In This Issue:
Message from Justin
- Video Creative (Netflix) - LA
- Bid on exclusive memorabilia in Harvardwood's Spring Awards Auction!
- Applying to Harvard? Apply for the Harvardwood Prize!
- Exclusive Q&A with Daniel Rogers AB '12 (writer, producer, and actor)
- Industry Successes
- New Members' Welcome
- Alumni Profile: Dionne Harmon AB '01 (award-winning producer; Executive Vice President of Content & Strategy, Jesse Collins Entertainment)
CALENDAR & NOTES
- Become a Harvardwood member as we further engage in socially active programming, discourse, and action to help change the entertainment industry
Message from Harvardwood
We hope you enjoyed the 78th Golden Globes last night, if you followed. And now, March... again. As the year flies by, we are increasingly excited by the variety of programming and tools we are bringing your way.
In February, we co-hosted successful digital events with Harvard Business School, Harvard Divinity School, and other partners, we've continued to connect our performing members in our monthly talent showings, and we've begun a new round of our Harvardwood Writers Program.
So much more is to come this month, and in Q2. In this issue of HIGHLIGHTS, we provide information on our Prize for Harvard applicants, our auction currently underway, and much more. In next month's issue, we will have some great updates around Summer 2021.
- Justin & The Harvardwood Team
Video Creative (Netflix) - LA
Job Description: Netflix is seeking a Video Creative to join the Asset Lab team, to develop the best short-form videos (such as trailers) for members, and the best workflows for internal creative teams. This opportunity combines hands on strong strategic thinking, creative executions, creative direction, and project management in a fully autonomous environment. This role is an integral part of defining how films and TV shows are represented globally on the Netflix service.
Reporting to the Asset Lab Manager, the Creative will be integral in the development and evolution of testing different types of videos within Netflix. The Creative will identify creative and business-led opportunities, align projects with the priorities of the team, partners and company, and lead groups of contract video editors through creative direction while collaborating with engineers and researchers.
For more information on what it’s like to be on a creative team at Netflix, check out this video.
Bid on exclusive memorabilia in Harvardwood's Spring Awards Auction!
Just in time for Award’s season, it’s Harvardwood’s Spring Awards Auction! Don’t miss your chance to bid on exclusive memorabilia from the Golden Globes and SAG Awards, including Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, One Night in Miami, The Chicago 7 and more! Many items have already been bid on, and the DEADLINE has EXTENDED to March 7th!
Applying to Harvard? Apply for the Harvardwood Prize!
Harvardwood is now accepting applications for the 2021 Harvardwood Prize! The prize was created to recognize and celebrate the artistic accomplishments and potential of high school students who exemplify Harvardwood’s mission. The Prize is awarded annually to a high school junior (rising senior) who plans to apply for admission to Harvard College in the fall of their senior year and who has demonstrated excellence in their dedication to the arts/media/entertainment and its power to enact positive social change.
More info HERE
Exclusive Q&A with Daniel Rogers AB '12
Daniel Rogers AB '12 is an award-winning writer, producer and actor. He's currently a TV staff writer, is developing his own series, and won the 2019 Harvardwood Writers Competition.
Q. When did you know you wanted to get into writing? Can you explain the journey from the first light bulbs, to any light practice, to now?
A. I think I first knew I liked writing in elementary school. I always had a knack for telling stories, and actually won some writing competitions at my school and in some regional events. I dabbled here and there throughout middle school and high school, but fell off during college (though I did take a creative writing class about poetry!). But the real lightbulb moment came when I was in grad school and took my first screenwriting course with Ken Lazebnik in USC’s Peter Stark Producing Program. Up until that point, I knew I wanted to work in the entertainment industry, and was still figuring out exactly what my niche would be. That class helped me rekindle my love for writing, and now almost five years later, I guess it’s working out!
Q. How did your time at Harvard (Acting, Glee Club, etc.) play into that story?
A. I studied English at Harvard, which obviously involved a lot of reading novelists and playwrights in the Western canon. Spending so much time with Byron and Shakespeare and George Eliot, plus the poetry writing course, definitely lends my writing a classical (dare I say musical?) bent. My time in the Glee Club inflamed my passion for music, and these days I think every other project I take on is about musicians, whether rockstars, choral singers, conductors, or whatever. In addition, being Manager of the Glee Club gave me a firm foundation in running an arts organization with a large budget and dueling creative and administrative goals. As an aspiring showrunner, that background is crucial. I know how to be creative, and I also know how to keep the trains running. You’d be surprised how rare that combination is!
Q. Can you speak about Writing vs. Producing and your MFA journey? How did you pursue both career-wise, to the point where you now produce content while operating in a writer's room?
