Issue 193 | February 2021

In This Issue:

  • Message from Justin


  • Associate Editor, Video Team (United Talent Agency) - LA
  • Apply to the Jeff Sagansky Harvardwood TV Writers Program!


  • Exclusive Q&A with Harrison Greenbaum AB '08 (comedian & magician)
  • Industry Successes
  • New Members' Welcome
  • Alumni Profile: Johanna Faries AB '03 (Commissioner, Call of Duty Esports at Activision Blizzard)


  • 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

Harvardwood Community,

We hope you're staying safe as winter marches on. 

We started January with our first-ever virtual Harvardwood 101 Boot Camp Week, featuring over 50 Harvard students, 50+ hours of programming, and panelists in all entertainment verticals, ranging from law to music management to production to acting, and everything in between. We also held several creative hours, enabling students to perform in many capacities. Overall, it was a jam-packed bonding experience, and sparked new interests in careers in entertainment for many! 

We then teamed up with the Harvard College Stand Up Comedy Society and Zoom-gathered in a group of almost 100 for our post-inauguration comedy show, fueled and headlined by talented Harvard (and Harvard-affiliated) comedians. We ended January with more of our monthly talent showings, which we will continue to hold the last week of each month as a rich, informal rehearsal space for all to practice, view, and more.   

We continue to leverage the nature of these times to bring together our members in ways never before possible. We're excited to bring more engaging programming this month, such as our Religious Literacy in Television event detailed below! 

Please never hesitate to reach out to us.

- Justin & The Harvardwood Team 

Associate Editor, Video Team (United Talent Agency) - LA

Job Description: UTA seeks an Associate Editor to become a core part of the content creation team that is part of UTA’s Corporate Communications Department. This role will be responsible for helping create an array of video assets including creative content as well as marketing assets for clients and the UTA brand.

The position will also play a role in operating UTA’s on-premises theater, including the oversight of its operations and the projection responsibilities for screenings and other events held there.


  • 3+ years of post-production experience, including proven video editing ability (reel or portfolio preferred)
  • Technical capabilities and/or instincts to learn theater-related operations
  • Solid knowledge of Adobe Premiere Pro and other nonlinear editing apps (e.g. Final Cut, Davinci Resolve, Avid Media Composer)
  • Clear understanding of post-production workflows, asset management & digital file formats
  • Creative mind and storytelling skills
  • Instincts to continuously discover and implement new editing technologies, techniques and industry best practices
  • BS degree preferred in related field
  • Production experience preferred (Videography, Lighting, Sound)

Apply to the Jeff Sagansky Harvardwood TV Writers Program

We're gearing up for the Spring 2021 semester of our flagship Harvardwood Writers Program! If you're a TV writer, dust off that sample and get it in shape to submit. The TV Modules will begin meeting in mid-March and run through May/June 2021, exact dates TBD.

The Jeff Sagansky Harvardwood TV Writers Program uses peer review, guest speakers and workshops to foster a motivating and supportive environment for each participant’s writing. In recent years, participants in the Harvardwood Writers Program and Competition have seen unprecedented success with pilot sales to ABC, the CW, Showtime, Sony, Spike, Syfy, and TV Land, in addition to blind script deals at ABC Studios and Warner Bros. 

Harvardwood writers have been staffed on Agent Carter (ABC), American Dad (Fox), Billions (Showtime), Community (NBC), Covert Affairs (USA), Family Guy (FOX), The Flash (CW), Girlfriends’ Guide (Bravo), Goliath (Amazon), The Good Wife (CBS), Gotham (Fox), Great News (NBC), Grey's Anatomy (ABC), How To Get Away With Murder (ABC), Jane the Virgin (CW), Justified (FX), The Newsroom (HBO), Perception (TNT), Power (Starz), Sleepy Hollow (Fox), State of Affairs (NBC), and The Tomorrow People (CW). Participants have also secured representation at Apostle, Benderspink, Brant Rose Agency, Brillstein Entertainment Partners, CAA, Circle of Confusion, Echo Lake, Gersh, ICM, Madhouse Entertainment, Management 360, Original Artists, UTA, WME, and others.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, we will be meeting primarily via Zoom, but participants should be based primarily in Los Angeles for future events, networking, and community-building. Depending on interest, we may be able to accommodate one remote (non-LA-based) group of writers.


