep off, and today, the program is in its 15th year at Penn and has expanded even further.

As someone who considered herself to be a "nonprofit person" who is passionate about the arts, Powers also led operations for a public art project in New York City that decorated the city’s yellow cabs with hand-painted art for its 2007 centennial. 

“But I was convinced that I needed more exposure to different methods of thinking and building if I was going to be effective in the public sector,” said Powers. 

I landed in Palo Alto in summer 2007, six weeks after the release of the first iPhone.

Consequently, Powers decided to apply to graduate school, and she ended up matriculating at Stanford University for a joint JD/MBA degree, with the hopes that a new environment on the West Coast would inevitably expand her worldview and provide important exposure. “I couldn’t have been more right,” said Powers, reflecting on her decision. Moreover, both of her parents had made huge career pivots, both holding JD’s from Yale Law School, but not practicing long-term. Her self-employed mother and father are now a psychologist and a writer, respectively. Her father’s decision to pursue a career in the arts was incredibly liberating for Powers. 

She found herself in Palo Alto just as Twitter and Facebook were gaining… well, everything. Astounded and excited about being at the epicenter of pivotal technology and innovation, Powers felt compelled to dive into the world of Silicon Valley, and the chance came when a friend of a friend offered her a summer internship at his tech startup. It was that experience of being immersed in that moment of Silicon Valley's history and culture that ultimately led Powers to start Code2040, a nonprofit that works to dismantle the structural barriers preventing the full participation and leadership of Black and Latinx technologists in the innovation economy. Powers had recognized both the pivotal and profound importance of these companies for the future, and the way in which entire racial cohorts were being excluded when it came to participation and leadership at such companies. Powers knew this to be both economically and ethically dangerous.

Powers spent more than six years growing Code2040 from inception to a $7M organization with a staff of 35, partnering with 100+ companies, and serving hundreds of students and 6,000 community members annually. 

She then stepped down as CEO of Code2040, allowing it to grow in new ways: “I'm constantly in awe of the choices they make that I never would have thought of -- it's wonderful to see the organization flourish in its own way.”

Upon leaving, she continued to delve more deeply into impactful social entrepreneurship. Powers was offered a role at New Media Ventures -- a nonprofit venture firm that invests in entrepreneurs and activists wrestling with the biggest challenges facing our democracy -- to mentor, advise, and support. But she hadn’t planned on working while she and her husband Mike traveled. They’d dreamed about the idea of long-term travel together, but finding a time that would work for both of them was often near-impossible. And, the chance to spare fellow entrepreneurs some of the pain of being a founder via executive coaching was too much for her to pass up. So, she did both. 

The eventual impetus for their trip came from the counsel of eight smart, clear-eyed women who ultimately convinced Powers to make the leap, and even her pregnancy at the time would not stop her. “It all became clear,” said Powers. She realized the trip would help her towards an important goal: “pushing myself to define and reassess some of the priorities and values that were guiding my life.”

The trip would certainly be different than what the couple had perhaps envisioned, which was initially backpacking around Asia and Latin America, but that didn't mean that it wasn't doable. Powers and her husband acknowledged the constraints that traveling with a baby would introduce for them, and with that, immediately began planning out their great adventure.

When she returned from her trip, the president of Echoing Green, a global social innovation fund that discovers and invests in emerging social entrepreneurs, asked Powers to step into a new role at the organization to help them create and operationalize key strategic shifts. Echoing Green was an organization dear to her heart, for she herself had been an EG fellow in 2013 with Code2040, and that community was her happy place and solace during the trials and tribulations that come with any CEO role. Powers knew it was her turn to give back to the organization that had given her so much, so she currently occupies a short-term role focused on shepherding and stewarding change. 

On the subject of change, in terms of shifting one’s life purposes, directionality, career, or otherwise... we’ll leave you with a brief Powers quote from Unstuck Togetherwhich we think should resonate:

Changing everything doesn’t have to mean you’re rejecting anything. And if you set something aside gently enough, it might just be waiting for you when you are ready for it again.

- - -

 

 

Jenny Tram is a current junior at Harvard College and Harvardwood’s Student Social Media and Outreach Coordinator.

Calendar

Volunteer with Harvardwood to Help LA’s Homeless! - Wed., Jan. 13

Harvardwood will be partnering with an LA homeless organization to organize a donation drive in the New Year to help LA's homeless population.

People experiencing homelessness are being hit hard by COVID and winter weather, so we're looking for volunteers who'd like to give back to the community.

We will be holding intro meetings on both Wednesday, January 13 at 7pm PST and Sunday, January 17 at 3pm PST —you only need to attend one. More details to come shortly.

Please email Ryan at ryan.b.song@gmail.com if you're interested in volunteering, or if you have any questions in the meantime!

Harvardwood Heads To... Act Two: Transitioning to TV Writing from Other Careers (RSVP FREE ASAP) - Wed., Jan. 13

The Writers Guild Foundation teams up with Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting for a discussion on transitioning to TV writing from other careers. Learn how this panel of TV writers and producers made the jump to television, how their previous experiences inform their writing, and how that lens impacts their approach in the writers room.

Moderated by Dr. Rosanne Welch, Director of Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting.

Panel starts at 4:00pm Pacific time. 

Harvardwood Heads To... WGF x Business of Creating: Animation for the Big and Small Screens - Thurs., Jan. 14

The Writers Guild Foundation may have hit a pause on live events, but thanks to technology, they're aiming to provide more access to advice and knowledge from film and TV writers while we’re all social distancing. Over the last few months, the WGF has been hosting free Zoom panels about craft and all things relevant to writers.

For this session, join Business of Creating for a virtual interactive panel and Q&A with seasoned entertainment executives to learn the ins and outs of Animation for the Big and Small Screens.

Topics will include: Writing for animation vs. live action. Converting a live action idea into an animated one. How producing an animated show is different than a live action show. Producing animated films vs. TV shows. During this time of quarantine, is it easier to get an animated film/show produced vs. shooting live action with real people? What action steps you, the creator, can take now to make your project rise to the top.

Harvardwood and Harvard Stand-Up Present: Post-Inauguration Comedy Night - Thurs., Jan. 21

Comedians. Cast out of the Harvard Bubble.

World Leaders. Cast out of the White House... Bubble.

Big acts... Small acts. Depends on your laptop size. 

In the words of Big Joe... "Zoom, Baby."

PROCEEDS BENEFIT THE HARVARD SQUARE HOMELESS SHELTER! GET YOUR TICKETS HERE

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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