A. People say “Film is a director’s medium, while television is a writer’s medium,” and it really is true. While at USC, I learned that most (or at least, a large chunk) of the producers on TV shows are writers. These folks have significant creative control over the direction of a series, in a way that most film screenwriters simply don’t. When I realized this, the choice between film and TV was easy. These days, as a member of a writers’ room, writing an outline or script or breaking story is basically second nature, though of course I’m always improving. But producing is its own beast. I was lucky enough to be a producing writer on set for an episode of “In the Dark” in 2019, and the hours we kept and the decisions I had to make were overwhelming. I had a say in everything from costumes to props to actor’s notes to set design to lighting to… well, the list goes on and on. That’s the kind of work I got into this business to do. Someday I’ll be able to separate the two, so I can produce the writing of younger writers I believe in. But for the moment, my focus is on producing for TV shows that I write for.
Check out Entertainment Tonight's exclusive with Yara Shahidi AB '22! Shahidi talks about how the show 'Grown-ish' is leading the charge for social change in Season 3!
Additionally, Shahidi and Saweetie recently joined forces to discuss 2021 albums, life paths, and more in an Ask Me Anything with Elle!
On March 17th, Kim Bendheim AB '81 is releasing her first book with OR Books, entitled The Fascination of What’s Difficult: A Life of Maud Gonne. Says Florence Williams: “With clear-eyed forays into obsession, love, and friendship, Kim Bendheim fleshes out one of the most enigmatic and alluring women in the history of European letters and politics.”
Director Zack Snyder’s new version of the 2017 DC Comics superhero film Justice League is set to premiere on HBO Max on March 18! Chris Terrio AB '97 wrote the screenplay for the Snyder Cut, with the story by Terrio, Snyder and Will Beall. (Chicago Tribune)
Gravitas Ventures has acquired the North American rights to the romantic drama Sometime Other Than Now, written and directed by Dylan McCormick! The drama stars Donal Logue AB '88 and is set for release in theaters and on demand on March 5, 2021. (Hollywood Reporter)
Danny Trejo sets a memoir deal for My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood! He is co-writing Trejo with his best friend of 20 years, fellow actor Donal Logue AB '88. Can't wait until July 6th for the book's publication! (Hollywood Reporter)
Apple TV+ has officially ordered its limited series on the rise and fall of start-up WeWork. Anne Hathaway will co-star opposite Jared Leto in the series, titled “WeCrashed.” Wondery’s Marshall Lewy AB '99 will serve as an executive producer! (The Wrap)
Every year, the NAACP Image Awards celebrates entertainers and writers of color. Sherman’s Showcase from Harvard alumni Diallo Riddle AB '97 and Bashir Salahuddin AB '98 has been nominated for Outstanding Writing in a Television Movie or Special! (Radio)
Paramount+ announced that The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run and its original series Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years will premiere on the service on March 4th! The story is by Tim Hill, Jonathan Aibel AB '91, Glenn Berger. (The Slanted)
YouTube’s Global Head of Original Content Susanne Daniels AB '87 talked unscripted and documentary programming in a keynote conversation at the 2021 Realscreen Summit with Peter White, international co-editor for Deadline! See what she had to say here.
Amanda Gorman AB '20 brought poetry to the Super Bowl! After her moving recitation at Biden's inauguration, the US's first youth poet laureate delivered another powerful reading on Sunday and became the first person to recite a poem at the Super Bowl. (Entertainment Weekly)
HBO has tapped filmmaker Kantemir Balagov to direct the pilot of its upcoming drama series The Last of Us, the adaptation of the PlayStation video game from Craig Mazin, Neil Druckmann, and Carolyn Strauss AB '85! (Deadline)
Paramount Pictures has locked in a $2 million deal for the Gabrielle Zevin AB '00 novel, Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, And Tomorrow! Temple Hill’s Marty Bowen AB '91, Wyck Godfrey and Isaac Klausner will be producing! (Deadline)
Nicole Kassell is set to direct the Wonderful Wizard of Oz adaptation for New Line! Marty Bowen AB '91 and Wyck Godfrey of Temple Hill will produce the feature reimagining! (Hollywood Reporter)
Paramount and Temple Hill will be Tackling the new version of the King and I musical! Lots of exciting stuff coming up for Marty! ( Hollywood Reporter)
Belushi director R.J. Cutler AB '83 talks about bringing “raw immediacy” to the story of John Belushi! Read what he had to say here.
Michelle Pfeiffer, Kate Winslet, Rashida Jones AB '97, Vanessa Kirby and Andra Day met virtually for The Envelope’s Actress Roundtable! Check out the LA Times's coverage and see what Rashida had to say here!
Producing icon Debra Martin Chase JD '81 caught up with the Hollywood Reporter about her Equalizer reboot and how the landscape has changed for Black creatives in Hollywood! See what she had to say here.