The deadline to apply is February 21, 2021. 

Exclusive Q&A with Harrison Greenbaum AB '08

Harrison Greenbaum AB '08 is a comedian and writer in NYC. He was the co-founder of the Harvard College Stand-Up Comic Society, and can be seen on America's Got Talent, Last Comic Standing, Conan, Comedy Central, ABC, and much more. 

Q. You’re a popular stand-up comic, so I imagine before the pandemic, you were touring a lot. So let me get right to it: how did you adjust after the pandemic shut everything down?

A. Before the pandemic, I was averaging about 600 shows a year, touring all over the world, so as soon as the lockdown started back in March, I immediately pivoted everything to virtual and livestreaming so I could keep performing.  By the 2nd or 3rd week in March, I was hosting three different shows, five days a week: National Lampoon Live! with Harrison Greenbaum (raising money for the COVID Foundation), Who Books That? (an interview series presented by the International Brotherhood of Magicians), and SCAM Online (the first weekly magic livestream show from NYC).  I learned A LOT very quickly and – between these three shows and all the private events I’ve been doing – I’ve been able to perform for more than a million people in the last 10 months.  It’s been insane.  At this point, my living room is a TV studio capable of a TV-broadcast quality, three-camera shoot, so I’m just grateful I can still connect with a wide audience.  I’m having a blast doing virtual shows, especially since it combines the benefits of being on TV (being able to reach a large, global audience directly in their homes) with the benefits of performing live (being able to directly interact with the audience and to have their reactions immediately impact the show) – all of that, and I don’t have to be more than 20 steps from my couch.  

[Editor’s note: for more info on Harrison’s virtual shows and/or for booking information, visit]

Q. Alright, take me back to the beginning: how did you know you wanted to get into comedy? Can you explain the journey from the first light bulbs, to light pursuit, to now?

A. I started out doing magic when I was about five years old.  It just stuck.  I loved every aspect of it and, as I got older, I realized I especially liked the parts of the tricks that made people laugh.  I went to Magic Camp when I was 14 years old, because obviously I was very dedicated to not ever getting laid.  In all seriousness though, Tannen’s Magic Camp changed my life and exposed me to so many different kinds of performers, including the funny ones, who became my heroes.  When I got to Harvard, I was invited to do a stand-up show and, even though I’d never done stand-up before, I figured, “Why not?”  As soon as I did that first show, I was immediately hooked.  Harvard was such an important part of me becoming a comedian.  (Don’t tell my parents.)

Industry Successes

Oscar nominee and Harvard alum Elisabeth Shue AB '00 finally returned to the Valley with a two-episode arc in Cobra Kai Season 3 on Netflix! Check out her interview with Entertainment Weekly here

Rapper Saweetie will make her professional acting debut with guest-stars in multiple episodes alongside current Harvard College student Yara Shahidi AB '22 in the midseason premiere of grown-ish! When grown-ish returns for the back half of season 3, we find Zoey (Shahidi) in Miami working on a music video featuring both Bada$$ and his protégé Indigo, played by rapper Saweetie, who makes her professional acting debut with the role and guest-stars in multiple episodes. Super exciting! (Entertainment Weekly)

Harvard alum Jonathan Goldstein AB '97 & John Francis Daley are set to direct Dungeons & Dragons, the live action film based on Hasbro’s massively popular role-playing game from Wizards of the Coast, and Chris Pine is currently negotiating a deal to star in the film! Incredible news, Jonathan! (Deadline)

Lance Oppenheim AB '19 recently interviewed with Miami New Times about his Sundance film Some Kind of Heaven! Check out the interview here, and be sure to watch the film if you haven't already seen it!