Allure recently spoke to actress Tatyana Ali AB '02 about some of her favorite behind-the-scenes moments and throwback hairstyles from the popular '90s show, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air! Check out the interview details here.
Universal Pictures announced a first-look production agreement with producer Dan Lin MBA '99 and his Rideback production banner! Congratulations, Dan! (Variety)
Yo-Yo Ma AB '76 and Kathryn Stott have just released "You'll Never Walk Alone" to support musicians in need! All earnings from sales and streams will be donated to Musicians Foundation (U.S.) and Help Musicians (U.K.)! (PR Newswire)
New Members' Welcome
Harvardwood warmly welcomes all members who joined the organization last month:
- Stefanie Anarumo, GSE, NY
- Chloe Hawker, HLS, Washington, DC
- Lucien Carter, College, Chicago, IL
- Monique Hall, GSE, NY
- Rafael Marinho, ART, NY
- Cherline Bazile, College, Other U.S.
- Alexander Bischoff, GSBA, Other Int'l
- Samina Engel, KSG, LA
- Patrick Kelly, HLS, Other U.S.
- KemKem Ogbuefi, College, BOS/Campus
- Isabella Wager, College, LA
- Marcelo Hanta-Davis, College, NY
- Susanna Wolk, College, NY
- Maya Högstaudius Counter, College, BOS/Campus
- Leah Mansfield, FOH, LA
- Seniha Ipekci, College, BOS/Campus
- Sana Hussein, FOH, LA
- Michael Heeney, GSE, BOS/Campus
- Jeanne Lauer, College, BOS/Campus
- David Frankle, College, LA
- Christian Vazquez, College, LA
*FOH = Friend of Harvardwood
Alumni Profile: Dionne Harmon AB '01 (Executive Vice President of Content & Strategy, Jesse Collins Entertainment)
As we were preparing this month’s Alumni Profile of Dionne Harmon (AB’ 01), the news broke that she has just been promoted to Executive Vice President of Content & Strategy at Jesse Collins Entertainment. Since Harvardwood profiled her back in 2010 (as up and coming DJ Lady Dee), Dionne has rapidly ascended through the ranks at Jesse Collins, just recently becoming among the first Black production team of Superbowl LV in February.
Dionne moved to Los Angeles the day after she graduated from Harvard. She quickly found her way to MTV, where she worked in casting for the shows Dismissed, Becoming, Wanna Come In as well as music videos for Usher, Diddy, Busta Rhymes and Alicia Keys. She has won the NAACP Image Award four times, and worked for The Kanye West Foundation, Foxx-King Entertainment and OWN before landing at Jesse Collins to work in Development. Once there, she helped to produce many broadcast events, including CBS’s John Lewis: Celebrating a Hero, BET Awards, BET Hip Hop Awards, Soul Train Awards and Love & Happiness: An Obama Celebration as well as the comedy specials Amanda Seales: I Be Knowin’ on HBO and Leslie Jones: Time Machine on Netflix.
When asked about last month’s Superbowl, which was considered a success despite the pandemic and reduced live audience, Dionne was reflective. “No matter what the circumstances or limitations may be, you can always find a creative way to execute your vision at a high level. Every previous show has taken place on the field with thousands of people involved both in front of and behind the camera. The challenge for us was figuring out how to still deliver a high production value performance with a significantly smaller amount of people that was not centered around a big stage on the field. We brought together an amazing team in support of The Weeknd and we all worked hand in hand to develop and deliver a show that we all could be proud of. We are thrilled that it was so well-received.”
In terms of how her previous experience with live events will translate into her brand new role: “It’s all connected. Live events fall under the umbrella of unscripted content, and I did casting for music videos, which is a key part of pre-production for scripted content. In fact, there’s a lot of overlap in the development and production of unscripted and scripted content. Whether it’s an award show performance or a scripted series, everything starts with a vision, and as a producer, it’s my job to execute that vision – through budget, directors, art department, wardrobe, special effects, music/score… all of these elements exist on both sides.”
Harmon majored in African-American Studies at Harvard, but jokes she wishes she could go back and switch her concentration to Romance Languages and Literature as she tries to master French and Italian in her downtime. Upon graduation, she found many Black graduates pursuing careers in entertainment, and “we were each other’s support system through all of the ups and downs as we tried to find our places in this industry. It was also helpful to have organizations like Harvardwood where you could meet and network with other alumni in entertainment. It’s funny, because I had no idea I would end up on this path, but nonetheless, my time at Harvard gave me the confidence to be open to new possibilities and to recognize and capitalize on the opportunities that are set in front of me. Most importantly, I learned not to shy away from challenges; rather, to keep my head up and to face them head on."
When asked what Harvard and its alumni groups could do better to help younger alumni, her suggestion is a focus on structured mentorship programs which pair established alumni with younger recent graduates. These relationships are crucial toward establishing valuable first connections in chosen fields.