Mike Schur AB '97 spoke with Rob Lowe on the actor’s Literally podcast about the industry after the pandemic, and this creator of NBC’s The Good Place and co-creator of Parks & Recreation is afraid that the current Covid-related changes in the business may be long-lasting. Read more about what he has to say here. (Deadline)

Kiersey Clemons is set to star in 141 Entertainment’s Susie Searches, a darkly comic thriller from Sophie Kargman AB '08! Kargman will direct from a script by William Day Frank — the feature is based on a short film that the two previously made. (Variety)

Warner Brothers is set to name Josh Goldstine AB '90 as President of Worldwide Marketing, the former Universal exec taking over the post once occupied by Blair Rich! Goldstine is also a Harvardwood member and has volunteered with us before. Congratulations and well-deserved, Josh! (Deadline)

Isabella Amara has joined the Blumhouse thriller Vengeance, the big directorial debut for B.J. Novak AB '01! Besides directing, Novak also penned the script and is starring in the film. Read more about the upcoming film and Novak's role here. (Deadline)

Dave was nominated for Best Breakthrough Series: Short Format at the 2020 Gotham Awards! Marty Bowen AB '91 helped produce the series. Congratulations, Marty! (Variety)

Nicole Byer and J.B. Smoove are teaming up with Conan O’Brien AB '85 in a series of podcast deals as his media company Coco continues to staff up the podcast side of the business. The company has acquired Byer’s Why Won’t You Date Me? Podcast. (Deadline)

CBS has released the first teaser for The Equalizer, starring Queen Latifah! The series is a reimagining of the 1980s series of the same name starring Edward Woodward. Latifah stars in the series as Robyn McCall, a single mother with a mysterious background who uses her skills to protect and defend those who cannot do so for themselves. While acting as a guardian angel to others, Robyn is also seeking her own redemption. John Davis, John Fox, Debra Martin Chase JD '81, Andrew Marlowe and Terri Miller serve as executive producers. (Variety)

Freeform has put in development Smoakland, a single-camera comedy from writer Jewel Coronel, Zahir McGhee, grown-ish star Yara Shahidi AB '22 and Keri Shahidi’s 7th Sun Productions and ABC Signature! Smoakland centers around Oakland native Solo, the visionary of a budding cannabis company, who navigates family expectations, changing friendships, love, and her drive to break through the “grass” ceiling of the oft-closed terrain of the cannabis industry for herself and her community. (Deadline)

Pediatrician turned TV writer Neal Baer MD '96 and others in Hollywood have enlisted medical experts to help them convince viewers to mask up and get vaccinated against COVID-19! Read more about their important efforts here. (Los Angeles Times)

Harvard alumna Amanda Gorman AB '20 became the youngest poet ever to perform at a presidential inauguration this past week! Her piece, titled The Hill We Climb, called for unity and justice, through both reckoning with the nation’s past and looking toward its future. (The Harvard Gazette)

For Adam Aron AB '76, MBA '79, who runs AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest movie theater chain, the past year has been filled with twists and turns. And no one knows the ending. Check out this New York Times profile on Aron and AMC as they navigate COVID-19.  

The Jim Henson Company has begun production on its new Fraggle Rock series in Calgary, Canada! Lisa Henson AB '83 and Halle Stanford will executive produce the new series for The Jim Henson Company. The series will reunite the original stars - Gobo, Red, Boober, Mokey, Wembley, and Uncle Travelling Matt - for new songs and adventures, with the same spirit as the classic. (PR Newswire)

New Members' Welcome

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

  • Mark Abdon, Ext., Chicago, IL
  • Mira Alpers, College, BOS/Campus
  • Brandon Aust, GSBA, Other U.S.
  • Samantha Bissonnette, GSE, LA
  • Joel Derby, ART, LA
  • Deborah Draper, Ext., Atlanta, GA
  • Zoe Goldstein, College, BOS/Campus
  • Josh Goldstine, College, LA
  • Ethan Herschenfeld, College, NY
  • Guadalupe Jacobson-Peregrino, College, BOS/Campus
  • Stacy Jo, College, BOS/Campus
  • Diana Lempel, College, BOS/Campus
  • Catherine Littlefield, College, NY
  • Theo Mendez, College, LA
  • Hannah Needle, College, NY
  • Uzo Ngwu, College, BOS/Campus
  • Anja Nilsson, College, NY
  • Kelsey O'Connor, College, BOS/Campus
  • Andrew Paris, Ext.,NY
  • Mati Reed, College, LA
  • Rudy Ruiz, College, LA
  • Mitchell Sava, KSG, Other U.S.
  • Meredith Slifkin, College, BOS/Campus
  • Steve Smith, HBS, BOS/Campus
  • Owen Sughrue, College, BOS/Campus
  • Jenny Tram, College, BOS/Campus
  • Daniel Yearwood, KSG, LA
  • Nicholas Young, College, BOS/Campus

*FOH = Friend of Harvardwood

Alumni Profile: Johanna Faries AB '03 (Commissioner, Call of Duty Esports at Activision Blizzard)

By Eric J. Cheng AB '20

Former NFL VP Johanna Faries Named Commissioner of Call of Duty Esports –  The Esports Observer

While at Harvard, Johanna Faries (AB ’03) had no idea that she would be doing what she’s doing today. This is fair; in the midst of recruiting for financial services positions and graduate school programs, Harvard students rarely ever see themselves as the commissioner and designer of a professional sports league. Neither did Johanna. But by taking things year by year and doing away with tradition, she achieved the unimaginable.  

“If I do well in the next 12-24 months and am hyper-present, it will open new doors.” Thinking about her career and life as a brick building, “taking it one by one” has proven to greatly benefit Johanna. While many people especially today (and even more especially Harvard students and graduates) stress about the future, Johanna has learned to be a proponent of taking the pressure out of the long-term vision and maximizing the present. In a time in which being present in the day-to-day is challenging, yet necessary, this insight resonated the most.  

Now the Head of Leagues for Call of Duty (COD), the game that generated Activision Blizzard more revenue than the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the box office and double that of the cumulative box office of Star Wars, she’s proving that the only path for her is the one she builds herself.

With a title that those in film, TV, and other, more traditional forms of media may not be familiar with, Johanna oversees all aspects of the experience of the Call of Duty League (CDL), from production to "event-izing" to developing microtransactions, on top of all the general management aspects of operating a city-based sports league. Say you’re a mega fan of the Atlanta Faze. Under Johanna’s supervision, you can deck out in gear, tune into the playoffs live, and follow your favorite players, no matter where you are in the world. 

When it comes to providing viewers and fans the best sports experience possible, this isn’t Johanna’s first rodeo. She previously worked for the NFL for over 12 years, most recently serving as the Vice President of Club Development. In developing fan and business development, she’s brought her expertise to a whole new context—a familiar responsibility within a completely unique venture. 

“Activation Blizzard is taking a page from traditional sports leagues," Johanna says. Having years of experience under her belt, she understands how to keep the pages turning. To her, it’s the same competition, mega-brand appeal, and beloved player culture that is behind traditional sports—it’s “the sports leagues of the future”. And even in an increasingly virtual and global fan business, what remains true, as with all forms of media, is the importance of storytelling. 

“There’s a massive storytelling component” in elevating the players, she says. It’s about bringing their stories to life—not as elite professionals, but as humans. Johanna and her team maintain their focus on “star-building”—making sure that COD and Overwatch (a game in which Johanna also heads the league of) are not only brought to the mainstream, but also that the human-interest story is enlivened through depictions of players’ backgrounds, journeys, and resilience. Johanna mentions the first season launch of the CDL, facilitated by a Youtube docuseries about the Chicago Huntsmen. “Who are these people? Where do they live? What are the back-and-forth aspects of who they are as people as well as players?”. When it comes to using the CDL as a story-based medium, Johanna believes that they are only scratching the surface.

Like all players, Johanna has a story of her own. As a woman of color, she’s not who you might envision as the quintessence of the gaming world. But for her whole life, she’s considered herself a gamer at heart. “Gaming was always something I subscribed to, but I wouldn’t have described myself as a gamer”. She particularly loved Call of Duty in its provision of social experiences. And in her position today, she knows that she stands for more than just the role itself. Fortunately, her experiences with people on the job have proven to be positive and welcoming: “gaming communities are extremely inclusive, even if you may hear about the negative aspects. It has very much been the exception to the rule—coaches, players, GMs, owners, sponsors, vendors, employees, are incredible supporters and collaborators.”