The entertainment industry continues to be roiled by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, and this year, many in Hollywood were also addressing systemic racism entrenched in hiring, casting and workplace practices. How do we keep the conversation moving forward in 2021? We asked Dionne:
“I’m very fortunate to be part of a successful Black-owned production company (Jesse Collins Entertainment) where I’ve been given the platform and a voice in the development and creation of content that pushes the culture forward. We’ve also been fortunate to work with network partners who have trusted us with content that is not specifically Black – which is a whole other conversation around the perception that Black producers can only produce Black content.
We’ve been doing this work for many years across multiple platforms including BET, VH1, Netflix, and HBO, so when the push for more Black content and more Black content creators happened after the brutal murder of George Floyd, we were prepared and positioned to step into that space. It’s definitely come with challenges, however. I have been in quite a few uncomfortable situations over the last year on Black projects with non-Black network executives who have given me notes about Black culture and how it can/should be portrayed. Conversely, on other projects, I’ve worked with non-Black network executives who have treated the process as a learning opportunity and a way to open dialogue and look at Black culture from another perspective that’s different from what they may be used to.”
In terms of the future in general, the old Hollywood adage still holds true: ‘Nobody knows anything.’ How does live television remain ‘appointment viewing’ in a streaming world? “It’s tough because the viewing habits of consumers has changed. There is an overabundance of content that can be accessed across multiple platforms at any given time, so the focus has to be on quality. What stories are compelling enough to make people want to watch in the moment? Beyond the content itself, you also have to have stellar marketing and social campaigns that drive viewers to a specific place at a specific time. It’s a great question, and one that network execs are asking themselves each and every day as the landscape continues to evolve and shift.”
Harmon ends the interview with her advice to anyone looking to begin a career in the music industry: “Figure out what you’re passionate about, find a good mentor, and go for it!”
Finally, when asked if she ever has time to spin a few records, Harmon surprised us. “Every once in a while, I go into the phone booth and reemerge as DJ Garcelle du Bois. The last time I deejayed was a few years back with my good friend DJ Darryl Jones at this amazing speakeasy bar by the Louvre in Paris. We played records until almost 4am. I don’t get to spin often, but when I do, I try to make it count.”
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Harvardwood Presents: Harvardwood Lowdown: March 2021 - Tues., Mar. 2
All of your entertainment industry questions answered!! Well, we'll try. This Lowdown call is open to ALL Harvardwood members. Confirmed panelists include Harvardwood Co-Founders Adam Fratto and Mia Riverton Alpert, as well as President Allison Kiessling.
Attendance is capped, so sign up now!
The Harvardwood Lowdown is an open Q&A for members to pick our brains about anything on your minds -- career questions, creative questions, or questions and suggestions about Harvardwood's programming. We look forward to talking to you!
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Harvardwood Heads To... The Attention Economy: How the Next Generation is Reclaiming Its Attention, and What It Means for Entertainment & Brands - Tues., Mar. 2
There has been a cultural call to arms that compels us to get off screens, especially for young children. But how can we balance the benefits of movies & entertainment with screen time limitations?
More info HERE.
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Harvardwood Heads To... Money Matters: Tax Prep for Creative Professionals - Thurs., Mar. 4
Tackle tax time with confidence! Join The Actors Fund Financial Wellness Program and Dominic Comperatore of Empire Tax Prep for this practical, informative workshop on tax strategies geared toward creative professionals. Dominic will share his insights as a performer and a professional tax preparer.
More info HERE.
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Harvardwood Presents: Workshop with Betsy Capes of Capes Coaching - Mon., Mar. 15
On March 15th at 4pm PST / 7pm EST, Harvardwood is thrilled to bring you a workshop with Betsy Capes of Capes Coaching, NYC's most reputable entertainment industry career coaching team!
Founded by Betsy and Jodie Capes in April 2004, Capes Coaching has earned its reputation as an industry leader by presenting a radically different way of approaching artistic careers, benefitting thousands of actors, artists, and creative professionals. Rather than provide you with stock answers or marketing pointers, the coaches at Capes know that there is no formula or “one right way” to achieve personal success.
More info HERE
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Harvardwood Presents: A Celebration of Women's History Month - Analyzing the Depiction of the Female Figure in Pop Culture - Thurs., Mar. 25
In celebration of Women's History Month, join Sibel Ergener Galindez (class of '89), Community Liaison at the new Zeiders American Dream Theater in Virginia Beach, VA for a discussion centered on analyzing the depiction of the female figure in pop culture through a 21st Century Lens. Listen to Sibel's podcast HERE and come ready to share your #ItHappenedOneNight moment. You will know what that is once you listen! This will be an interactive event. There is a question at the end of the podcast as well, and Sibel will have some prompts for us to find our own answer to that question.
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.