If it weren’t for such a group of supporters and collaborators, 2020 could have put CDL’s launch to game-over territory. After spearheading the nonetheless widely successful first league in one of the most unpredictable years, Johanna’s biggest learning was the power of a strong, connected, resilient team. At Activision Blizzard and CDL specifically, it came down to values: “agility, collaboration, openness, service, and excellence”. The mighty team had to harness every single one of their values and adapt to challenges with grit and innovation. This, to Johanna, has been one of the most rewarding professional experiences of her life. 

Being a storyteller at heart, Johanna has taken up plenty more endeavors granting her a lifetime of memories. While she was overseeing marketing at the NFL, her team was given the opportunity to partner with Ad council. They went to the 2017 Pro Bowl and shot the “Love Has No Labels” campaign in real time (yes, that Love Has No Labels campaign). 

“There were stunts where we used jumbotrons to station different real couples who stood for the message of 'love truly has no labels', crossing ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, racial, and physical disability lines”. It was one of the most difficult --yet rewarding -- projects Johanna has helped execute. And she executed it well: the campaign was seen by millions of people and went on to be nominated for an Emmy. But of all the victories she and her team gained, what moved Johanna the most was what the campaign stood for and what values it presented.

As someone who follows the values and humanity behind every game, Johanna will continue to tell the story in each pursuit she embarks on. Nothing can stop her—tradition, a global pandemic, or otherwise.

- - -


Eric J. Cheng AB '20 is an actor, writer, and producer, currently starring in Boy Luck Club on Amazon Prime. Eric J. Cheng - IMDb


Harvardwood Heads To... Direct to Screen: How to Direct Your Words Into Pictures - Wed., Feb. 3

You’ve written the film—now how do you execute it? For this session, WGF features writers/directors who will explore how to write for the camera, techniques for working with actors, and how to build dynamic scenes from elements of your story.


  • Sean Durkin - Writer/Director, The Nest, Martha Marcy May Marlene

  • Eliza Hittman - Writer/Director, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Beach Rats

Plus more to be announced!

Moderated by WGF VP of Programming Larry Andries (Godfather of Harlem, How to Get Away with Murder).

Panel starts at 4:00pm Pacific time.

More info HERE

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Harvardwood Heads To... The Actors Fund Presents: Social Networking - Thurs., Feb. 4

Social sleuthing is standard in the hiring process, so what does your online presence say about you? In this workshop, you will learn personal branding strategies and reframe your networking approach to more effectively connect to the people, organizations, and opportunities that can advance your career.

More info HERE

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Harvardwood Heads To... WGF x Business of Creating x Brain & Bullish Present Crisis-Focused Storylines: Truth, Misperceptions, and How to Create Your Own Perfect Storm - Thurs., Feb. 11 

Join Business of Creating and Brain & Bullish for an interactive panel and Q&A with seasoned entertainment executives and real-life disaster experts to learn the ins and outs of creating and producing crisis-focused storylines. Topics include: what writers and producers get right, what they get wrong (!), what resources are available to ensure authenticity at all stages, and what practical action steps you, the creator, can take right now to make sure your project rises to the top.


  • Aaron Rahsaan Thomas - Executive Producer and Showrunner, S.W.A.T.

  • Lorraine Schneider - Global Crisis Management, The Walt Disney Co.

  • Kate Hutton - Emergency Manager, City of Seattle, Washington

Moderated by Jennifer Mangan (Writer/Producer Beautiful Day Productions) and Gabby Almon (Founder, Brain & Bullish).

Panel starts at 4:00pm Pacific time.

More info HERE

- - -

DeeperDive + Harvardwood Present: Religious Literacy in Television - Thurs., Feb. 25

Please join Harvardwood and DeeperDive for their inaugural event: Religious Literacy in Television!

The event will consist of a Q&A session with one of Ramy’s staff-writers, Dr. Maytha Alhassenscreenwriter, public historian, journalist, and storyteller focused on providing more nuanced portrayals of Muslims and Arabs on television and in film.

The second portion will consist of an introduction to religious literacy in entertainment media, presented by the co-founders of 
DeeperDive, Lindsey Smith and Jason Hoelzel.

More info 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


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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